Cost Effective Tips

Cost Effective Tips for Offsite Meetings

With the economy in an economic slump a majority of companies are tightening meeting budgets by focusing on measures to control the cost of offsite meetings, although not necessarily reducing the number of meetings planned for 2011. Keep in mind that the money saved by holding a meeting onsite is often offset by the temptation for participants to visit their desk and catch up on other work, which can add up to a major distraction. Taking your meeting offsite can pay off in increased productivity as attendees stay focused on the agenda at hand. Company meetings held outside of the office can be great motivational tools. An offsite meeting can really shake things up and revitalize and reenergize your employees, building team spirit and getting everyone’s creative juices flowing again. A meeting “away from home” is often the best way to generate new enthusiasm, new ideas, and a renewed commitment to company goals.

Here are 10 tips from for planning a cost effective, successful offsite meeting:

1. Aim high. When planning an off-site meeting, people usually set their expectations too low. Thinking about the day strategically can make it more than just a simple bonding experience; it can become an opportunity to solve office problems, generate new ideas, and help employees grow. Anchor the meeting with goals that actually mean something to the business.

2. Pick a creative location. A ho-hum location will produce ho-hum results. The physical surroundings of your off-site meeting can make an enormous difference. Hotels and conference centers are great locations, but they’re not the only options. Some creative alternatives include movie theaters, bowling alleys, sports arenas, museums, theme parks, and other quirky venues. Think outside the box.

3. Take a tour before. When selecting your meeting site, be sure to take a tour of the facility beforehand, including the “back of the house.” Check for ample storage space for supplies, secure areas for employees to put their belongings, a sufficient number of clean restrooms, and good dining facilities.

4. Don’t forget the fun. Just because this is a business meeting, don’t neglect the recreational opportunities. Many conference centers and hotels offer a wide range of physical activities such as golf and tennis, as well as unique team-building exercises. Build time into the day’s schedule to allow employees to take advantage of these extras.

5. Add up the costs. Be sure to determine your budget ahead of time. Expenses to consider: transportation, facility rental, equipment rental, accommodations, catering, and possibly the cost of hiring a guest speaker or entertainer.

6. Bring the right equipment. Today’s meetings call for more than just a few chairs and a flip chart. Attendees will likely bring laptops to access and present computer-based information, so you’ll need a means of projecting that information. You should also consider beforehand whether you’ll need high-speed Internet access in the meeting venue, or if this is a time to be “off the grid.”

7. Pick two dates. When choosing a date for your off-site meeting, keep at least two possible ones in mind — a preferred date and an alternate one. When you start checking out available facilities, you’ll be able to choose the best option based on the number of people who can attend. Alternate dates also mean that you can negotiate a better price.

8. Create a detailed schedule. Work backwards from your event date to determine what needs to be done beforehand, and when. Be conscious of production lead time, shipping times for deliveries, and anything else that needs to be thought out before the meeting day.

9. Plan the day intelligently. Design your meeting day schedule with care. Build in travel time to and from the site, and set an agenda that honors that. Additionally, make sure that all attendees have appropriate transportation to get to the meeting on time. Decide up front whether you want the day to be a high-intensity working event, a laid-back and relaxing retreat, or a balanced program combining a little of each. If you do decide to mix work with play, carefully consider which should come first.

10. Do advance PR. Circulate a pre-retreat agenda that lets people know what your objectives are for the off-site meeting. This will provide employees with an opportunity to prepare ahead of time for full and constructive participation. Where appropriate, give pre-meeting homework that employees need to bring to the meeting. It will also help to drum up excitement for the big day.

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Lake Minnetonka History

The word “Minnetonka” derived from the Dakota Indians “Minne = water, tonka = big.” Hence, Minnetonka = Big Water. Dakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Iowa, and Ojibwa people all occupied the area around Lake Minnetonka at some point. The woodland areas surrounding the lake were used as burial grounds and were highly revered as a place of great spiritual importance.

11,000 years ago large blocks of ice were left in the wake of the retreating glacier. These blocks of ice were buried in soil and rock and eventually melted to form Lake Minnetonka.

Lake Minnetonka is made up of 16 interconnecting lakes with about 25 named bays and many islands. It is the 10th largest lake in Minnesota with 14,500 acres (22.6 square miles) and approximately 125 miles of shoreline.

In 1852 Excelsior was established by a group of immigrants from New York.
In 1853 the Minnetonka Hotel was built at Minnetonka Mills.
In 1861 Minnetonka’s first steamboat, “The Governor Ramsey” was launched with several more to follow in the coming years. “The Belle of Minnetonka,” the largest vessel ever launched on a lake was first used in 1882. It had a capacity for 2500 passengers and measured 300 feet.
1880’s and 1890’s was Lake Minnetonka’s heyday with several grand hotels and resorts. This period ended quickly due to economic depresion as well as people traveling further north with the expansion of the railroad. The last of the big hotels, “Hotel Del Otero,” burns to the ground on July 4th, 1945 marking the final end of an era.

1905-1926 the Minnehaha was used to service Big Island’s 65 acre picnic and amusement park and 27 other locations around the lake. The steamships were used in conjunction with the streetcar line from Minneapolis to Excelsior. Designed to resemble streetcars the boats were 70 feet long and carried up to 135 passengers. In 1926 the Minnehaha was scuttled off of Big Island. In 1980 the Minnehaha was raised from the lake’s bottom, after 54 years. In 1990, Museum volunteers started restoring the Minnehaha. The restoration took over 80,000 hours of volunteer time and thousands of dollars in donations. The work was completed and the boat sailed for its maiden voyage in May, 1996. Today, the Minnehaha rests at the BayView Event Center docks. Throughout the summer months the Museum of Lake Minnetonka operates public and private cruises around Big Island and round-trips from Excelsior to Wayzata.

In 1906, the Twin City Rapid Transit Company extended is streetcar lines from Minneapolis to reach Lake Minnetonka. Excelsior was once the western terminus of this sprawling streetcar system. Once past the Minneapolis city limits, these streetcars sped through the countryside at 60 miles an hour. Until 1926, Minnetonka’s streetcars allowed passengers to connect with the express boats at Excelsior, Deephaven and Tonka Bay.

Today, the Minnesota Streetcar Museum offers rides on “Old No. 78”, one of the oldest operating streetcars in the country, traveling along a half-mile track through Excelsior, beginning across the street from BayView. You can also check out the restoration process of two other historic streetcars in conjunction with a ride on Old No. 78.

1925 Excelsior Amusement Park opens, the future site of BayView Event Center. The amusement park featured a roller coaster, merry-go-round, ferris wheel, fun house, dancehall and other attractions. On Labor Day, 1973 the amusement park closes and the carousel was sold to Valleyfair, which still operates today.

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Minnesota Green

Benefits of Eating Fresh Produce

We are what we eat. Not only are we what we eat, our children and their children are what we feed them. The food choices we have available to us today were unimaginable a generation ago. The increased shelf life of many foods, the sophistication of our distribution system, and the vast array of convenient drivethrough options have made the act of eating for many of us an effortless and even thoughtless process. Some would say,“That’s the good news.”

The bad news is that the negative side effects of the system are starting to outweigh the good that is being accomplished. We are all too aware of the enormous cost to our society of having cheap, empty calories ever-present in our food choices for the last five decades. Combined with the lack of regular exercise in many of our daily lives, the obesity crisis in America has the potential to bring our health care system to its knees.

Beyond the health care cost of obesity problem, there lies another less-visible issue that is equally damaging to our lives.The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Farming at the University of Minnesota estimates that the average bite of food on your table today has traveled 1,500 miles to get there. Freshness, flavor, and nutritional value often get lost in the shuffle. By some estimates, today’s standard farming techniques take roughly seven calories of energy (fossil fuel for fertilizer, farm machinery, refrigeration, and transportation to market) for each calorie that we consume. That’s the very definition of unsustainable. In addition,we are losing topsoil at an unprecedented rate and applying millions of tons of herbicides and pesticides to our crops each year. Residue from these chemicals, along with the hormones and antibiotics now widely used in the process of raising farm animals, leave end consumers with a dangerous mix of unwanted substances inside of our bodies.As bad as this news is for us, it is even worse news for our children.

The Alternative ~ There is a growing movement that can lead your family and the entire process in a different direction.That movement consists of purchasing organically grown and locally grown foods from your favorite grocer and farmer’s markets, and/or belonging to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

The increasing cost of fuel for transportation will increase the cost of non-locally grown food and contribute to all of the problems associated with our dependence on oil.Why buy from California when you can buy from a local grower? Which brings us to farmers markets. They are a great place to buy veggies, fruits, and other products from the people who supplied the tender loving care to produce them. There are nearly 90 farmers markets in Minnesota.
The other option is a CSA, in which you pay for a “share” prior to the growing season, in essence becoming a partner with the farmer. In return, you receive a container of fresh vegetables every week throughout the roughly 16-week growing season, while supporting a style of farming that reduces the use of dangerous chemicals. Some CSAs also provide fruits, eggs, honey, flowers and a variety of other items. Generally you either pick up your weekly share at the farm or at a predetermined drop-off location in town. CSAs create little waste because what is grown is already spoken for and paid for.You can view a list of Minnesota and Western Wisconsin CSA’s or a list of Twin Cities locally grown organic food. Participating in any or all of these options, at any level, is a step in a healthier direction for you, for our planet, and for your children and their children.

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Picnic Planning Tips

FIND A LOCATION – Choosing your location may be the most crucial step. While many picnics take place under a tent in the company’s parking lot, offsite venues can make people feel more relaxed. First, determine what type of picnic you are looking for. Do you want a private setting or an oversized facility hosting several groups at one time? At Theme Parks or large-scale picnic facilities many groups will share the same space so your employees will not be able to socialize and they will eat the same menu at the same time as the others. Private picnic facilities allow everyone to interact, socialize and build team spirit and will likely have higher quality food with more choices. Instead of just providing a free day off for your staff, don’t miss this opportunity to increase team sprit and build employee morale! Try to select a place that “takes you away”. A place close enough to the city but able to give the feeling you’ve momentarily escaped to a peaceful, fun and relaxing family oasis. Look for a location that is near natural resources such as a lake, park, hiking trails or other attractions such as shopping or historical exhibits. This type of setting allows the highest probability for all to be pleased, and privacy is epically important for family related events.

SELECT A DATE – Company picnics are usually held in June through early October. First, find the dates that do not work for YOU, then check with the “higher ups.” Now you can narrow it down to those dates that work best for everyone. You may also want to consider your company’s workflow.Thursday-Saturdays will book up first, so reserving a date earlier than later is highly recommended. Demand for some venues is at a premium during peak periods.

BUDGET – The most difficult, but sometimes most important part of planning a successful event. What portion of the event is the Company going to pay for? All of it, part of it, or none of it? Will the employees be responsible for a portion? When dealing with caterers, make sure to account for gratuity, user fees and taxes. When bringing in an outside caterer to your property, make sure to account for delivery, set-up, tables, chairs and wait staff/cooks fees. Do not forget about prizes and or trophies for the games.

REPUTATION – Great tasting food made from the highest quality ingredients and plenty of it is a must for every successful picnic! Choosing a park with a great reputation for delicious food that is made fresh onsite is sure to be a hit with the troops. Be sure to choose a menu that has a wide variety of options; people like to have choices. Choose the appropriate food for the appropriate space meaning ~ if seating is a premium due to the size of your group look at more finger foods that can be eaten if not everyone is sitting, If this a family event make sure there are kid friendly options. Select food items that will help embellish the theme of your event, And always make sure there are vegetarian options.

– Entertainment and activities are a great way to increase team spirit and build employee morale. Your location may offer things like volleyball, hiking, boating, horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet, etc. For the kids, consider inflatables (I.E. bounce houses, joust, obstacle courses), carnival games, face painters and clowns to keep them entertained so mom and dad can relax. Another way to generate more interest in your event is to incorporate a theme such as Western, Polynesian, Beach Bums, Circus/Carnival, and Old-Fashioned County Fair. You can then gear entertainment, the food, and certainly the decor, around that theme. Encourage guests to dress up to add more fun and color to the day. Look for places that offer the broadest selection of activities such as boat cruises, trolley rides or biking trails.

– Create a schedule of activities to distribute to your employees prior to the event and then post your schedule the day of the event. Include start and end times, meal service, and other special activities. The object is to show that the day is organized, filled with fun & excitement but not too rigid or structured. Try to create the excitement for your picnic even before the event starts such as have a contest for the most creative team name or trophy.

INVITATIONS/ATTENDANCE – Announce the date and location as soon as it is established. Place notices in paychecks, posters in lunchrooms, email employees and mention it at meetings. is also a great free service for inviting and tracking your guests. To ensure fewer no shows, you may want to charge $5 to $10 per ticket. The money can either be returned to the employees that do show up or it can be used to purchase door prizes. Cash gifts and give-a-ways are also a good way to increase attendance and create excitement.

SIMPLICITY – The day of the event should be just as enjoyable and relaxing for you as the rest of the employees. Choose a facility with a friendly, experienced and accommodating staff that will take care of all the event details.

OH YES, There’s one more extremely helpful tip …

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New Catering Trends!


Communal tables, creative cocktailing and hearty “heritage” food will be some of the top food & beverage trends this year.  According to the industry experts, the following are just some of the top catering trends for the coming year:

  • Offering plates of various sizes has become increasingly popular allowing guests to control how much they consume at a meal. This also allows the opportunity for them to sample different tastes and flavors in small portions, thereby enjoying a wider array of cuisine.
  • Action Stations are fun, interactive and becoming increasingly popular.  A custom order station allows your guests to “pick and choose” their ingredients, spice level, etc.
  • The era of “carb-counting” is hopefully almost behind us as we see diners renewing their tastes for good old-fashioned breakfasts. Guests are turning to French toast, waffles and pancakes as part of a healthy breakfast together with eggs that are cooked to order.
  • The pairing of food and spirit is an interesting trend where premium liquors are combined with freshly squeezed juices and herbs, such as the “Thyme-Cosmo” or the “Basil-Mojito”.
  • Caterers are seeing less of an interest in diet fads and more attention to healthy foods which may be low in carb, fat and calories. The difference is that there is nothing extreme about the foods being offered, just that they are fresh, healthy and balanced.
  • Desserts are certainly high priority as new flavors infuse these sweet treats. The taste of exotic fruits likes mango or key lime in gel bites or Amaretto Bourbon spiced rice pudding has added a renewed appetite for dessert. Dessert bars with dessert flights made to order in front of you at a “bar” and paired with wines” is a very hot trend.
  • Chocolate. Like wine tastings, chocolate “tastings” are becoming popular. In fact, “super foods” such as blueberries, avocados, green tea, beans, walnuts and chocolate have gained popularity as they have enormous health benefits.
  • Tropical Fruit. Tropical fruit flavors such as lychee, tamarind, papaya and guava are cropping up in more cuisine.
  • Ethnic Flavors. Mexican, Latin, Thai and Caribbean flavors are the latest trends.
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Pork Tenderloin

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Savory Blackberry, Jalapeño Marmalade

Ingredients (Pork Tenderloin)

  • 3 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper


  1. Cut a horizontal slit in the pork tenderloin, leaving the halves attached. Rub tenderloin with olive oil.
  2. Insert garlic into the slit and on onto the fatty part of pork. Press thyme and rosemary into slit. Sprinkle tenderloin with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.
  4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place pork on grill. Cook approximately 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes, to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F (72 degrees C).
  5. Let Tenderloin rest lightly covered for about 10 minutes before slicing

Blackberry Marmalade


  • 3 pints blackberries
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest


1)  Purée 2 pints of the blackberries in a blender and blend until smooth.

2) Press blended blackberries through fine mesh strainer and force everything through but the seeds.

3) Place the stained blackberry purée and the remaining ingredients (except remaining blackberries) in a saucepot. Bring to a simmer and cook to jam consistency (coats a spoon about 25 to 30 minutes).

4) Add the remaining pint of whole berries and simmer for another 4 to 6 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and transfer and serve over rested Pork

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Recipe: Seafood Nacho’s

Seafood Nacho’s
Serves Six

Ingredients 4 Quarts Heavy Cream
1 Pound Smoked Gouda Cheese
1 Pound Smoked Cheddar Cheese
3 Finely Diced Green Pepper
3 Finely Diced Red Peppers
1 Pound Crab Meat Diced 1 Pound Mussels and or Oyster Meat Diced
1 Pound Shrimp Diced

Remove chesses and place on counter to bring to room temperature Heat the heavy cream over medium heat slowly add cheeses in smaller chunks, when cheese has combined with the cream add remaining ingredients Serve with Tortilla Chips

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