What You Should Know Before Entering the Lion’s Den of Vacation Ownership-Timeshare Presentations

We have all seen the pop up ads that seem to scream out “Congratulations….you are today’s lucky recipient of a 5 day/4 night Luxury Cancun Vacation or a Caribbean Dream Cruise…” Or you may have received that automated phone call informing you that you have won that all inclusive vacation in Florida. Before you impulsively click on the box or call that 1-800 number you need to realize that these are promotions to solicit sales of either a timeshare or vacation ownership package.

We are inundated daily with telemarketers, pop up ads, unsolicited e-mails and fliers in the mail. Most of the time we either delete them from our computer or throw them out.

However, think about it for a moment. Wouldn’t you like to go on that cruise or lay around at some posh resort soaking in the sun? You may want to reconsider for a moment that at $199 that cruise does seem appealing, right? The cost does not include your flights, taxes and other costs to take this vacation, but still you can get a good deal and have a great time at a fraction of the cost you would spend if you booked the vacation or cruise through an online travel agency. Here are a few tips that will help you escape unscathed as you enter the Lion’s Den of Timeshare and Vacation Ownership Presentations.

The first thing you need to do as a couple is to ask yourselves some pertinent questions about what you plan to do and where to go for the next five to ten years. Dream a little and be adventuresome with your ideas. Most important, be honest and realistic. If you like to camp, boat, go on tours, ski, go on safaris, etc. as part of your vacation mix, then staying at a resort and laying on a beach in the sun may seem a bit boring, and not part of your lifestyle. Or you may like to stay at a resort once every two years instead of every year, and go camping, fishing or hiking on the alternate years. It is up to you to formulate a vacation plan that suits you best and stick with it. Calculate what you approximately spend on your vacation each year. You may have kept your charge card receipts from previous years. Get a rough estimate on travel, food, lodging and special events. This is important to know as you will be asked what you typically spend on your vacation each year. Armed with those figures head of time will help you make and informed decision whether a timeshare or vacation ownership package is a wise choice for you or not.

Secondly, because timeshares and vacation ownership properties can be willed to your children, consider what your children enjoy doing on their vacations. Your son or daughter may prefer to go white water rafting on the Colorado River, hike the Chilkoot trail in the Yukon or rough it in India rather than soak up rays in Cancun, Mexico. Then again, they may have similar interests to you and would love to enjoy a week in a resort. Discuss your intentions with your children before you go on your trip, rather than surprise them with the news that you had purchased a timeshare package, after you get back.

Once you get to your destination you will check into the ubiquitous ‘Welcome Center’. This is the hub of the Lion’s Den of Timeshare/Vacation Ownership sales presentations. It is here that you register for your presentation and pick up your room keys. You may be required to leave a deposit or credit card imprint. This is to ensure that you will show up for the presentation meeting. Don’t worry, you will get your money back after the presentation and they most likely will give you a gift as an incentive for attending the presentation, such as an additional night’s stay, theme part tickets, clothing, wine or money.

The next day at the Welcome Center you will be ushered to a waiting area to sit with dozens of other tourists. Coffee, doughnuts and other goodies will be served while you wait for your presenter to come and get you.

Once you meet your presenter it is imperative that you confirm the time limit on the presentation. If the company has stated that the presentation will take no more than 90 minutes, then establish that you will allow an additional half hour to run overtime. That is fair. It is very easy to get bogged down in three or four hour presentations or longer. Be firm, but polite and stick by your guns but letting the presenter know how much time they have left.

After the initial interview you will be taken on a tour of a typical two or three bedroom unit. You will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the units. Timeshares have come a long way from what they were even ten years ago. The figures will be scribbled on a sheet of lined foolscap paper. The deal for today, they will say will include the first year of maintenance fees which includes the first year membership in one of the two major timeshare trading companies, either II (Interval International) or RCI (Resorts Condominiums International). You will be left alone to discuss the proposal. If you have done your homework you will know if this deal is for you, but wait, there will be other deals.

The Salesperson will return and if the two of you have decided that the deal is not for you, the salesperson will bring the boss to reiterate the deal. Then they will offer you a one bedroom unit with perhaps the same options as the first deal. You will be left alone a second time to talk it over. If you still have decided against the proposal, then a third option is offered, most likely a studio unit (bedroom, kitchen and eating area in one room). They will apply pressure for you to make a decision to buy. Again, if the proposal is still not right for you and your family, go with your gut feeling and say no. However, if this is the unit you want and it is in the resort community you prefer, and meets your financial terms, then go for it.

Before you make your decision, I recommend that you do a lot of research by checking out timeshares and vacation ownership properties on the internet. You will discover that prices may vary depending on the quality of the units being offered and the resort location. If you and your family like theme parks, then purchasing a unit near Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc. may be your best bet. While others may be more interested in purchasing a timeshare near wonderful golf courses, or world class ski resorts. Take your time before you choose your unit and consult others who have purchased a unit in a community you are considering. Find out if they like their unit and the recreational facilities and other amenities in their community. If they offer positive feedback then you may consider purchasing a property.

For comparison here are some typical figures the salesperson may get thrown at you. For a two-bedroom unit with two weeks of regular time each year and two additional bonus weeks added when purchasing the unit may sell for $15,000 with legal closing costs of $525 and $150 in taxes. The maintenance costs which covers property upkeep, insurance, taxes and refurbishing costs, new appliances, etc. are $500 per year. Resort Condominiums International (RCI) or Interval International (II) can trade your week at your resort for another week at another resort from over 5000 resorts combined around the world. Depending whether you have purchased a peak season high demand week (red), mid season (white for RCI or yellow/amber for II) or low demand (blue for RCI or green for II), your annual fees may be approximately $90 per year. For a two-bedroom unit for two weeks (one week added during the purchase year) every second year (E.O.Y.) was selling for about $10,000 with $350 in closing costs, $500 E.O.Y. maintenance costs and $150 E.O.Y. for taxes. These figures are an approximation and are provided to offer you some insight as to what these units cost and maintain. I urge you to check out some websites and compare their unit costs.

Similar to any important financial decision you make, get the best terms when you buy. Your decision to buy a timeshare or vacation ownership property can affect you and your family well into the future. If you decide to sell your unit several years down the road, you may find that will be selling your unit at a loss, and may not even recoup your initial investment. From my experience I have found that buying a timeshare or vacation ownership property should not be considered as a money making investment, but rather as an investment in your planned future quality vacation time. Honestly, this investment has far greater value beyond its’ ‘real estate value.’

To buy or not to buy, the decision is ultimately yours to make. When you make that phone call or click that mouse to try one on for size, at least you will get a taste of what it is like to experience the timeshare or vacation ownership lifestyle. Take the plunge, try it on for size.

Valentine’s Presents – Delight Someone Special With A Thoughtful Valentine’s Gift Idea

Few people know the real origins of Valentine’s Day and it always amazes me how quickly celebrations of any kind become so very commercialised. Whose idea was Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and more recently Grandparent’s Day. Is it because we are so busy with our lives that we need a ‘special’ day to be reminded to think about and be grateful for our families and loved ones and all they do in our lives? What about a son’s day or a twin sisters day? We should be able to express our emotions and show how we feel about the people we care for any day of the year. That aside it is nice to have an excuse and in the case of Valentine’s Day can be a good way to let someone know how you feel who you may not have had the courage to approach otherwise.

So, one of the most traditional Valentine’s gifts are red roses. Have you ever noticed how some retailers double or even treble the price of red roses around Valentine’s Day? Extortion is the word that comes to mind – although they are under great pressure to deliver vast quantities in a short period of time. Why not consider for a refreshing change sending someone flowers other than red roses? Perhaps choose a bouquet in their favourite colour or an arrangement featuring their favourite flower – orchids are a popular choice and they are grown in a huge variety of colours. Even more thoughtful would be a rose-bush for their garden or a miniature one for indoors – that way they can have roses every year and for more than a week!

As popular as red roses for a Valentine’s present is chocolates! Instead of just buying commercially available boxes of chocolates with foil wrapped hearts in a red-heart shaped box, ‘nice but not very personal’, try instead making your own sweet treats. Strawberries dipped in chocolate, heart-shaped biscuits or a heart-shaped cake, or even buy some chocolate moulds, melt their favourite chocolate and make your own – you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is.

How many ways can you say I Love You? Nine if you choose this really great gift idea of nine stones carved with “I love you… ” on the front, and a different “reason” on the back:
… for always getting my jokes
… because you’re an inspiration
… because you are so much fun
… because of your great smile
… for being so giving
… because I just do!
… because you love me
… because you rock
… for your honesty

The stones are presented beautifully in a red faux-suede drawstring pouch – why not give your sweetheart one each day leading up to Valentine’s. These stones actually make a great gift for any friend or family member you feel strongly about and should not be reserved just for Valentine’s Day.

Don’t Scare Them Away – Great Tips For Giving a Stellar Webinar Presentation

You have a product or a service you’re planning to market on the web. That’s great, but have you considered that a large part of your success depends on your personality? It’s easy to forget with the relative anonymity of the Internet that character and characteristics will show through. We like the idea of doing business in our bunny slippers, but whether it’s a phone interview, a webinar, or the making of a CD for customers, you still need to present yourself as a professional when dealing with the public.

1. Plan the time to do the job well.

Set a time and a duration limit for your presentation. In some cases these things may be set for you, but either way, assure that nothing interrupts. Turn off the phone, make sure there’s someone watching your kids, see that your pets are under control and contented, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door (disconnect the doorbell if necessary). Nothing screams “amateur” like an unplanned interruption.

Allow yourself time before the presentation to prepare and focus. You’ll want to have everything you might need at hand, so think about it ahead of time. (Will you need a sip of water from time to time, did you visit the bathroom, is the temperature comfortably cool?) Then spend the last few minutes doing some relaxing stretches, deep breathing or meditation to make yourself as calm as possible.

2. Present the best you there is

The downside to remote contacts is that you can’t dazzle your listener with your beauty-queen smile. However, experts tell us that it’s mostly tone of voice that makes a person decide whether to believe a speaker or not. All you have to make an impression in cyberspace is your voice and your diction, so work on what you say and how you say it.

The first rule is “Be businesslike”. This does NOT mean overly formal. You can be warm and still project a professional attitude. Think about good game show hosts: Their language is proper, their grammar is correct, and they avoid overly personal remarks about themselves and their guests. That is professional behavior, and you should take note: your listeners don’t want to know your opinion of the U.S. government, and they don’t care if your mother needs an operation.

The best you does not include corny jokes, either. It’s scary how many lame attempts at humor we’ve seen on web-based contacts. The problem is that you don’t know your listener’s sense of humor, and he or she might not understand yours. It’s best to skip the jokes, although as an interview or question session proceeds, there may be opportunities to add humor to your answers. Again, think game show hosts: nothing off-color, nothing too personal.

One thing you may not have considered is that with the Internet, it is possible you will be speaking to someone from another culture, someone whose first language is not English. This is another reason for watching your diction and syntax carefully. Using slang and idioms might confuse listeners unnecessarily, and humor often doesn’t translate well between languages and nationalities.

3. The customer/boss is always right

There are bound to be times when problems arise. Whether it’s a prospective employer whose website just crashed so she has to reschedule or problems with your listeners receiving your webinar, you must be gracious and accommodating. While you can’t accede to every request, you must be willing to listen to every request. While it may not be your fault that things aren’t going well, be willing to apologize for any inconvenience the problems cause. After all, an apology doesn’t cost you anything, and you don’t have to accept blame. Just say, “I’m sorry you’re having difficulty.” Most people want their pain acknowledged; they realize that it can’t always be taken away.

4. Organize early and often

Long before you advertise your webinar or answer that ad, you should do your homework. What do you need to know to do this? How should you organize the information to best present it or find it when it’s needed? Start making notes as things come up. One good way to keep track of information is to put it on note cards, which can be set into stacks of related information. You can of course use your computer as a big notebook, but if you do, make sure you know where everything is. You don’t want to keep someone waiting while you do a file search to find an address.

However you record the info, familiarize yourself with it days in advance. It should be no problem to put your finger (or your icon) on the information you need in seconds.

5. Overcome obstacles

Things happen that mess you up. If on the morning of your webinar you break your ankle and spend the day in the emergency room, you may have to make some adjustments. The good news is that your audience will willingly forgive you for a real emergency. An account of why your advertised guest speaker won’t be here today, if honest and brief, will fly. Of course you should offer something of equal value to replace what’s missing: a free entry to the next webinar or a downloadable “goodie”. If it’s an interview, offer to reschedule at the other person’s convenience. Remember, the customer/boss is always right.

I went to hear a speaker once who arrived a few minutes late and a little disheveled. He used his excuse as an introduction, and the audience was soon on his side. On the way to the venue he’d seen a young deer caught in a fence along the freeway. Unable to stand seeing the animal struggle, he stopped, waded through the damp ditch, and helped it get free. Not only did we approve of his kindness, we applauded his courage-those little hooves are sharp!

6. Practice makes better

The final rule should be first, last and in-between: practice! Talk to yourself, talk to a friend, talk to a tape recorder. Listen to yourself and critique. Does your voice sound too high? This is usually easy to fix, just relax your throat. If the volume is too loud or too soft, you’ll hear that on the tape. Are you a fast talker or too slow? You want your speech to be varied in pace so you don’t lose your audience. Listen for mumbling, words slurred, consonants left out at the ends of words. Be picky with your enunciation, especially sloppiness with words like “comin’”, “coulda” and “gotta”. Practice saying “yes” instead of “yeah”.

Practice will help you get wording down so your communication falls into natural rhythms and convincing phrases. While you should not read from a script (reading sounds much different from speaking), you do want certain points to come through. Outline your presentation or make a list of points you hope to cover in an interview. Again, note cards are good. You can set each one aside as you work it into the presentation.

7. Be physically alert, even without video
It may sound odd, but you may want to dress up a little for your presentation. True, your listeners can’t see you, but you know how you look. If you change your clothes for a webinar you may feel more professional (even if you change into your nicer track suit).

Sit comfortably but not sloppily. If you’re sprawled on the couch with your feet up, your voice will not come through clearly, and your attitude won’t be very lively either. A little tension makes us sharp: they don’t speak of keeping someone on his toes for no reason. If you feel yourself getting tense, take a deep breath and let it all out. This relaxes the chest and throat muscles, which will make your voice come out normally.

Smile as you speak when it’s appropriate. A smile comes through in a person’s voice, and listeners react to it. Of course when you’re nervous you may have a tendency to giggle, but that’s a no-no. You don’t want to come across as childish.

8. Relax and enjoy the ride

It’s probably the hardest item on the list, but think of it this way: once the presentation starts, you can’t change what happens. You’ve thought it out, you’ve prepared, and you’ve considered all the possibilities. The best thing you can do now is relax and follow your plan. You’ll be nervous, but that’s nature’s way of helping us do our best work. You can still enjoy the experience and, if you’ve followed the advice above, you may even want to repeat it at some point in the future!