The Secret to Successful CSM/Planner Collaboration


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Kelly Van Dyke, CMP, CTA and Aaron Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA delivered this presentation to the Michigan Chapter of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, at the Lansing Center in Lansing.

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  • Role playScenario: Incorrectly posting signage for evening awards galaSupplies: Poster,duct tape (Aaron)Scenario: Missing easel and bars;awards gala about to beginSupplies: Cell phone (Kelly)
  • Slips of paper already on the tables (colored sheets of paper)Participants quickly fill them in and volunteers roam the room collecting themRead a few now and others sporadically throughout the sessionPost-session: Summarize the slips of paper in a blog post
  • Uphold contract between both partiesEnsure venue fulfills promises and client meets obligationsEnvision event as a wholeFlow of peopleAnticipate needs of venue and clientCommunicate details and logistics with hotel management and support staff
  • Outline of timeline with reality checks when there is a disconnect between when things typically happen and when things should happenTimeline is to be completed by each of these timeframesPlug this timeline into your calendar or to-do listCSM will offer ideas and suggestions to make the program work well in the facilityREALITY CHECK: May not be the CSM you work with. The CSM could make or break the deal by giving insight into the venue’s culture.
  • CSM is your contact from this point forwardContract changes from either party, including space movesSite visit: Build a positive relationshipThe better you know one another, the better your CSM can anticipate your needs and fulfil your requestsMake major changes nowIf multi-year contract, adjust to previous year for better forecastingREALITY CHECK: Depends on what type of group you are (e.g., state organizations won’t always do a one-year site visit, but national and international organizations generally will)Consider who needs to attend the site visit (i.e., only the meeting planner or the entire planning committee)
  • Profile (e.g., everyoneloves diet coke)Positive and negative past experiencesShare goals, objectives and concerns, including expectations, dreams and wondersIf your theme is “Under the Sea” and you’ve been dreaming about a life-size ship filled with shrimp at your evening gala, say so (so long as your budget can afford it)Know when to escalate concerns to the sales manager or general managerICW: rules or goalsReference material: CIC Event Specification Guide (wonderful tool)
  • CSM will cross-reference your expectations with theirs, identifying what meeting space is on hold for youMajor red flags will be caught and corrected hereCSM will always offer viable alternativesLook ahead to 90-day and 30-day checklists
  • Finalize room assignmentsAdd needed space and release unused space so venue has a chance to resell itHotel labor and budget (30-60-90 days) is based on group cover countsGroup historyIdentifier procedureVenue will check your references and approve you for direct billingIf they do not, you will need to pay in advanceExhibit show: Nature of show (e.g., plants need water, set-up is messy, need drop cloths) Shipping detailsMove-in and move-out plansDoorways big enough for planned equipment?Security needs30-day checklist is not to be started at 30 days
  • REALITY CHECK: CSM is happy to take event specs six months out (if given a chance to adjust before distributing to staff)Amway distributes BEOs to 13 departments and resumes to more than 35 email addressesREALITY CHECK: CSM is happy to have your rooming list early, too. Guarantee your suite/room type availability early.30-day checklist makes Aaron very nervousRemember, this is when most of this list should be completed and tasks are submitted to your CSMEvent specs:Menus, room set-ups and AVIn writing, so CSM has something to work from and refer back toMost CSMs will have a template if you need oneInclude setup and teardown timesGive your CSM a deadline for BEO completion if its not offeredContract review: Be sure both parties have met obligations; if not, discuss options for meeting themIf F&B minimum is not met, let’s see where you can spend more money to get something out of itIf it is a large amount of money, let’s discuss our options for repayment
  • Major arrival/departures/means of transportHotel can staff appropriatelyOffsite tour: Staff is knowledgeable about where and when you are going, as well as how your attendees will get thereIs media allowed? Do they need to plug into the house sound?Are you providing signs and easels?Front desk or housekeeping instructions: Extra towels? Group brings a ton of luggage?Billing: Both onsite and post-eventShipping a large amount of materials? Discuss storage and costs.Parking: Paying for speakers or volunteers?
  • ReturnBEOs with mark ups This is where it is better for the CSM to receive all information at 90 days outAll changes need to be routed through the hotel staff In advance, we can make as many changes as we need to without the extra steps; it is the nature of the business, though, to follow this timelineConference program will be routed to all venue staff
  • If numbers are not on time, the estimated counts will apply as the guarantee without the ability to lower This is where your relationship building will begin to pay off Your CSM will help you along the way to keep you on time and on track; they know you well enough to know if you need the gentle reminder or notSpecial meal requests must be done in advance; onsite will cost above and beyond the guarantee
  • Pre-con can be with a large staff,a small staff or just your CSMAt the meeting: Provide an overview of the program, point people and responsibilities of each staff memberDiscuss your worries or weaknesses (e.g., Is your Friday night guarantee a shot in the dark? Tell us!) We are better prepared and able to respond when we already know why and what you have done to prepare for it If you guaranteed 10 percent over, we are happy to make a couple more meals in reaction to a couple additional guestsConfirm details and any last-minute changes or updates
  • CSMs should check in regularly each dayMy goal is to be ghostly and to appear when needed; although this doesn’t always happen, its easier when I have all of the information and few things are changingWhen all information is shared, your CSM should know when the ideal times are to communicate or to lurkVenue staff work from BEOsREALITY CHECK: Although your CSM is your liaison, you are always welcome to talk to and discuss event happenings with staff members working your event Banquet captains can give you serve counts and tell you if the group liked what was served for lunchCoffee captains will tell you if your group drinks tea (all of these things build your group history)
  • Touch point
  • Some post-con meetings happen the last day of the event or the day after the eventMost event planners want to leave as soon as possible and wrap up another timeA post-con, even by conference call or email, is critical to continuing the relationship and building the group’s historyDiscuss meal guarantees and served counts, as well as changes for next yearWhat worked well; what needs improvementDiscuss major changes for next year or sign your next contract
  • Conversation (split the room in half; groups of three; each group discusses just one question; three minutes to discuss; magic wall and painter’s tape)What are you doing really well?What opportunities exist for improvement?Report out/debrief [5 minutes for each question]
  • Outlook and Flow
  • The Secret to Successful CSM/Planner Collaboration

    2. 2. INTRODUCTIONS Aaron Wolowiec Kelly Van Dyke MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA Founder & President Event Garde LLC CMP, CTA Convention Service Manager Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
    3. 3. ↠ I’m grateful when… ↠ Responsibilities ↠ Timeline ↠ Discussion ↠ Wrap-up
    4. 4. PLANNER RESPONSIBILITIES  Strategic planning  Project management  Risk management  Financial management  Human resources  Stakeholder management  Meeting/event design  Site management  Marketing  Professionalism Courtesy of: CMP International Standards
    5. 5. CSM RESPONSIBILITIES  Uphold contract  Meet obligations and goals of both parties  Logistical planning  Anticipate needs  Communicate effectively  Act as a liaison
    6. 6. AT CONTRACT SIGNING  Request to speak with likely CSM
    7. 7. ONE YEAR  Venue CSM is assigned  Schedule a preliminary site visit  Add CSM to mail and email lists  Share pertinent information
    8. 8. PERTINENT INFORMATION  Group profile  Scope/type/frequency  Group quirks  Historical figures  Past experiences  Responsibilities  Knowledge/skill level  Current ideas and roadblocks  Objectives and budget goals  In-conjunction with groups (ICW)
    9. 9. 6 MONTHS  Submit preliminary agenda  CSM will envision event clearly  Major red flags  Look ahead to 90-day checklist
    10. 10. 90 DAYS  Submit meeting space assignments  Submit estimated cover counts for meals  Discuss special meals  Set up the master account  Discuss exhibit show plans  Look ahead to 30-day checklist
    11. 11. 30 DAYS  Submit event specifications in writing  Submit rooming list  Contract review  Submit pertinent information
    12. 12. PERTINENT INFORMATION  Arrival/departure patterns  Luggage storage needs  Planned offsite events/tours  Media and press  Signage instructions  Department instructions  Billing instructions  Shipping needs  Parking arrangements  Gift deliveries/amenities
    13. 13. 2 WEEKS  Receive BEOs from CSM  Return signed BEOs  Review internal group resume  Submit final agenda/conference program
    14. 14. GUARANTEE TIME  Submit final guarantee numbers  Submit special meals
    15. 15. ARRIVAL DAY  Your CSM will greet you  Attend the pre-con meeting  Discuss last-minute changes  Share onsite expectations for venue
    16. 16. DURING EVENT  Relax  Your CSM is your liaison  All parties will work from BEOs  Check function space one hour prior to start time  Onsite billing review
    17. 17. DEPARTURE DAY  Write and submit thank you cards  Offer gifts or gratuities  Share list of exceptional employees  Communicate with CSM’s superiors  CSM will offer farewell
    18. 18. POST EVENT  Post-con meeting with CSM  Bill reconciliation with venue  Adjust room block for future years  Adjust meeting space for future years
    19. 19. FINAL THOUGHTS The secret is… COMMUNICATION
    20. 20. NEXT STEPS  Leverage your calendar  Experiment with technology  Modify communication strategies
    21. 21. RESOURCES  CIC Publications: tions.aspx  Blog post:  Event Specifications Guide: APEX/EventSpecificationsGuide.aspx
    22. 22. CONTACT INFORMATION Aaron Wolowiec Kelly Van Dyke MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA Founder & President Event Garde LLC CMP, CTA Convention Service Manager Amway Grand Plaza Hotel P: 616.710.1891 E: P: 616.776.6441 E: