|Day 5, hour 2, 3 to go. serious.|
What any meeting planners knows is YES it is glamorous. For about 4 days a year. It always comes with its challenges, and often there is not a full understanding of all that a great planner brings. In this post I am going to focus on Meeting Planners and some of what they bring to each meeting.
Meeting planners have to know a lot, be able to do a lot, and have to be able to exceed stakeholder expectations in live events over and over and over again, being judged one meeting at a time. Of course we never get to work on only one meeting or event at a time, so the pressure is enormous.
Below I have at a glance, what a meeting planner is expected to be an expert on:
- Destinations - you are expected to know approximately 123 countries in the world, and which will best meet the expectations of the group and specific meeting
- Destination knowledge - local customs, traditions, laws, currency, taxes, gratuities, visas required to enter and exit which may vary based on your participants' country(ies) of origin, weather at the time of year you are considering, levels of service, infrastructure for meetings and events
- Venues - of the hotels and venues available, which ones have the appropriate capacity, amenities, location (where the local CVB and DMCs are invaluable resources)
- Finance and budgeting - part accountant, part manager, responsible for expenses, revenues, tracking, and staying on track
- Sponsorship consultant - possibly recruitment, certainly fulfillment
- Marketer - to internal or external audiences, via print collateral, website, various on-line strategies, journals, word of mouth - to recruit and retain sponsors, exhibitors, delegates, speakers, and more
- Media / PR - when you want it how to get it, when you need to avoid it how to manage it
- Stakeholder / client manager - you need to keep multiple layers of leaders feeling like their vision is being brought to life
- Human resource manager - you need to manage up, down and sideways with internal and external partners
- Master communicator - generating reports, written and verbal communication with all levels to ensure comfort for the client and information for the team to be able to execute to the vision, which naturally "evolves"
- Law 101 - you have to be able to read, understand and negotiate contracts from multiple suppliers from hotels and conference centres to exhibit, activity or decor contractors and more Negotiating in challenging environments
- Negotiator - across all levels of suppliers, often in many cultures with different rules, in union and non-union environments with exclusive and preferred suppliers (including your own)
- Ethics expert - ensuring everyone on your team is playing fair
- Sustainability leader - meetings and events have a huge impact on both the greening aspects and the 3 P's and the meeting planner needs to lead by example while following their organization's mandates
- Team building - one of the reasons we meet is to strengthen team, so whether this is via a formal exercise or informal (networking) opportunities, it is always important
- Risk manager- you need to know exactly what is in place from your venue(s) and what your team will do if a crisis affects your meeting, and plan for everything from cords being taped down (not a standard in all countries) to volcanoes, terrorist attacks, illness on-site and so much more
- Program development - topic expert or liaising with those who are, providing an understanding of flow. Possibly contributing to how people will learn and take away learnings, working often with a programming committee to match space / amenities available with content desired.
- Evaluation - education offered, networking, ROI and more
- Technology - you have to keep up on what is not only now, but what is next - the evolution from carousel slides to multiple mobile apps has accelarated in the past 15 years since the internet came to be (1991!) and meeting planners have to be ahead of the curve of their participants
- Theming - how to cohesively carry a message through from the first announcement through the programming and the events (programming, decor, entertainment, environment, print / online materials and so much more)
- Logistics - from air and ground transportation to food and beverage, room setups and av, communication and signage, bump in to bump out of the many suppliers and participants that will touch and be touched by this event.
- Through it all you need to be professional, calm, supportive and inspiring, all while working 16+ hours per day, eating on the fly, and attemping to stay hydrated.
Oh there is more... bring it on! There is a challenge we face with the low barrier to entry for someone to say they are a meeting planner, so while there are hundreds of great meeting planners out there, who are all continually energized by planning meetings and events, we need to continually stay educated on a myriad of topics (see above for a start). To be a meeting professional, we must continue a life-long learning journey which may include university and polytechnic programs; attending events put on by a variety of meeting planning associations; joining experts who are continually sharing knowledge on line; by reading the many texts, journals and articles available continually. Being glamorous takes research and a willingness to work hard - and I say - Let's do this!