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Driving Employee Engagement in a Turbulent Time

Posted By Ashley Zingo, CMP, CCEP, University of Notre Dame, Friday, September 11, 2020

Over the last year, I have been a member of a high performance leadership program at Notre Dame.  The program cohorts are assigned to projects that further the mission of the University. This year I was able to work on a project that analyzed ND Voice (our internal employee engagement survey) results and identified what makes teams highly engaged.  Through this research, not only did we uncover the main drivers of employee engagement but also the impacts a turbulent time, such as the COVID pandemic, can have on these employee engagement drivers.

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and work place.”

Drivers of Employee Engagement

Through this process, we interviewed many teams that scored high in employee engagement and were able to identify common themes.

Care for People

Gallup’s research shows that people who report having a best friend at work or having someone at work who cares about them is highly correlated to employee engagement (Gallup, 2017).

  • Are you engaging your team on a personal level?
  • Do you show your team appreciation? Do you encourage water cooler talk?
  • When you assign work – are you taking into account employee’s personal events?

Know What and Why

Teams need to have a clear understanding of a department’s vision and goals, and how those connect to the larger university mission.  Understanding what an individual’s role is and why it is important to the overall goal, keeps a team focused and engaged.

  • Is each team members’ role clearly defined and do they know what is expected of them?
  • Do you know how your day-to-day role ties into the overall university’s mission?
  • Does your team believe that their role contributes to the university’s mission?
  • Does leadership review the department's vision on a regular basis?

Define Roles: Responsibility equals Accountability equals Ownership

Either the manager or the employees should hold team members accountable in the workplace.  When managers holds the whole team accountable, they are often willing to work harder and go the extra mile.

  • Does everyone on the team know what each other is working on?
  • Does the team discuss progress on goals and hold each other accountable?
  • Do managers hold all staff accountable and take action when there are low performers?
  • Does the team celebrate when individuals reach goals and hit milestones?

Build the Right Team

Personality and fit-based hiring practices often have higher importance than skillset when it comes to building a highly engaged team.  Staff involvement and input in the hiring process is essential. 

  • Do you involve the team in the hiring process and listen to their input?
  • Do you leave a position open rather than hire the wrong person?

Do More with Less

There is a correlation between small team sizes and higher team engagement. The closer a team member is to the Director, the more tied to the goals the team member feels.  Smaller teams with quality hiring practices lead to a more engaged team.  Co-located teams also provide more team engagement and collaboration opportunities. 

  • If you have a large team, are you breaking the team up into smaller working groups?
  • Are you creating opportunities for face-to-face communication and fostering collaboration?
  • When building an organizational structure, is the distance from the Director considered?

Empower and Protect

Teams that are highly engaged reported a sense of autonomy and independent decision-making.  This control over their work is a hallmark of employee engagement and creates a more productive workplace as well. These teams had the tools and skills to do their job and reported themselves as independent and competent.  At the same time, many of the teams stated they felt protected or shielded by their manager, from unneeded distractions.

  • Does your team know what decisions they can or cannot make by themselves?
  • When an employee makes a decision (right or wrong), do they feel supported by their manager?

Speak up for Innovation

Innovation was mentioned by many teams as one of their core values.  This idea that team members can share new ideas, be creative, everything is open for discussion, and failing forward is encouraged; brings the team together and keeps them engaged.

  • Do you have a culture that failing is OK? Managers can create this environment by being vulnerable and giving examples where they have failed and it is OK.
  • Are there regular opportunities for employees to share ideas?
  • Do you encourage failing forward? Teams mentioned that the entire team discussed failures, the team identified and recognized the positive impacts of that failure and what could be done better next time.

Spare the Blame

Another aspect of creating a Speak-Up culture is sharing responsibility for failures, mistakes or discontent. The engaged teams described examples of this kind of safety. This safety not only forwards the innovation described previously but also creates a safe sense of place.  

  • When team members make mistakes, does each person takes ownership and managers approach mistakes with the attitude that “we - as a team- will figure it out.”?
  • Are you yourself being transparent with your team and being vulnerable?

Engage Human Resources

Research found that highly engaged teams are often good partners with HR.  HR acts as a resource for staff during times of change, the leader has someone to bounce ideas off of, and HR is not only involved with the teams to address problems.

  • When making a large decision that impacts the team, do you reach out to HR for their input?
  • If there are key times of change (GOOD and bad), is HR invited by the manager to help coordinate discussions with the team?

Embrace Fun

People that enjoy working with each other, laughing together, and socializing together are typically highly engaged.

  • Do you make fun a priority?
  • Do you have time dedicated for the team to have fun?

Impacts of a Challenging Time on Employee Engagement

During a challenging time, there are negative impacts on employees’ basic needs of job safety and security, trusting relationships, the comfort to speak up and social cohesion.  Leaders need to demonstrate vulnerability, invest in relationships, and create opportunities to connect.

Leading with Vulnerability

Leaders need to focus on making a positive difference in people’s lives by demonstrating vulnerability and empathy.  It is OK for leaders to say “yes this is hard, I am scared too, but we are going to get through this together.”  Leaders need to strike a balance between realism about the challenges and the confidence that the University will find its way through crisis.  There should be a way for employees to submit anonymous feedback.  Leaders need to provide time for employees to raise concerns and be transparent about next steps with those concerns.  Leaders and managers should model behaviors that value input from all members.  Leaders in particular need to be honest on how they are feeling – in order to make employees feel comfortable being honest.

Invest in Relationships and Recognition

Now more than ever leaders need to invest in employee-to-employee relationships.  Create opportunities for relationships to grow, such as breaking the team into smaller units or pods. Give those units or pods meaningful projects to work on together, fostering relationship building and recognition.  Celebrate small victories – by recognizing small wins, leaders can see an 83% increase in employee engagement!

Create Opportunities to Connect

Many of us are working in a new environment, where some employees are remote or working in shifts, where often the whole team is not together.  It is important during these times to make sure that we are still creating opportunities to connect. 

Virtual ideas:

  • Monday Morning Chats: Create meaningful discussions based on a podcast everyone listened to prior or identify a vulnerable question for each team member to answer.
  • Friday Coffee Breaks or Happy Hours
  • Fun virtual activities: Jackbox games on Zoom, Zoom Bingo, Movie Nights (over Zoom), Contests, Dress up days, Personal tours/photo sharing, Bring your pet to Zoom Day
  • Pod Meetings with FUN content

Increasing Engagement in a Turbulent Time

Overall, everyone needs to step up as leaders during a turbulent time.  Whether you are a formal leader or not on the organizational chart, step into the role and set an example for your team.  If leaders are vulnerable, transparent and focused on strengthening relationships, employees will feel a stronger sense of safety and security, increasing their engagement. 

Source: Gallup, Inc. (2017). Gallup Daily: U.S. Employee Engagement. [online] Available at: engagement.aspx [Accessed 26 Aug. 2019].


Ashley Zingo, CMP, CCEP Director of Employee Engagement

University Enterprises and Events, University of Notre Dame

Region 3

Tags:  employee engagement  Share Your Story 

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Staff Retreats in a Post-COVID World

Posted By McKenzie Suber-Robinson, Thursday, July 16, 2020

Summer Conference Season ‘20 turned out to pull an incredible disappearing act on many of us. To paraphrase the immortal movie villain Verbal Kent/Keyser Soze, “...and like that, [it’s] gone.” Left in its wake was a flurry of uncertainty highlighted by furloughs, layoffs, and for some of us, reassignments. For the first time in many of our careers, we have summer downtime – but do we really? As the nation gradually reopens in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that effectively stopped our society in its tracks in early March, beaches, hiking trails, and national parks are eager to welcome feverish homebound families suffering from chronic cabin fever. Since then, we have learned to make bread; redeemed VIP Passes to DJ D-Nice's Club Quarantine on Instagram; became bonafide homeschoolers (in our own minds); made virtual happy hours an actual thing; participated in neighborhood drive-bys, and our vocabularies made room for words like ‘coronavirus,’ ‘zoom,’ ‘unprecedented,’ ‘Fauci,’ ‘Carol Baskin,’ and the phrase ‘healthy and safe.’ We are all ready to return to some semblance of normalcy and routine so that we can declare with some certainty what day today is and... we are all ready to stop having these ridiculously weird dreams!

As event profs, we have already conjured up ways to exploit this ‘free time.’ We cannot help but ponder how exciting it would be to tackle all the projects we continually put on the backburner year after year. Updating policies and procedures. Finetuning the “pandemic” section in our contracts. Redesigning summer training materials. Overhauling the department’s website. Finally scheduling that new software demo suggested by that pleasantly persistent account manager. All fine worthwhile to-do items. The good news? You may have the rest of this summer to do it! But, hold on for just a moment. Despite the staggered reopening of society over the last few weeks, summer is actually almost over!  We have been home for around four months and the fall semester starts in less than a month.  We need to prepare for Fall ‘20 and Summer ‘21, and we need to start yesterday!

When we finally return to our campuses, don’t be surprised if you and members of your staff begin to immediately experience signs of burnout. Even though you haven’t worked six days a week and 12+ hours for the last 12 weeks ensuring that the camper with the peanut allergy has adequate menu options or confirming that a table linen order has been delivered or handling cheerleader and football camp lockouts, the truth is that week-long Zoom/Webex/Teams meetings are exhausting! Especially since we have been using them for both work and play during this quarantine. You may have noticed that over the last four months, more and more people have participated in video conferences with their video disabled. That’s called ‘fatigue.’

You might feel like you’re on a hamster wheel starting Day 1 and although you’re relieved to see real-life human adults that aren’t related to you, you might feel a bit uninspired.  While as conference and event professionals, we thrive off of saying that we never live the same day twice, what we might encounter when we return to campus could only be described as déjà vu: we are afraid that we’re living the same “type” of day over and over again. The walls are closing in on you and you’re being painted into a corner when all you did was sanitize your hands as soon as you settled into your workstation. To escape, you might have only one option – you must retreat. A post-COVID staff retreat to be exact!

First, a little housekeeping: Please continue to follow local, state, CDC, and your institution’s guidelines by practicing social distancing, using appropriate face coverings, not touching your face, washing your hands for 20 seconds, and making frequent use of hand sanitizer.

Hosting your first post-COVID staff retreat will be crucial to how your team prepares for this upcoming fall. This will be a time for reconnecting, improving staff morale, reenergizing one another, brainstorming, and planning. By the time you return to campus, your institution’s administration should have already provided you with policies and procedures for conferences and events  moving forward so this should help your team with visioning the next 12 months (and if you’re lucky, you were at the table when these decisions were made).

WHAT SHOULD I TALK ABOUT? When planning your staff’s retreat topic, make sure that it’s very specific. In a post-COVID world, the chances are quite likely to include reactionary elements of the pandemic...and that’s OK. The agenda is completely up you. If you are accustomed to hosting retreats for your staff, tapping into your historical files is always a good idea. For the director who has yet to give it a go, take a look at your most recent annual report to identify improvement opportunities you can explore with your staff. Do your best to have a method in mind, too – guest speakers, team building exercises, ropes courses, and personality quizzes can all be elemental to a great retreat that keeps everyone engaged.

WHERE SHOULD WE DO IT? If you can leave campus to hold your staff retreat, you should do it. When selecting a venue, please keep in mind that although many states are entering the ‘green zone’ and are now accommodating up to 50% of their indoor capacities, you are still required to wear masks and remain six feet apart from other people. Small meeting locations such as restaurants, libraries, museums, and hotel conference rooms may be conducive to jumpstarting some inspiration among your staff. Jessica Bittmann, CMP of the Greater Wilmington Delaware Convention and Visitors Bureau believes that there is an advantage in hosting smaller meetings. “Attendees...can connect with their peers and often can engage more openly during sessions.” If you cannot leave campus, finding open green space nearby on a nice sunny day might be a viable alternative.

BUT WE WON’T HAVE TIME? The life of an event prof is a busy one. Depending on where the calendar falls, time is either our friend or our foe. We often move on from one project to the next; one conference to the next; one event to the next; focusing so much on the day-to-day that we give very little consideration to planning because there isn’t any time. Our inner Jessie Spano would agree, too! As your institution’s events policies gradually permit more and more meetings to take place on your campus throughout the fall, your calendar might begin to fill. That’s OK. You have to make the time to retreat, anyway. This is an investment in your operation and in your people. You should build it into the workday, pay your staff for their time, and don’t forget to feed them! While you’re at it, go a step further and build the staff retreat into your annual operating calendar.

HOW LONG SHOULD WE RETREAT? The length of your staff retreat can vary based on the agenda. If large-scale institutional changes are coming – as the result of a pandemic that shuttered every facet of society for the last four months, for example – you may want to consider spreading your retreat over a few days. A deep dive into visioning and planning for the next 12 months may take anywhere from a half day to a full day. With this in mind, you should ask yourself how fast you want the information moving within the group from session to session. Are there any topics that you believe the staff should more thoroughly explore than others? How are they adjusting be being on campus five days a week now? Should trust-building exercises be emphasized more and require more time? Consider what's important to the team and once you have those answers, cater the schedule appropriately. You know your team and your institution better than anyone so you might instinctively target a date where there is less non-academic activity taking place.

OK, WHAT ARE THE GROUND RULES? Once you have determined the topic and set the agenda, someone must take on the role of facilitator. This person will either be you or a special trainer you invited specifically for that purpose. The facilitator will keep the pace, set the tone, and make sure things don’t go off the rails by adhering to the agenda. Starting off in a positive engaging manner is crucial and participation from everyone is a must. This will inevitably take some of your staff out of their comfort zone, but you must consider the ultimate goal of building harmony and cohesion within the team. The facilitator should be able to engage the non-talkers in a way that makes them comfortable and should ensure that no participant is interrupted when they are contributing to the dialogue. Also, there is a fine line between commiserating and whining. Know your limits.

HOW WILL I KNOW IT WAS SUCCESSFUL? Active engagement by the staff is a good indicator of how well your staff retreat is received. An agenda that sparks organic dialogue and idea generation is bound to foster better communication among your staff and lead to optimism as we all emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you find that the retreat is vulnerable due to oversharing by a staffer or a stagnant topic, keep a personal values exercise for the group ready in your back pocket to right the ship. This might take more time than you originally planned, and the agenda might feel a bit squeezed but if the exercise is effective, your retreat won’t be compromised.  In a September 2019 Smart Meetings article, writer Gary Diedrichs quoted a career coach who said, “No matter how crowded the agenda, it pays to take time to remind those present how much they enjoy their work and how critical they are to the process.”

A post-COVID world will never resemble what the world was like before March 2020. The way we prospect clients will change, the way we design events will change, and the way we exist in the same space will change. Now is the best time to take a serious look at huddling (figuratively, of course – remember social distancing) your staff together for a retreat and developing a strategy for the year to come. According to former Rowan University (NJ) Assistant Vice President of Campus Recreation and Student Activities Tina Pinocci, a staff retreat illustrates to the team that the director cares about them beyond the typical day-to-day and is committed to the team’s success and individual growth. “Your team will respect you and go to bat for you if you take the time to show them how valuable they are to the organization by investing in their development.” 

So, schedule your staff retreats soon and please try not to Zoom, Webex, or Teams them!

McKenzie Suber-Robinson is an ACCED-I Board member from Villanova University.



Diedrichs,G. (2019, September). Small Is Beautiful. Smart Meetings, 18(9), pp.55-58.

Whitfield,B. (2019, November). Small Meetings and Retreats. Mid-Atlantic Events, 33(1), pp.27-41.

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Virtually There – My Journey with Taking Events Online

Posted By Catherine White CCEP, Monday, May 18, 2020

The onset of COVID-19 has brought a great deal of change for all of us. I plan events for a living and until now, all my events have been face to face. This is my journey into the world of virtual events.

The first thing my team did was to go online and learn about virtual events. We had some experience with Facebook live events, but that was as close to a virtual event that we had gotten. We looked at what other institutions were doing to engage their community virtually, either because of the global pandemic or as another way they chose to communicate with their constituents. We learned that there were great advantages to hosting a virtual event.

Some of these advantages are:

1.)    Ability to reach a much wider audience – with a face to face event, the invitation list is sent to those that live a reasonable distance from where the event is being held. With a virtual event you are able to send it world-wide, which can greatly widen your audience. You are also not limited by venue size, so you can have increased attendance. It is important to distribute an easy to understand guide about how to use the technology before your event to make those who are not really tech savvy comfortable with your event. 

2.)     Major cost benefits – the expenses involved in hosting a virtual event are minimal, especially when compared to a typical event. Gone are the costs for venue, linens, flowers, table gifts, staging, food and beverage, and many others. 

3.)    Events can be repurposed – online events can be recorded and posted on other websites for people to view at their leisure or just part of the event could be posted if it is of interest to a particular audience. 

4.)    An event can be 24/7 – no worries about time zones or distance if you’re posting a recording of an event or if you have an ongoing engagement such as an on-line book club or a mentor program. 

5.)    A new way to engage sponsors – logos can be placed on virtual backgrounds, they can sponsor a room for a breakout session, and you can create a virtual exhibit hall which will provide sponsors with the opportunity to demonstrate their product in a one to one personal format. Plus with a wider audience, sponsor opportunities can also increase. 

6.)    Better event metrics – you will be able to access great data from your virtual event. It is easy to monitor the number of participants in attendance, how many took part in the online chat, how long people remain engaged and if they follow through on a specific link that you provide. 

7.)    Ability to provide unique add-ons – such as online silent auctions, surveys and links to online giving. Any of these and more can be added to a virtual event and they are less costly and time-consuming to execute. 

8.)    Eco-friendly – virtual events are the ultimate in an environmental win. No one is traveling to the event, no water is used in the washing of linens and dishes, and no waste is being produced. 

9.)    Reliable – in my part of the world weather is a big consideration. A snow storm can have a major impact on attendance at a face to face event. With a virtual event the effect is limited unless it involves a power outage. 

10.)  Value added – it is easy to incorporate both recorded and live presentations into your event. This can open up much greater access to speakers. It can also be a major cost savings as your speaker fee is most often much less and you are not paying for travel or accommodations. Some speakers are not willing to travel to certain destinations but are quite happy to speak from the comfort of their home. 

By now you might be thinking that virtual events are the only way to go but there are also some cons when it comes to hosting virtual events.

1.)     Distractions – whether you’re at home or in the office there are always things that can easily take your attention. Your email, phone, cat or others in the household can be vying for your attention just as much if not more than the virtual event on your screen. 

2.)    Networking – although not impossible to do in a virtual format, it really takes a lot more effort. At a face to face event you are in a position of constantly interacting with people – you’re sitting next to them for sessions and meals, you run into them in the hallways and in the elevator. Interactions like this online must be more structured. 

3.)    The business get-away – many of us like to travel and to escape from the office. We all know that attending events is seldom all work and a change of scenery can be very refreshing. The location of an event can be a big draw for attendance. 

4.)    Personal touch – at a face to face event you are able to give the attendees attention that you just can’t get at a virtual event. Whether it’s being able to grab a favourite drink for a client, or knowing they need to be seated in a chair with arms, we know how to attend to their needs, so they are comfortable and accommodated and made to feel special. 

5.)    Memories – you always leave a face to face event with memories. When you attend an event it involves all your senses. You see the decor, hear the music and conversation, smell and taste the food and experience touch by shaking hands and feeling the linens. This cannot be replicated during a virtual event when only your sight and hearing is involved. 

6.)    Motivation - on-line events require you to be very enthused to attend. For an in person event you may have traveled to get there, or spent money, so you are already motivated to take part. 

7.)    Audience limitations – not in respect to numbers, but some people lack the technical knowledge or confidence to participate in a virtual event. 

8.)    Less Excitement – it’s hard to get someone excited over a virtual event. No matter what your content is, most people prefer to be there in person if possible.

As I work to turn my upcoming events to virtual ones, it is a steep learning curve, but each day I learn a bit more. My first online event was on April 27th, and like any event I was feeling a bit nervous. But, this event was dependent on technology so I have a new layer of nervousness because this is not my area of expertise.  It soon may be though, as I know this is the first of many events that we will be switching over.

When speaking with many of my colleagues, we believe that we will be seeing many more virtual events in the upcoming year, and also many hybrid events that will give patrons a choice of attending a face to face event or watching it from the comfort of their home. I sure didn’t see this coming a year ago!

Stay safe everyone!

Catherine White is an ACCED-I member from University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Tags:  Share Your Story  virtual event 

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We Are All In This Together

Posted By Tiffany Hammond, Monday, May 4, 2020

As event professionals, it is a time of difficulty and uncertainty. The close of the fiscal year is right around the corner, and from all current accounts, it looks like budget projections for the next quarter (or more) will be a tad bit low to put it nicely. Some of us are sheltering in place, but still working hard to determine what lies ahead for our facilities, events, and programs. And for those of you who may have family members at home as well, this quarantine might start to feel like the psych ward as you bump elbow to elbow with the kids during a home-schooling lesson. The good news is, we are all in this thing together!

We are ACCED-I. Everyone is feeling the effects of COVID-19 (coronavirus) during this time. Businesses, Colleges and Universities, Healthcare facilities, and more. Furthermore, the economy is taking a toll as a result of this pandemic. However, we must not lose hope or focus. My message to share is this- “COVID-19 (coronavirus), you are strong. BUT WE ARE STRONGER!!! ACCED-I family, we are a community of talented professionals that face odds and uncertainty every single day. For those of you who attended Michael J. Lyon’s session last year at the 39th Annual Conference should remember this image:

Never have I seen a more accurate definition of what we do in the event, conference, and camp industry. And let’s also add psychic as well, shall we? For the pros in the business, many of us can almost predict to an exact science what our clients/customers need before they even know they need it. New professionals, you will get there – trust me. And trust me when I say this, this period of the coronavirus pandemic is only temporary. We will rise again! Connections are important now, more than ever. ACCED-I (and several other partners in our community like Unique Venues) are offering numerous resources to assist us during this time: COVID-19 resource page. Register for a P2P session, or connect with colleagues across the regions through Social Networking. Got a question? Reach out to partners and engage with others through the ACCED-I Communities of Practice Interactive forums. Try video conference with an ACCED-I friend (or two or three)! You may be surprised to learn, that we all are facing the same issues. We are peer mentors and coaches for each other. It’s a good time to elevate your professional growth and start your CCEP Certification journey. No matter what your needs are, ACCED-I has an opportunity for you and your institution.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods? Today is a good time to think of ways your department or your University can support your local community while also staying safe and respecting rules and regulations outlined by local, state, and federal elected officials. The gesture can be simple but powerful. For example, the University of Southern Mississippi joined Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, along with organizations and individuals across Mississippi, in the ringing of the bells each day at 6 p.m., through April 20th, in a symbol of solidarity for healthcare workers on the front lines and those who are ill. While many of us are teleworking and continuing to think towards the future, there still remain several front-line staff who must face the odds each day. Connect internally through virtual networking and send out a group matrix video. Show your community that you are still there for them. This is how we operate now. We, as a community, will continue to grow and adjust.

Life after COVID-19. ACCED-I community, in all seriousness, our nation has survived similar cases like this before, and we shall do so again. A few of you may remember the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s caused by SARS-CoV virus. SARS-CoV-2 causes the current novel coronavirus. Let’s all continue to believe in and support our researchers and healthcare systems. Local hotels and restaurants also need our support. As we make preparations to come back stronger than ever and social distancing will be reduced to online memes, continue to find ways to encourage each other. Connect with your local visitors bureau- develop strategies to keep your community and facilities relevant. Post those glamorous headshots from an ACCED-I Annual Conference.

I highly recommend each of you to do a general wellness check with your clients/customers. Continue to establish relationships and let clients know that your team and facilities will be ready when they are. Let’s not forget, many corporations, businesses, and internal departments are experiencing a significant economic impact at this time due to the coronavirus pandemic; therefore, we must be good stewards- empathizing as we work with them. The most important thing to consider right now is the health and safety of our guests and campus community. It may not be today, nor tomorrow, but this too shall pass. Friends, we will feel the effects of the coronavirus for months to come. However, we can use this situation as a learning opportunity. It has challenged us to think in new ways and form connections with one another. Many venues have implemented extensive deep-cleaning measures within our facilities and paved the way for various upgrades.

If all else fails, remember to keep your head up and smile! Your ACCED-I family around the world knows your struggles and is available to support you. I hope each of you and your respective families are well. I bid you best wishes for a healthy and safe return post-COVID-19.

Tiffany Hammond is an ACCED-I member from The University of Southern Mississippi, Conference and Event Services department.

Tags:  best practices  community service  professional development  Share Your Story 

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Working From Home….Tips For Surviving the New Normal

Posted By Catherine White, CCEP, Wednesday, April 15, 2020

In this unprecedented global pandemic, most of us have found ourselves working from home. This can be challenging, especially if it’s something that you’ve never done before. For many of us this will be the new normal for what we hope is weeks but may be months. Here are a few tips on how to adjust from an office environment to making the very best of working from home.

1.)    Create a workspace

If you have a dedicated office space in your home, you’re a step ahead. If not you need to create one. Try to make it a space that has natural light, is comfortable (think good chair) and that you can leave or pack up at the end of your workday. By doing this it will help signal that your work day is done. If it’s your kitchen table and you need to put it away at the end of your day, consider keeping a dedicated box or bin to keep things in. The more you are able to separate the space the more you are able to avoid work creeping into your downtime. Overworking from home can be an issue for many, so this is one step that can help.

2.)    Get dressed

Although many of us have dreamed of working in our pajamas, this is not the time. By getting showered and dressed in work attire, it signals to our mind and body that you are ready to work. It transitions us from the state of getting up, to ready to start the day. Most of us will also be on some form of video chat during the day, so looking and feeling like you would in the office should also be done at home. This will also make the transition back to office life easier when we get there.

3.)    Create a schedule

You need to be clear with your colleagues and others that you may live with when you are working. A schedule can also give you a sense of control and normalcy if you stick to your regular work day. Arrange for meetings and breaks as if you were in the office, and plan your day to know what you want to accomplish.

If you have children at home that require your care, then keeping a schedule and managing your workday becomes a greater challenge. If your work allows it, one option would be to split your day. Get up early in the morning and get as much done as you can before the children are up, then complete your day after they’ve gone to bed. If they are at an age where they can be on their own for a while, consider putting a sign on your door. Use stoplight colours to easily communicate with younger children - red – do not enter, yellow – knock before coming in, green – you can come in.

4.)    Technology

Working from home means embracing technology. Video conferencing is a nice choice as you are able to connect and see those you are working with. This is the closest we can get to a face to face meeting. A number of vendors are offering their services for free for a period of time. If you need some help to learn how to use your video conferencing tool, YouTube has numerous videos to help you out.

These tools are not just for meetings, and as an event planner I’m now being tasked with how to take the events that we have scheduled in the upcoming months online. This is a learning curve for many of us, and something that many organizations are tackling right now.

You may also be using your phone more to talk to people. Once again it’s that social interaction that you’ll find you need that email and text just can’t provide. It also allows you to get those quick answers.

5.)    Communicate

You’ll need to figure out what format your communication with your staff and/or your superiors will take, how often that it will happen, and schedule it. Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate with your co-workers. If you’re working on a project and running into issues and you would normally walk into a colleague’s office, don’t default to an email or text, pick up the phone, plan a video chat, or message them. When working from home you’ll find you need different forms of communication to help you from feeling isolated. These quick two way forms of communication can also help to keep everyone on the same page.

It is also important to keep a line of more social communication open with those you work with. You’ll no longer be running into people in the coffee room, having them pop in your office for a quick chat or having lunch together. We all know that we’re not talking about work with our colleagues every minute when we’re in the office. These are the people that, most often, we’re spending more awake hours with than our family. We get to know them pretty well and generally care for them. You’ll want to continue to stay in touch and hear about the personal things that are going on in their life. Be sure to make the effort and reach out to them.

6.)    Take Breaks

No one spends the entire day at the office working. Being at home is no different, except that you don’t have that colleague coming in and dragging you off to grab a coffee. Sometimes you get working on a project and the time slips by and you don’t realize you’ve missed lunch. Taking a break away from your office or workstation is essential, it keeps your mind refreshed and gives your eyes and body a break. If you can get outside at least once a day it helps rejuvenate you even more. If you’re one that really gets absorbed in your work, set timers, your body will thank you for it.

7.)    Have some fun!

This is a difficult time for all of us, so be sure to add some fun into your day. Have virtual lunch with your co-workers or an after work pub night or whine and wine. Start some contests, have people share a photo of their work space to see who has an awesome set up. Share recipes or what shows you’re watching. You can play online games together or even watch a movie. Have people tell you about their pets like it’s their office colleague: “My teammate is sitting on my desk grooming her toes.” If appropriate, arrive for your web conference in costume. We need to have some laughter right now, it will help us all get through this.

 What we’re going through is a very unique situation. We have no template to follow. Be sure to be kind to the people you connect with and cut them some slack if they’re not on their A game. This quote from Thefinancialdiet really sums everything up:

“REMEMBER that this is not just ‘working from home’ (if you’re lucky enough to be working remotely) It’s working through a massive period of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety – which needs extra care and attention. If you’re not at your most productive, that’s totally normal. Give yourself room to breathe. “


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The Ohio Union at The Ohio State University – A Decade in Review

Posted By Jennifer Trumper, ACCED-I, Friday, February 28, 2020

The Ohio Union at The Ohio State University – A Decade in Review

Each December, it seems everyone marks the turning of the calendar with an end-of-year recap of some sort. When that year ends with a “9,” most of those lists expand to a full decade in review. Many of those reviews compare to the decade previous, so that you know just how interesting the 2010s were, and how they stack up to the 00s, 90s, or beyond. For the Ohio Union, we are closing in on our very first complete decade, at least in the current building we all call home!

In the spirit of reflection, here’s just a sample of what’s been going on since we first opened our doors on March 29, 2010:

-       Over 200,000 meetings, events, programs, and practices have taken place in rooms throughout the union!

-       Nearly 9,000 people per day visit the union. That’s the same as the entire student population of the Columbus campus stopping at the union at least once each week.

-       The list of distinguished guests to spend time in the union grows seemingly every month. From a concert on day three, featuring an up and coming country star named Blake Shelton, to Women’s World Cup Champion and World’s Best Player Megan Rapinoe this past November, we’ve seen a parade of political dignitaries, media stars, and authors. We’ve even welcomed a sitting US President, a Vice President or two, and a growing number of presidential candidates.

-       In keeping with Ohio State tradition, we’ve had our share of trophies on display too. You probably know we are home to one of Archie Griffin’s two Heisman trophies, but did you know that we have also hosted the Stanley Cup, the College Football Playoff trophy, and the PGA Tour President’s Cup, just to name a few?

-       If you think that list is out of this world, we do too! In fact, we have taken our event skills to new heights, when we communicated with the International Space Station in celebration of John Glenn’s historic orbit of the earth.

The student union continues to be the gathering place for students past, present, and future, and for our University and community guests. In the next 10 years and beyond, we look forward to being the place that connects everyone to our timeless traditions, storied past, and bright futures.


Jeff Pelletier,                                                               Karen Narwicz

Director, Ohio Union Events and Operations          Director, Ohio Union Conference and Business Development  

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Share Your Story - Lori Gage/ Columbus State Community College -Institutional Achievement Award Recipient 2019

Posted By Jennifer Trumper, ACCED-I, Friday, February 14, 2020

Columbus State Community College in Columbus, OH, received the ACCED-I Outstanding Institutional Achievement Award: Single Event at the 39th Annual Conference. This award recognizes a significant achievement by an institution in the conference and events field for a single event.

Below is the nomination submitted by Lori Gage, CMP, CTA, Event Coordinator, Columbus State Community College

Please describe the institutional achievement 

Columbus State Community College launched the first Courageous Conversations series in 2015 to address issues of race and ethnicity. Past events brought together a diverse cross-section of the community to talk about education, health care, and other topics through the lens of race. In 2018, CSCC introduced a new Courageous Conversations series focused on empowering women, Courageous Conversations Women's Vocies. Topics in this series included: "The Courageous Voice of the First Woman to Run for President, Victoria Woodhull", “Follow the Leadership of Black Women”, "Criminal Justice Reform with Orange is the New Black author, Piper Kerman", “Women in Business: Addressing Pay Equity” and “The Silence Breakers", and evening with #MeToo founder and activist Tarana Burke. This series addressed important social issues and although it did not directly relate to academics, the lesson, the discussion, and the support from the college, benefited us all. The most significant institutional achievement is the collaboration from five different departments including, Global Diversity and Inclusion, Counseling Services, President's Office, The Conference Center and Marketing and Communication. Each department accepted a role to help make this event a success. In 2015, this series was attended by a few hundred students, staff and community members. In 2018, attendance grew to over 400 for just one event in the series! This increase in attendance required the Conference Center team to make available "overflow" seating. This increase also required us to revisit the number of counselors on hand.  
Please describe why you feel this institution deserves this recognition 
At a moment when women’s issues have captured national attention, the College invited Central Ohioans to engage in a transformative, intersectional dialogue focused on empowering women. In addition to nationally recognized keynote speakers, Courageous Conversations hosted panels with local leaders, community discussions, and workshops.Not only did our CSCC team work with local media outlets, the team was able to work with other institutions in the community to ensure student and community members felt supported and included in these Courageous Conversations. The collaboration between college departments itself is worthy of an award, lol. Numerous members from 5 different departments worked together to serve the community through our campus conversations. These partnerships help create a more inclusive environment for all involved. 

Describe how this event impacted the industry and/or institution 
This series impacted the intuition by leading by example and demonstrating that we, an academic institution, could not only address academic issues but social ones too. While a lot of the issues discussed were very "hot button" issues, we did not flinch. The college understood the risk by inviting these types of conversations to our campus but never let the risk outweigh the reward. Our institution is better for having this series. Our departments are better for working together. Our community is stronger knowing we care. 
Describe how this event showed a campus and/or community-wide effort 
This event for CSCC was bigger then our campus, bigger than our student body... this series was truly a community event. This event was always free and open to the public. We worked with neighboring institutions, like The Ohio State University, to help promote and encourage students and community members to not only listen to these courageous conversations but to participate and share their own courageous stories. Often times these stories and discussion "triggered" members of our audience, so with support from the college we utilized resources to offer on-site counseling to anyone, student or not, that might need to talk or seek counseling. These professional counselors stood by for each session and participants were encouraged to seek help if needed. While these resources are not always at our disposal, we knew the value of this type of help and could not dismiss the needs of our community while addressing these pressing issues of our time. For our supporting documentation I have included a clip of The Ohio State University web page helping spread the word to raise awareness. not only was this a collaboration between departments at CSCC, we worked with community partners as well.  

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