Gratitude for 2020

Despite the difficulties 2020 brought, especially to small businesses and the hospitality industry overall, there are things to be grateful for. Owner of Mosaix Group, Melissa Murray recaps the pain of 2020 as well her reasons to be thankful.

A Fresh Start… Sort Of

Most of us looked to the New Year as a fresh start and a big step away from the challenges of 2020. 2021 appeared to be the cure for COVID, social injustices, polarization, and other challenges that created inextinguishable sparks in 2020. Well… it was the cure until we actually entered 2021. As the pandemic reigns on in 2021, tensions continue to be high and the country continues to stand divided on many important issues. We know the dropping of that ball on New Year’s was not the cure.

While I could dive into many important topics in the aforementioned group, I would like to stray to one that I think has been lightly mentioned but bears repeating. Gratitude. Gratitude for 2020. I will look at 2020 as a year of remembrance for many things but gratitude will be at the top of my list. How can I be grateful for such a disastrous year? I must be making money from the pandemic? Nothing could be further from the truth.   

Crashing Down

Mosaix Group Corporate Event Pre-COVID

As a hard-working entrepreneur, I own and manage a company that handles corporate events. Our yearly planning meeting at the beginning of March 2020 showed a record-breaking year between what was on the books and in the pipeline. This was to be a phenomenal year. Later that same month, we started dismantling contracts and looking to staff furloughs and layoffs. It was beyond brutal – both personally and professionally. No decisions were easy. As things came crashing down, I worried about losing my business of 20 years, my amazing employees, and my sanity.   

When the world is seemingly falling apart all around you, it is time to look for the positive. It is there. The positive is sometimes buried in a pile of s—t, but it is there. I began to see everything differently as I was treading cautiously through April and May.   

A Time for Thank Yous

After eating in for eight straight weeks, my first meal at a restaurant in June seemed like an amazing luxury. I am pretty sure I tipped the waiter more than the cost of the food. I was not alone – I could feel the pain that he was experiencing.   

Going to the grocery store I thanked every worker I could find for doing their job; which was truly an amazing gift for all. When grocery shopping, I was thankful for what was on the shelves and chose to change meals rather than harp on what I could not get. We found some great new meal options due to COVID. I delivered a meal to my neighbor who is a nurse and had been working countless hours. She thanked me and held back tears of both gratitude and pain. I gave a small gift card to my mailman and trash collector. I gave a small gift and cookies to my amazing UPS driver.  They help me consistently throughout the year. Why has it taken me so long to say a heartfelt thank you?  

Our family enjoyed more meals around the table, family games, puzzles, and more. With three teenagers in the house, I was very thankful that events, dates, and outings were cancelled. This was precious time I would not normally have with them. (Ok, at times I did wish they would get the heck out of the house but we are focusing on gratitude here!).

When history looks back on 2020 many lessons will have been learned. There will be advancement in medicine, procedures, and hopefully in political division, and social justice. When I look back on 2020 I will look at it as the year I learned to be extremely grateful for the little things in life. Because the little things are truly big.   

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner  

North Carolina based Meeting Planning Company | Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh DMC. 

Talkin’ Trash – A Lasting Impression

How about a little Trash Talk? In the corporate event realm, a substantial amount of financial resources is spent on décor, directional, lighting, ambiance, traffic-flow plans and other important aspects of events and meetings. Countless hours are dedicated to deciding on centerpieces, linens, and the all-mighty ‘Sense of Arrival’. What is usually an after-thought is trash.  Trash management. Trash flow. Trash handling. Trash removal. It’s not sexy – that’s for sure, but it is oh so important.

The Dirty Details

For the sake of this conversation, let me definite what I mean by ‘trash’. It is the usual trash that needs to be thrown out due to use; but it is also discarded cups and glasses that need to be taken to the kitchen, plates left on high boys during a reception, and anything else that needs to be removed after use. I think we all can agree that reusable or compostable items are the best way to go, but that is another topic of discussion, albeit a very important one.

When planning an event at a hotel and many (but not all) venues, trash has plans. There are people that manage the actual trash and the clearing of the used items from tables. Staffers are scheduled for shifts to handle these items along with other needs of the venue. But how is that timing in comparison to the flow of your corporate meeting or event? When will the trash bins be cleared? At the end of the night? In the morning before people arrive? When will the tables be cleared at the reception? After everyone goes into the main event? During the event? Trash is a deterrent and a distraction. It draws people always from the sense of arrival and the overall feel of the event.

A Lasting Impression

An overflowing trash can is more memorable at an event than those amazing centerpieces that went through 5 revisions and were the subject of budget amendments. Tables strewn with cups and glasses cover up the expensive tablecloths that took 3 swatch mailings in order to get right. Overflowing tray-jacks along the ballroom wall can dwarf the foliage placed to provide a more intimate setting.

What is the schedule for clearing dishes? Is the event well-staffed?

Offsite venues, those that are not part of a hotel or convention center may have several people or third-party companies handling different aspects of the event. Trash may be divided up. Who is handling the general venue trash, catering trash, table clearing and proper removal of items all from the attendee area? How is it being handled? Will mules (think mini-truck) be cruising your venue with trash on the back? Or will someone discretely remove these items?

Where can people place used cups and dishes? Are there enough trash bins / receptors and are they placed properly? Are server tray-jacks abundant and is the plan appropriate for their constant upkeep and removal of dishes?

If you are organizing an event in a parking lot, large field, or other untamed venue, trash talk will be even more important. While there is typically a ‘system’ at a venue or hotel, a newly created space will not have this advantage. You as the planner will need to bring in resources to handle the rubbish. Companies can be hired to manage trash. Caterers can extend their staffing for this purpose (but you will need to make sure individuals are dedicated to trash). You can also bring in companies to assist with composting and recycling. Talk about sexy – lessening the imprint of an event is exciting when executed correctly.  But – more about that in another blog.

Tips on Trash

Now that our trash talking has gotten you listening, what is an event planner to do?

  1. Talk trash in advance. Make sure there is a plan for the trash with the venue, hotel, convention center, etc.
  2. Find out the schedule for the person, team, or company that will be handling removal of the trash and make sure it meshes with your schedule.
  3. Dish removal – where can people place used cups and dishes? Clearly discuss catering expectations regarding clearing. Are server tray-jacks abundant and is the plan appropriate for their constant upkeep and removal of dishes? Will wait staff scour the room for empties throughout the night?
  4. Include timing for clearing in your run of show. Set the expectation that it is constant during receptions and dinner if there is not a presentation.
  5. How are event staffing levels? When events are understaffed, trash is the first thing that gets skipped. Make sure the venue has the appropriate level of staffing for both the number of attendees and type of food and drink being served.
  6. How is the trash removal handled? A huge outdoor concert venue can handle a mule running through with trash. For a high-end corporate event with full build-outs and décor, trash removal should be undetected and consistent.
  7. Trash receptacles – what do they look like? A huge trash bin with an open top is not attractive. Make sure your receptacle is appropriate for your event.  Are there enough and are the placed in proper places?
  8. Who is your trash and clearing contact with the hotel and/or venue? Make sure they let their staff know that this is a priority.  And get a mobile number for someone that will be handling this or overseeing this the day of your event.  Knowing you have their number may light a little fire.
  9. Make sure trash removal goes on throughout the event. Staff, venues, hotels seem to ease up on trash toward the end of the event. You don’t want the lasting impression of your event to be trashy.

Enough trash talking for today.  Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to do some trash talking on your own so that your attendees can remember the ambiance, not the trash.

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner

The Front Porch is Our New Table

The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic brought the events industry to its knees. Melissa Murray, owner of Mosaix Group, a destination management and meeting planning company, wanted nothing more than to take care of her employees during a time when so many businesses were shutting their doors. With conferences and events cancelling left and right, Melissa had the idea to bring the conference directly to attendees. Thus, was born MOXBOXES – a business strategy to take care of her clients and staff by providing impactful, completely custom, and extremely visual gift boxes. Mosaix Group works with all of their clients to create a unique experience that begins with a colorful delivery on a doorstep that’s guaranteed to pack a smile.

The Almighty Table Setting

When planning meetings, we spend time on logistics and impressions. Audio visual, lighting, décor, and the almighty table setting at the lunch, dinner, gala or reception are meticulously thought-out. Time and expense are spent on the linens and centerpieces to create a setting that is visually appealing. The tone for the morning, afternoon, evening, or entire event is set through this type of décor.

We can ruminate on all the things we’ve missed due to COVID, but one thing is for sure; we miss the sense of awe, inspiration, and connection to others that comes from a well-designed meeting or event. At Mosaix Group, we were the orchestrators of this type of engagement and we were truly missing the opportunity to provide inspiration and excitement for others. That needed to change. We needed to get our creative team working to make a difference in this new event world.  Our first step was to launch into virtual meetings. No, not the typical web conferences. We are talking about full-fledged event experiences through your computer. We ferociously tackled virtual meetings and produced amazing results that included excellent engagement and visuals. Clients and attendees enjoyed the experiences, but we knew we needed to bring it to the next level.

The Front Porch Impression

Now that we have entered the virtual meeting world, our table settings have been replaced with the front porch. We peer out our porch windows more often these days in anxious anticipation of fun arrivals. It is even more exciting when we forget that we ordered something, and it lands on our porch like a lost or forgotten friend. Our lives are a little simpler with less travel and reduced social gatherings, so we have more time to look at what has landed on our welcome mat.

This revelation tied in with a crumbling events industry brought on the birth of MoxBoxes. We thought – if you can’t come to the event, we’ll simply ship the event to you. We began to provide completely custom and extremely visual gift boxes. As with all that we do, we wanted our gifting experience to be captivating and different. We worked to design colorful boxes with dramatic visuals that put a smile on the face of the recipients the minute they opened their front door. Keep it different. Make it fun. We worked with all our clients to create an experience on the doorstop that started with a well-designed box exterior and continued on with inside branded messaging and custom contents.

How do we ship an all day meeting? We created boxes that started with a coffee mug for the morning, included snacks for the mid-afternoon break, and went into drink mixes, cocktail shakers, and a cocktail glass for the virtual happy hour. We also included branded items such as pens, notebooks, and bluetooth headphones.

Showing a video? We ship movie style boxes and pack the boxes full of popcorn and movie theater candy. We can also include cozy blankets and slippers to make movie watching form home more comfortable.

Award ceremony? We sent boxes with awards that were labeled with a sticker “do not open until {specified date and time}” so that all attendees could open the boxes at the same time. We handled the ceremony on the back-end, and in this situation, even the losers became winners by receiving fun items.  Ok – they didn’t get the award, but they did not leave the virtual meeting empty handed!

Virtual meetings with happy hour? We would send ingredients for a mixology class and have a gregarious instructor teach the attendees to make vivacious cocktails at the conclusion of the meeting.

Just want to gather the team for fun? We’ve sent all the ingredients for wonderful cooking classes and have had our chef lead the attendees in making simple but fun and different dishes.

Thinking Outside the Box

With each event we continued to get more and more creative while thinking outside the box for things to go in the box. Yes, we could send fun items in a simple brown box, but we feel the experience truly starts with the porch. It is like that centerpiece on the table. No – it’s not really necessary for the event, but let’s set the tone folks. Our box creativity and unique experiences continue to grow.

What has the MoxBox done for us? It has allowed our team to continue to devise creative and custom solutions for our attendees. We have, once again, felt the euphoria of providing engaging experiences for our clients. Their success is our success. We have always worked in the background to make our clients look good and the MoxBoxes are no exception.

What else have we done? Through engaging virtual meetings and thousands of MoxBoxes, we have kept our employees working. While we haven’t been able to keep everyone in our extremely decimated industry, we continue to employ a good number of amazing staff that have dug in everywhere they can to help our team make it to the other side. We have also been able to buy from small business owners and engage others that have been damaged during this challenging season.

While I will not profess to be beating COVID, I can say with certainty that we are not letting COVID beat us. We would love to create a front porch experience for your team. We have always been about creating the experience and we are more invested in that now than ever before. Let’s turn this COVID shit show on its head and have some fun!

 

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner