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Chris Caple

Chris Caple

With over 20 years of diverse experience, Chris Caple joined AMPED as a meeting manager in 2015. Her background includes corporate sales for hotels, partner development with convention and visitors bureaus, and corporate and association meeting planning, as well as planning and executing several local Madison based events. By working closely with diverse teams, Chris is adept at responding to changing circumstances with an authentic desire to build and nurture productive relationships with clients and suppliers. She earned a bachelors degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Tony Robbins

Events, conferences and meetings tend to be the lifeblood of associations, especially for our clients. As we approach the busy meetings season, many of us who are planners become so busy with the logistics of the event that we can easily lose sight of the ultimate goals and what defines success.

When planning an event, there can be a tendency to go into automatic overdrive. Planners may repeat processes that were done in the past because it’s efficient and familiar. Determining overarching goals of the conference, whether it be providing networking, education, business leads, or making a profit for the client, need to be clearly defined and understood for the entire team to execute successful outcomes. Using defined goals for each component of the event, which may change from year to year, drives decisions from selection of education formats to social/networking activities; from implementation of communication strategies to integration of technology.

Here are a few tips our meetings team uses to establish goals for client events:

  • Follow a goal setting model for each clients’ event to ensure you develop strong goals to be accountable for throughout the planning process. A common model used in our industry is SMART: Create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound goals.
  • Keep your goals focused on the needs identified in your audience. These can be actual attendees, subsets of attendees, potential attendees, stakeholders, or the organization itself.
  • Ensure leadership agrees with the goals as established. There will likely be less resistance to a change in process if all leaders are included from the start.
  • Review your goals regularly to ensure they are being executed.
  • Keep in constant communication with your organizing team on progress throughout the planning process.
  • Have over-arching goals that drive the conference experience, and then set specific metrics by which achievement of the goals will be evaluated.

In summary, deciding on specific goals prior to your event will help you judge your event’s success as well as help you prioritize efforts throughout the planning process.


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As we enter into the month of October, the color pink is everywhere. Television, radio, newspapers, billboards, magazines, walks, fundraisers, retail merchandise… the list goes on in efforts to promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Talk about collaboration! This health care campaign was formed to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment and has become a global sensation with a phenomenal collaborative effort.

Collaboration inspires a sense of community and the opportunity for people to learn from each other. While the collaborative activity of promoting National Breast Cancer Awareness is huge on a global scale, collaborative activity at the workplace, on a much smaller scale, mobilizes teams in various capacities to come together and reach common goals.

The AMPED team recently put collaborative efforts to the test when Hurricane Irma was slated for a direct hit in the Ft. Lauderdale area. One of our newest clients was having a large annual conference in this area, just two weeks after the hurricane was to hit. Decisions had to be made about keeping the conference in Ft. Lauderdale as planned, not knowing what damage may ensue, or moving the entire event to a new location in a different area of the country. Through this process, we learned the value of collaboration, both internally and externally with various teams. Below are a few thoughts on effective collaboration that resonated with me as we worked together to produce a successful outcome for our client:

1. Collaboration will expand your community and your opportunities to connect with people for new ideas. When we were considering moving to a new location, our CEO happened to be at a conference with hospitality industry leaders including CEO’s from convention and visitor bureaus across the United States. After discussing our situation with industry peers, many CEO’s offered their advice, assistance and resources to help us through the process of potentially moving the conference to a new location. Ideas were presented that we never knew existed.

2. Collaboration allows you to expand your experiences and knowledge. Our team had not been through a situation like this before. Through many forms of collaboration, each one of us was able to establish new areas of “expertise” that can now be applied to future circumstances.

3. Collaborations provide a built-in sounding board and a system of checks and balances. This experience provided many opportunities for our team to bounce ideas off of one another, blend complementary strengths and recognize areas where we could improve. It made us a stronger team.

In the end, our collaborative partners made the decision to stay at the Florida destination, as originally planned. And the conference experienced a record number of attendees! Collaborative efforts made this possible.


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For meeting planners, the word “attrition” is a pretty common industry term, most often used in reference to guest rooms. However, paying attention to food and beverage guarantees — the “other attrition” — is equally important.

Usually hotel contracts have a food and beverage (F&B) clause that requires a group to generate a minimum amount of F&B revenue through the course of the meeting. The F&B clause goes on to say that if the minimum amount of revenue is not generated, the group is responsible for making up the difference. The F&B clause will require the shortfall plus the tax. Whether it’s called an F&B guarantee or minimum, it really is an attrition clause.

Here are a few tips to avoid paying more than you need to if a shortfall occurs:

Know the profit margin
Often, clauses are based on the difference between the guaranteed F&B revenue and the actual F&B costs incurred by the group. If you can, do not agree to terms that require monetary damages based on lost revenue. Instead, try to base it on lost profit. Know the profit margin!

Last year, we were negotiating with a hotel in San Diego for a large convention taking place in 2018. The hotel incorporated an extremely high food and beverage minimum in the contract. Knowing the profit margins for F&B helped us successfully negotiate terms to minimize the potential amount owed if a shortfall would occur.

Industry standard profit margins for food and beverage are between 35 and 40%. For example, if a group signs a contract with a $50,000 minimum, but only realizes $40,000, there is a shortfall. However, it does not make sense to pay for the full amount of $10,000. Despite the shortfall, the hotel never had to order the food, pay any staff to prepare it, or serve it. Instead the group should negotiate to pay between 35 and 40% of the shortfall.

To calculate the amount owed, take the total shortfall amount and multiply it by the agreed upon profit margin percentage.

Know if F&B damages are subject to sales tax
Before agreeing to pay taxes on shortfalls, check with the state in which your meeting is being held to see if taxes are required by law. If a portion of the F&B minimum guarantee is never purchased, then usually no sales tax is owed because nothing was sold in the first place. Know this before you sign the contract.

Consider ordering more food rather than paying the shortfall
If there is a shortfall, consider purchasing enough extra food to make up the difference. This could mean enhancements to a menu, upgrading a reception or ordering a fancier dessert.

Attendees will likely have a more favorable impression of the event and the group will avoid paying F&B damages to the hotel without getting something in return.

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Caple health

It happens all the time, especially in the meeting/event planning world, your day does not go as planned. A meeting ran late, a new meeting was called, a snowstorm hit, a project needed more attention. Being stuck at work…it happens. Whether it’s having to put in long hours, or just a schedule that doesn’t allow gym time on weekdays, you can still squeeze in exercise—no matter where you are.

This topic is top of mind as I am currently participating in a research study through University of Wisconsin Health to reduce my sitting time and incorporate more movement throughout the day. According to research by UW Health, sedentary behaviors (typically in the context of sitting) have emerged as a new focus for research on physical activity and health. When you sit for extended periods, electrical activity in the leg muscles shut off, calorie burning rate drops, enzymes that help break down fat drop, good cholesterol HDL drops, and the levels of metabolic energy expenditures is greatly reduced. Incorporating periodic movement throughout your workday has numerous benefits such as:

  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved glucose and insulin levels
  • Improved metabolism
  • Improved digestion
  • Reduces stiffness in legs and joints
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers
  • Improved mental concentration and energy levels

Here are some ideas to easily incorporate baseline movement into your workday. They can be done all at once, or spaced throughout the day to keep you moving until quitting bell time.

Lower body
Chair leg lifts
Sit with your back flat against a chair and your right leg stretched straight out with your foot flexed. Lift and lower your right leg, concentrating on the quadriceps muscle to do the lifting. Since you’ll only be using your body weight, try between 15-20 repetitions, then switch to the left leg. Rest and repeat two more times. Repeat the exercise with your flexed foot facing out, concentrating on your inner thigh.

Chair squats and rear leg lifts
Stand behind a chair with your chest lifted, shoulder back, feet straight ahead and hands on the back of the chair. Squat down, as if you were sitting down in a chair, keeping your head straight and making sure not to roll your shoulders forward. Stand back up pushing through your heels. Do 15 repetitions. Then try single rear leg lifts. Stand in the same position, flex your right foot leg straight and lift to the back. Do 15 reps and repeat with the left leg. Take a 30-second break and start again with chair squats. If time allows, complete three rounds.

Upper body
Arm circles
While they may seem like an old-school exercise, arm circles work! Sit straight in a chair with your back flat against the chair and arms out to the side. With your palms facing down, circle your arms forward making small circles. Try to circle for 30 seconds, then take a short rest and repeat in reverse.

Water bottle curls and kickbacks
Again, sit straight up in your chair. Grab one or two full water bottles (if you only have one, do single-arm exercises; if you have two, work both arms at the same time). To exercise your biceps, hold the bottles with your arms straight down and palms facing out; curl your arms up just past 90 degrees, hold for a squeeze and then lower your arms. Do 15 repetitions, rest and repeat. For a triceps workout, hold the bottles with your palms facing inward and elbows up; extend your arms back. Do 15 reps, rest and repeat.

Just stand
During the day, remember to get up from your desk at least once an hour and just move around. Incorporate strategies to encourage movement such as standing during your phone calls, taking an extra lap around the office when filling your water bottle, taking the stairs whenever possible or exploring adjustable works stations.

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chef impression

The success of your meeting may rely on a carefully planned and well executed site inspection. Having been on the hotel side of things and now as a planner, I see the site inspection as a unique face-to-face opportunity to kick off a lasting relationship between the planner and sales team.

A few of our AMPED staff recently went to San Diego to check out a hotel for a large client event in 2018. Based on the particular needs of this medical conference, the property was selected because it was in a great location, was symbiotic with our client’s goals and attendee personalities and had the appropriate space and guest rooms to comfortably accommodate all the various space requirements. However, what really clinched this property for our conference was our sales manager. From our first conversation, Jennifer was very easy to establish a rapport with and took the time upfront to fully discuss the meeting goals, objectives and purpose, and the demographics and meeting behaviors of our attendees. In summary, she nailed our site inspection experience! Early dissemination of conference information allowed the property to demonstrate on-site how they could best meet our needs and appeal to our attendees. This customized experience instilled confidence with us that she was truly our partner in the complete execution of our event and not just a sales rep trying to close business.

While onsite, what are some factors to be considered and can be influential when conducting a site inspection?

1. First Impressions: ….Go a long way so make sure the hotel properly represents your own expectations and branding of the conference to successfully execute them. Sometimes, it will not matter how well the meeting itself goes, if the hotel has an inadequate feel or attendees are not experiencing good customer service, that will be their lasting impression. We arrived at this hotel the day after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The lobby was abuzz with all kinds of activity and we knew the staff had to be exhausted. All staff we encountered were extremely pleasant and genuinely ready to assist, despite coming off a very hectic week.

A few things to consider observing upon arrival at the hotel:

  • How you are greeted by the front desk and bell staff?
  • Is this area well-staffed and there are plenty of employees greeting guests and carefully driving cars through the valet area?
  • Are their uniforms updated, clean, and fitted?
  • Are they pleasant and friendly

2. Hotel Management: In my past hotel days, we were trained on the “meet and greet” technique. Well-trained sales managers should be ready and prepared to meet you upon your arrival at the hotel. Nothing goes further than feeling that your arrival was anticipated and planned for. When our team arrived on this particular visit, hotel staff were enthusiastically waiting to welcome us to San Diego and the hotel. Our room keys were provided to us so we could proceed directly to our upgraded, expansive suites in which we each had a customized in-room welcome amenity. This little, but effective, touch reassured us that the hotel was eager to earn our business.

3. Presentation: Has the sales manager prepared in advance to show you exactly where your meeting and banquets will take place, as well as the variety of guest rooms and suites you need for your guests? So often hotel sales managers don’t take the time to go through your agenda prior to the visit and you end up seeing meeting spaces you’d never need and room categories you don’t want. Our sales manager, Jennifer, did her homework prior to our arrival through the many conversations. She also took the time to research our client to completely understand the dynamics of our conference. Our tour started with a relaxing lunch that set expectations for how the rest of the day would go. We were able to discuss in greater detail things that make our conference successful, get an understanding of the overall “lay of the land” before we began the tour, and also get to know their team a little better.

4. Hotel Quality: How recently was the hotel renovated? If there have not been recent renovations, be sure to ask about future renovation plans. Are the guestrooms, suites, meeting rooms and public areas updated? Are the bathrooms clean? How fast are the elevators and are they clean? This area in particular, is where the hotel has complete control to ensure the property is properly being taken care of. When it comes to cleanliness and working order, there are no excuses. While onsite, I built in some time to wander the hotel on my own to experience the hotel as our attendees would and to really pay attention to these details. Remember, the hotel will be part of your branding for this event and you should be assured the hotel meets your standards.

5. Food Quality: Food trends have come a long way from the clichéd “rubber chicken,” making planning meal functions a more engaging experience. In an effort to meet the changing needs of conference clients, hotels are transitioning from traditional banquet service to more, specialized opportunities like healthy, local fare and customized menu options. To see if the hotel is true to its word on these trends, visit the various restaurants onsite and note their differences in cuisine/gourmet experiences and price points. Order room service to evaluate delivery time and quality of food. If time allows, arrange a chef tasting to create menus and experience what your attendees will experience and also to ensure various dietary needs will be met.

A successful and productive site inspection, such as we experienced in San Diego, is fundamental in establishing confidence during the planning and execution process of your event. Considering our experience, our team at AMPED is looking forward to working with our new hotel partner for the upcoming conference in 2018!


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