Until We Meet Again

On October 29th, the CDC updated its guidelines for event planning. Meetings & Social business will eventually need to return for our hotels to survive. As the holiday’s approach and more of us choose to get together with friends and family, we need to reimagine what gatherings look like. The question is how can we safely execute the events of the future with COVID lingering? 

Below is a partial list of some of the bullet points from the recently released CDC guidelines. You can see the full checklist at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/COVID19-events-gatherings-readiness-and-planning-tool.pdf

The hotel industry has been devasted by COVID. Weddings and fundraisers have been put on hold, employees have been laid off and the meeting’s business is in limbo.

Hoteliers are a resilient group of creative people who love what they do.

The hospitality industry was my first career and something I cherish. We enjoy people and bringing folks together for shared experiences.

Here are some tips that may help get your social gatherings and meetings get back on track in a safe way. Of course, always following all CDC and local guidelines. Including, reduced capacity mandates, social distancing, sanitation, and masking up.

Creative Seating

I have seen some highly creative ways hotels are bringing people together while keeping them safely distanced.

  • Blocking off rows & seats
  • Using natural barriers like plants
  • Creating pod seating for intimate breakouts
  • Placing directional signage for a better flow

 Keeping Things Clean

Sanitation and cleanliness are of the utmost importance in this Corona Era. If you have traveled recently you have seen what the Airline Industry is doing. I feel airplanes are cleaner now than they have ever been. The same is true for hotels. Here are some things that can be done to improve consumer confidence. 

  • Provide multiple sanitation stations
  • Clean surfaces and high-touch areas frequently and on an   assigned schedule
  • Consider Bathroom Attendants for public areas
  • Invest in touchless doors, facets, and dryers


Drinks, Dinner & More

  • Eliminate self-service
  • Get rid of communal utensils
  • Provide disposable one-time use condiments
  • Stop food sharing instead pre-plate items
  • Provide boxed meals
  • Bundle DIY cocktail kits for attendees

As we move into the holiday season, we should consider some ways we can safely make a comeback, see our loved ones, and celebrate life events together. The hospitality industry is working hard to reinvent itself and we need you.  I hope you can make one small step toward re-entry with confidence.

Until we meet again.  

May I Take Your Order Please?

In case you haven’t noticed, servers are hard to find in New York’s Kennedy Airport. Last time I traveled nearly every restaurant had an iPad docking station instead of a human being to take my order.
Is this the future of the restaurant industry? The answer seems to be yes. Not only are restaurants reporting increased revenues, but it is a cashless system. This cuts down on theft and management responsibilities. The touchscreen allows customers to see all entrées visually as they order, which has increased add-on sales. While travelers wait, they can surf the web and do a little shopping. I am sure the retailers worked out an arrangement for a percentage back to the operators on in-store purchases as well.
The restaurant industry is facing some tough times, there are employee shortages and rising labor costs. Wage increases are being proposed.

The image above should give everyone pause. Is this what we want the hospitality industry to look like? Perhaps we should think twice and look for solutions that work for everyone’s best interest and provide an outstanding customer experience while we still have a chance to interface with one another on a human level.

Let’s Keep The Humanity In Hospitality


The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

In the days of old, hospitality was described as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity. Perhaps this is why I have such an affinity for the industry and a vested interest to keep the humanity in the hospitality business intact. When I was 10 years old I fell in love with travel and everything to do with the hospitality business. Our family went on a vacation to Hawaii, when we stepped off the plane we were greeted by beautiful women in long flowing dresses who draped tropical leis around our necks and offered us coconut drinks.  After seeing the white sandy beaches, volcanic landscapes and listening to Don Ho perform Tiny Bubbles, I was hooked on travel.

My love of adventure and experiencing new cultures blossomed over the years.  Upon graduation from high school, I pursued a degree in Hospitality Management.  I embarked on a four year program and after college, landed a job in the hotel industry in Miami and I was off and running and the pace was fast, just the way I liked it. Over the span of my career, I ran global marketing for an international hotel company, opened some awesome golf courses for some of the biggest names in golf and worked in branding for the restaurant industry. 

This afforded me the opportunity to travel and see the world.

The trip to Hawaii was the catalyst for discovering my passion for travel and hospitality. Thinking back, it was fairly obvious, I always loved entertaining. There were endless calls for play-dates and parties for all occasions. I am pretty sure I drove my mother crazy with my requests for visitors to come for dinner and occasionally stay longer. Mom always seemed a little more hospitable when guests were around too.

When friends come to visit our home, there is a turn down amenity on the bed and usually a special surprise for them during their stay. We love to break bread together with friends and family on a regular basis. Whenever we would visit foreign countries inevitably strangers became our new friends.

Hospitality means inclusion, sharing cultural nuances and treating people with civility and a welcoming smile. These are the hallmarks of the industry. I can’t imagine what would happen to our industry if we compromised these important values. When I heard the story about the Red Hen Restaurant I was appalled.  This type of behavior hearkens back to the 60’s a time none of us wish to relive. To quote Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.” I truly hope politics isn’t the new flash point for our industry and we haven’t created a backwards slide. I love the hospitality industry and preserving the civility and humanity is worth fighting for.  

Best Planned Events

Great events don’t just happen they take careful planning. Over the course of my career I have planned hundreds of events from grand openings, to book launches, to special events, to simple holiday parties. There is a formula for successful events and it all starts with organization.

Start with an objective or goal. Then ask yourself a series of questions. What do you want to accomplish? How many people will be coming? What venue is best? Do we need entertainment? What is your budget? Once you have established some benchmarks, check for dates. It is always good to be aware of other organizations schedules and holiday’s or religious dates. If your event is speaker driven the date will revolve around the speaker schedule. Secure that as soon as possible and work backwards from there.

Remember to brand your event. Think about a theme, work on a name this creates a good buzz. In Miami, when I was running a CEO women’s group, I partnered with a University to create a survey of Top Women Led Organizations. As part of the theme we released the results of the survey and called the event the Top Women-Led Business’s in South Florida. With branding today, it is important to have #topwomen and other readily available tools for attendees so you can get tweets and social sharing for your event immediately on all platforms.

Beyond the branding, logo and press releases announcing the event with location details, the real secret sauce is in the special touches. Thinking intuitively and creatively makes the difference between a good event and great event.

At one event I planned, the President of a Catholic School was speaking. She was a women of faith and a Sister of the cloth. I liked to hand pick walk up music for the speakers based on their personality or job. It took me a long time to come up with something clever for Sister, but I knew she had a great personality. As she approached the podium over the speaker came, You Gotta Have Faith, by George Michael. Sister Linda laughed out loud and said, “I wondered what you were going to select for me, I am just glad it wasn’t monks with chimes.”  Those little touches made an impression. When people left the event I could hear them laughing and saying “these lunches are always so much fun”.

Always remember to be grateful. Having thank you gifts or cards pre-wrapped at the podium or in the mail the day of the event is a classy way to remind people you appreciate them. The cards arrive within a day or two after the conclusion of your event and you are still top of mind.

Treat your speaker with the utmost respect. Speakers like some down time to compose their thoughts. Greet them upon arrival and whisk them away to a quiet room with a bite to eat and drink. If there are books to sell or sign, I would pre-sign book labels to accelerate the lines and have volunteers on hand to get things moving as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Planning great events is all in the little details. I must have done something right because I received this kind hand written note days after an event from one of my most favorite speakers. Obviously, she practices showing gratitude and knows the value of a tiny gesture too.

Take Charge Of Your Time

Time is the great equalizer we all have 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours each day, 168 hours each week, 8,736 hours each year. Do you ever wonder how some people seem so efficient with the use of their time while you are always running late, and chasing your time?


Here’s their secret: busy people make time, for the activities they decide are important. They also know where they spend their time. So ask yourself, “Where do I lose time?” When you find the answers to that question you will be on the path to saving precious time. It happens to me almost every night. I tell my husband, I am going upstairs to the office for an hour to pay some bills and do a few things. Three hours later from beneath the staircase a voice calls up, “Are you coming down anytime tonight?” Somehow time has a way of running away from me.  


Enter my new best friend, the stopwatch. The stopwatch was invented by Samuel Watson in 1659. It was originally used for horse races. I was feeling a bit like a race horse shot out of the gate at full speed only to endlessly circle the track for hours with no real sense of accomplishment always missing the winners circle time and again. The modern day stopwatch, which can be found on all smart phones, has become my Robin Hood. Stealing precious intervals of time back for me to use more efficiently or put in my bank providing a well-defined starting and finishing line. One of my goals this year was to find more time to write, blog and use my creative juices. The stopwatch can help recapture time. It speaks directly to you, a private reminder that your time is up. Allowing you to track and block time more efficiently.


Time management takes discipline but poor time management can take a toll and result in fatigue, moodiness and illness. Part of execution means you chart your time and track your progress by setting deadlines and keeping them. Be sure take time to recognize that you have accomplished a major task or challenge before moving on to the next activity. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have a healthy work, life balance? Are you accomplishing the priorities that are most important in your life? Are you investing enough time in your own personal wellbeing? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then reconsider your time management strategies and set your stopwatch for one hour and determine how you can make better use of your time and what would result in deeper more meaning fulfillment.

South Florida Biz Journal Q&A: Jodi Cross on the best trip she’s ever taken

This week’s executive profile. 10.20.17

Jodi Cross

BirtBIZIMAGEhplace: Rochester, New York

Residence: Jupiter

Current position: Regional director, Palm Beach County, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

Previous positions: Founder, Cross Network Marketing Inc.; corporate director of marketing, Sonesta Hotels, Resorts & Cruises; executive director, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida; director of marketing, Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort; director of marketing, Doral Golf Resort and Spa; VP, The Neighborhood Marketing Institute; director of marketing, PGA National Resort & Spa

Education: M.B.A, Nova Southeastern University; B.A. in hotel hospitality management, St. Thomas University

 The travel bug bit Jodi Cross at 10 years old. 

That’s when a family trip to Hawaii “turned her life upside down,” said Cross, regional director for the Palm Beach County chapter of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. At that young age, she realized there was a whole world out there to discover and many more places she wanted to see.

Today, Cross is an avid traveler, equestrian, golfer and hospitality marketing professional with over 20 years in the business working with brands whose properties span the globe. But the place she likes to work more than anywhere in the world is at home.

Cross talked to the Business Journal about her first job, a recent trip that stood out and technology she can’t live without.

Can you talk about one of the best trips you’ve ever taken? Two years ago, my husband and I went to Paris, where his father was shot down in World War II. While we were there, we found the person who headed up the historical registry of pilots shot down during the war. He happened to know the owners of the farm where he crashed. When we got there, we met this old woman who remembered the day it happened. Then her son comes out with this crate and asks us, “Would you like to take a piece of your father’s plane with you?” It was just amazing. Here is a piece WPBF ran about our trip when we returned. https://youtu.be/IIVGq9ZlQHo 

How did you get into horseback riding? When I grew up in Rochester, I started riding horses and it became a passion of mine. I’ve been riding ever since. We make it part of our trips, like when last year I went to North Carolina, I rode three or four times. We went down to Puerto Rico recently and had a riding experience there. I used to ride often at Wandering Trails in Palm Beach Gardens.

Where will your next trip be? I just booked a cruise and we’re going to Quebec, Montreal and Halifax in Canada.

What was your first job in hospitality? I started out as a sales manager with Interstate Hotels at the former Sheraton Brickell Point. My boss was an ex-nun and she used to work all night long. Meeting her probably would have sent someone running out of that career immediately, but she really taught me a lot about my craft and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

What’s the best piece of advice you received? When I was the executive director at The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida, the founder, Lois Silverman, had some interesting advice. She told me: Think about the answer you want before you ask the question. I took that to heart.

What makes a good leader? A lot of times, as a leader, you have to step back from working on your business. You have to go from working in your business, to working on your business. A lot of people are putting out fires every day and don’t take the time to think about strategy. I take some quiet time in the morning and think, “What are the two things that we’re going to accomplish today that move revenue forward?” You get into your busy day and lose sight of that strategy sometimes. My to-do list never ends.

If you could work anywhere in the world, where would it be? I really like to work from home. With today’s portable office situation, you can pretty much work anywhere. I love having that flexible work environment, where you can be anywhere and still be productive.

What are the positives of doing business in South Florida? The negatives? The diversity is a plus. It’s a real melting pot down here. You have so many people who have relocated down here from around the world, and they have a ton of talents. As for the negatives, I find that some people don’t have the same work ethic and values down here as they do in the Northeast and Midwest.

What’s an app you can’t live without? I just love Uber. I use it all the time.

Emon Reiser

Digital Producer

South Florida Business Journal


Goal Keeper Tim Howard was featured on the CBS Series Note to Self where he wrote about his personal journey and the things he learned along the way.  Tim mentioned the different roles self-belief and self-confidence played in his life. Many people use self-esteem and self-confidence interchangeably but they are quite different. Self-confidence can depend […]

What Matters Most is How you See Yourself

Goal Keeper Tim Howard was featured on the CBS Series Note to Self where he wrote about his personal journey and the things he learned along the way.  Tim mentioned the different roles self-belief and self-confidence played in his life. Many people use self-esteem and self-confidence interchangeably but they are quite different. Self-confidence can depend on performance, whereas self-belief comes from a nurturing place inside you which encourages and keeps you striving for greatness.

Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself overall and how much positive self-love you have. Your esteem develops from experiences and situations which have shaped how you view yourself in the world. Self-confidence is how you feel about your abilities and can vary from situation to situation. I may have healthy self-esteem, but low confidence about situations involving my math skills (this is true).

When you hold yourself in high regard, your belief in yourself improves, which makes you more confident. When you are confident in areas of your life, you begin to increase your overall sense of worth. There were many lessons I learned in my twenties which have shaped me today and strengthened my self-belief. These lessons, although painful at times, proved critical for developing coping skills later in life.

Your self-esteem can wane when you start to compare yourself with others. You feel great until you sit next to a super model then a critical spirit takes hold and you spiral into self-doubt. Embracing your authentic self means you trust yourself. The difference between our belief and confidence hinges on how much faith we have in ourselves and our abilities.

It makes sense that if we have a realistic internal rating of ourselves and see ourselves as equally competent, intelligent and attractive as others, we will feel confident in what we can do as well. However, there are times when we lack confidence and our ego takes hold to cover up a short coming. We have all heard the saying, “Fake it until you make it”. I have had to deploy this tactic before.  In my experience, you should always circle back and shore up the short coming so it doesn’t come back to bite you later on.

Inside each one of us resides a little voice, a spark of belief, who knows what we are capable of and has faith in our abilities. We just need to ignite the spark and let it shine! I like what Tim said, “Never lose the underlying belief in yourself”. Anything is possible if we have faith and believe in ourselves!

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com .

What Are You Setting Your Sights On This Year


“My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose – somehow we always win out.” ~ Ronald Reagan

Happy New Year! We are all wondering what 2017 will bring. There has been a lot of talk about winning of late. As I reflect on 2016, I feel the need for a reboot. Generally each year I set goals for myself and check in around the mid-year mark to see if I have made any progress. Somewhere during the past year I lost my way.

Recently, I came across a new technique to establish some benchmarks. The format allows for reflection, action, accountability and my favorite part, celebration. I invite you to join me in this simple eight step process of setting your sights higher and vigorously taking action to accomplish your professional best in 2017.

Step 1-Reflect back on 2016 and ask yourself four questions.

  1. What have you enjoyed most?
  2. What have you been able to make a difference in? (This is a tough one as it relates to how you address your purpose in life)
  3. What were you most surprised by?
  4. What did you not feel prepared for?

Step 2-Determine what goals you accomplished in the past year and jot down how you celebrated the accomplishment. The celebration part is noteworthy, many times we work hard only to move on to the next thing without stopping to take an account of what we accomplished. Life is about savoring the sweetness of those special moments with friends and family.

Now you are ready to move on to 2017.

Step 3-What is important to you at the present moment? Think about 2017 priorities as everything is constantly shifting and changing in life.

Step 4-Detail out the things you want to: preserve, change or strive for in the coming year.

Step 5-Outline specific goals in the following areas. (These areas are subject to your interpretation and can be substituted for other priorities if you feel there is something more pressing on your agenda)

  1. Process Improvements
  2. Technology
  3. Growth or new business development
  4. Organizational aptitude or improvements
  5. Personal Development

Step 6-Once you determined your key areas of focus. Narrow down the list to the top three goals for 2017. 

Step 7-Determine how will you measure success and celebrate your accomplishments?

Step 8-How will you hold yourself accountable to do what you say you will do? What will the consequences be if you don’t take action?

Let’s see what we can all accomplish in the coming year. Wishing you much success.  

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com .

Being Human in an Information Age

I woke at 7 AM with a text from Delta saying my flight had been changed. Before I could even focus my eyes on the message I marveled at how efficient the airlines had become, or had they? After my sleepiness ebbed thanks to a cup of steaming coffee, I realized my now four hour flight had turned into a fourteen hour ordeal. Between outsourcing and robotic algorithms I started to wonder if humans were even necessary anymore.

We all enjoy the benefits of having Siri as our personal assistant or Pandora picking our favorite songs. We have self-checkout kiosks and the next great wave of technology will include self-driving cars and advances in artificial intelligence. So where is the human element to this information age? Machines outperforming humans is a tale as old as the industrial revolution. However, the one thing computers don’t have is a brain or common sense.

That’s where Linda comes in. When I realized I would be sitting in New York for seven hours on a layover and getting into Rochester at midnight instead of 4:30 PM, I picked up the phone and called the airlines. Hoping to get a human, I was grateful to hear “Thanks for calling Delta, this is Linda, how may I assist you today Ms. Cross.”  I had already done some research and found three other options for flights getting in within 15-30 minutes of my original time. I offered up the information and flight numbers and within a few minutes I was rebooked and all set to go with little to no inconvenience. I asked Linda why they re-routed me with a seven hour layover and she told me that algorithms pick the options and their automated system rebooks customers and notify them. What the computer didn’t know is that my elderly parents would be unable to drive to the airport at midnight to pick me up, nor was I willing to sit around all day.

This is where humans are essential, algorithms use statistical patterns in data while computers learn to improve the efficiency of many different work processes such as customer care, flight rebooking’s or toll collection on the highways for example. But do we want them babysitting our kids, making life decisions or assessing our medical condition? As this type of machine learning and technology continues to advance many employees will struggle to keep their jobs. While I understand efficiencies and bringing more dollars to the bottom line we should all be cautious that we don’t let technology remove our humanity all together.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.

Hashtag Roundup


Hashtag Roundup


Hashtags have become a common practice these days; people use them for all sorts of purposes. You find them in text messages, chats, songs and advertisements. But where did it all begin? Turns out a former Google developer and California techie named Chris Messina posted a message in 2007 to solicit advise on using the hashtag symbol, then known as the pound sign, as an idea for groups on social media. He was met with mixed reviews at the time but the trend took off. So much so that in June of 2014, the Oxford English Dictionary added the hashtag to their definitions.


What are hashtags used for?

Hashtags are the card catalogue of social media. The metadata tag system connects your content with other people talking about the same things or looking for information about something. So, if you write an article about using Twitter for Business and use the #TwitterTips hashtag, more people will find your content.

Hashtag Tracking

When you’re thinking of hashtags, it’s beneficial to look at your audience and your competitors. Find the keywords and hashtags that are already associated with your brand and boost them. There are many tools to help you find keywords. A simple trick I have learned is to use the search feature in both Twitter and Instagram. Instagram actually provides a number count for how many people are looking for the specific keywords when you plug them in.

Hashtag usage and effectiveness varies by platform. They will enhance your engagement if used properly. Engagement includes clicks, retweets, favorites, and replies.

Let’s take a quick look at each platform and the use of hashtags.


On Facebook hashtags are not as well received as on other platforms. Research has shown they actually lower engagement. So a good rule of thumb is less is more. 1-2 hashtags are best for Facebook. You don’t want to be perceived as a hashtag spammer. You can use the search tool on Facebook in the graph section to see what is trending.

Twitter & Instagram

On these platforms hashtags are readily received and can increase your reach significantly. Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without. Some brands have seen a 50 percent increase with the use of hashtags according to HubSpot, a leading digital trend agency.

Instagram is ground zero for hashtag use. The platform has noted up to 30 hashtags used but 10 or 11 seem to get the highest interaction.



This platform has gone the way of the less used social media portals but is still worth mentioning. Google+ is Google’s social network; hashtags were built right into Google searches. If you type in a hashtag search, you’ll get the normal search results plus a sidebar of relevant Google+ posts.


Brands use Pinterest to showcase products in a visual sense. For tagging you can only place tags in the description section. The tag use helps searcher to find categories of interest.

Rule of thumb: 1 – 3 tags are best over all platforms.

  • Twitter: to categorize
  • Pinterest: to brand, build like communities and be specific (tags are only clickable in pin descriptions)
  • Instagram: to build community, and be unique/detailed. Up to 30 hashtags can be used. For best results stick with 10+
  • Google+: to categorize; auto generates tags based on what it thinks your post is most relevant to
  • Facebook: sort of a hashtag free zone – if your audience is very business-minded, follow Twitter rules; if it is community-oriented, follow Pinterest/Instagram rules

Check out these resources

  1. Hashtagify.me

Hashtagify.me provides a cross referencing tool for data you can use to analyze hashtags. When you type in a hashtag, you see other hashtags and a display of how popular each hashtag. This also provides a glimpse into what key influencers are using.

  1. RiteTag

This site provides a visual organization of hashtags into colored bars showing quick analysis at-a-glance. This allows you to see what is overused or saturated and what words would be good to boost your posts.

  1. Tagboard

The results pages on Tagboard show hash tagged posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

  1. Twitalyzer

Twitalyzer helps you audit competitors and can tell you what hashtags they use most frequently. This can be really helpful in finding out how your niche’s influencers tweet.

  1. Tweepi.com

If you are looking for more twitter followers try this tool. Plug in your interests and industry key words and Tweepi can help identify followers and groups to grow your lists.

Summary Tips

  1. Plug in relevant keywords to your business and the audience you are trying to target. (If you are a local business, use the name of your Geo Address too).
  2. Keep it simple on most platforms, less is more when it comes to hashtags.
  3. Put your #hashtag in the end of the #sentence. That makes #reading the sentence #lessannoying.
  4. If your brand piggybacks on popular hashtags, you could increase your visibility and reach. They are great for tracking events and see what others are posting.
  5. Try some of the tools noted and see which the best is for you. Some offer free services and others provide price based packages.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, writer, blogger and brand builder. For more information visit www.crossnm.com or jcross@crossm.com .

Source Information on trends referenced from Hubspot.

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