These are the tips you need to be a spectacular, out-of-this world meeting planner!
DIVA…Don’t Burn Bridges – At KONCEPT EVENTS we have all seen them: the planners and so-called “professionals” who leave a negative wake behind them as they go. Working with them is like walking into the “lion’s den” and you’re walking on egg shells balancing a heavy basket of fruit on your head while you inch along on a tight rope elevated over a pool of hungry piranha. Yea, it can be that bad at times! This is the serviceindustry or better yet, the hospitality industry! Yet, this thinking has allowed us to create a world where some planners think and even believe they are “Almighty.” They give no regard to how they treat the people who will be “in the trenches” with them; responsible for making sure their event goes off without a hitch. The old saying is true, you DO get more flies with honey instead of vinegar. In the events world, we already have the pressures of looming deadlines and organizing thousands of details like a conductor at a symphony. Adding in a demanding planner with unreasonable requests barking orders at others without a thank you or even a smile, is just not acceptable.
While the events industry may be 95,000 strong, and growing, it is still a small world. Event managers and planners should be mindful of building and cultivating positive relationships with ALL service staff that contribute to the success of their event. Whether that be the valet, bellman, CSM or DMC; being a “Meeting Professional” means approaching every person as if they are a partner because after all, they are.
Assembling Your Vendor “Dream Team” – One of the biggest pitfalls planners can make is overlooking the importance of selecting the RIGHT companies to partner with. Like finding the right pair of boots or most comfortable pair of jeans, it must be the right “fit.” A few very key players to consider as you assemble your vendor “Dream Team” are:
– AV Experts
- Do they “get it?”
- Are they creative?
- Do they own/house the equipment themselves?
- How experienced are their techs?
- Do they LISTEN to your needs instead of assume?
– Exhibit Decorators
- Do they know your venue? Worked there before?
- What is their inventory like? Is it new, old and/or in need of updating?
- Do they have a warehouse locally?
- What “extras” can they throw in?
- Check the prices – they charge your exhibitors too!
– Event Management Company
- Are they efficient?
- Are they responsive?
- Do they represent your brand well?
- Are they experienced?
- How resourceful are they?
- Are they looking out for your bottom line?
– Registration Software System
- Needs to meet ALL of your needs. Not just a few.
- Functionality. Functionality. Functionality. It’s not brain surgery.
- Is it easy for you on the back-end as well as for your attendees who use it?
- Watch out for those “hidden” programming fees.
– Meeting Staffing Agency
- Friendly faces are important but do they know what they are doing?
- Train them. Educate them. Thank them. It goes a long way.
- They represent your brand and your conference. Choose wisely.
– …and of course, our KE favorite – DMC!
- Are they knowledgeable?
- Did they ask all the right questions?
- Do they have a creative team?
- Do they own the décor and equipment themselves?
- Have they thought through the logistics to prepare for flawless execution?
- Do they travel?
- Do you like working with them? After all, you will be spending a lot of time together over the course of the project.
Vendors should be considered part of the planning team, and treated as professionals who have every interest in making your event the best that it can be, by doing the best job they can do. Remember to say “thank you” and appreciate the work they have put in. Respect their expertise, and when pinch time comes (as we all know it can), they will be more likely to help find solutions you need. And never underestimate the power of building relationships that create win-win situations for everyone involved.
Plan your space from the START (and don’t forget that you need sleep, too) – When meeting planners are in the planning phase of negotiating contracts with hotels or other venues, we’re often not thinking about our vendors, or the job we might partner with them to do for the event. All too often, this can be the start of one of the biggest, unnecessary headaches you can face as the event draws near. The more intricate your event is, the more time your vendors will need for setup, testing and possibly rehearsing. By keeping the time needed for these elements in mind during the contract phase, you can make sure to secure the ballroom or event space with plenty of cushion on the front end for setup, and on the back end for proper dismantle, without the added stress of working through the night. Ask your vendors (who you’ve been working so hard to build these positive relationships) how much time they need to adequate prepare the room so that you can do any rehearsals at a reasonable time of day… and therefore still allow your vendors (as well as yourself) time to get a good night’s sleep before the main event starts.
Feed Your Mind: Think Outside the Plate – It’s time to think outside of the hotel’s pre-packaged menus! No one wants muffins and Danish for breakfast, or the standard chicken plate for lunch anymore. The Executive Chef at your venue is just waiting for someone to ask him about the local trends, sustainable stuff he has access to, and what just came into season that he’s been dying to get into the kitchen. Use this resource to not only feed your attendee’s appetites, but feeding their MINDS as well. Find an interesting way to educate them about the local cuisine that you are serving, and they will feel more “in the scene” rather than in a standard event space. Don’t forget about what is going to keep them going through the day. Most people want to be healthier, and are starting to think more about staying on track while they travel… so explore offering protein-rich, refreshing snacks and smoothies that will power them through! Lastly, get the culinary team involved when you need creative ways to cut some $… ask about swapping out items like broccoli instead of asparagus, in order to bring costs within control.
Maybe I Should Write That Down… – As an event draws to a close, we are often ready to review bills, close out files and move on to the next. While it can seem tedious, a vital part of closing every event should be creating a history that can easily be used to improve next year’s event. Taking the second to write it down while it’s fresh in your mind is KEY. This process can save money by not over-ordering, headaches from trying to estimate the property quantities, and embarrassment from potentially running out of items. Your history should include how much food and beverage was actually consumed, from every drink ordered, gallon of coffee added to every muffin that went unconsumed. To effectively accomplish this, notes should be taken throughout the entire event as each meal event passes. The amount of wireless internet bandwidth actually used should be tracked as well. This is a report easily created by the in-house internet provided, and can be obtained daily.
Emergency Planning – What “emergency planning” means to your event depends a lot on your location, venue and the nature of the crowd you anticipate. At the very least, every event & meeting planner should know the following:
– What is the Plan B for every outdoor event? Weather happens. Embrace it.
– First Aid Basics
- Including where the nearest hospital is.
- What is the hotel’s procedure when there is a health or medical concern?
- Staff an EMT or physician at your events. You never know when you will need them.
- An off-duty police officer or fire marshal is a great consideration.
- Knowing where the emergency exits are and how to communicate this information to attendees is vital!
The pitfall to avoid here is forgetting to add a step in your timeline to review this emergency plan with your entire onsite team a week or so before the event starts. Plan for the worst, expect the best.
By Koncept Events Meeting Planner, Adrienne Tooley.