125 Tips For Todays Meeting Planner

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125 Tips for Today’s Meeting Planner article in Collaborate Corporate Meetings Intelligence with Philip Farina as the featured Security Expert.

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125 Tips For Todays Meeting Planner

  1. 1. 125 Tips for Today’s Meeting PlannerThe industry is different today than it was 20 years ago. In fact, it’s different than it was just a few years ago.There’s plenty of advice out there about how you can do your job better in today’s shifting world, but instead ofmaking you look for it in all those different places, we put it all in one place for you. Read on for inspiration,advice and ideas about programming, budgeting, food and beverage, travel and, well, everything meetings.MEETING FUNDAMENTALSBudgets, RFPs, ProgramsKeep in mind the things attendees hate: waiting in line, jam-packed schedules, PowerPoint, being talked at byspeakers, bad food, misspelled name badges, bad signage, poor e-mail marketing, websites with no contact infoand having to pay for Wi-Fi.—Keith Johnston, PlannerWireWhen attending events, it’s fine to collect 10 or more business cards, but narrow them down to three or four ofthe most important connections you’ve made.—Bob Littell, NetWeavingHave a separate room block for exhibitors. If you have space in your regular room blocks and can move them tothe closer hotel, there will be no attrition.—Janet Graff, CMP, Mednax Inc.More meeting fundamentals from Monica ComptonA comprehensive Request for Proposal should provide an overall evaluation of your meeting. Think of it like aresume, which offers job experience, references, history and more.—Donn Oswald, Greater Phoenix CVB
  2. 2. Early planning is key. Be sure to be specific on your needs and expectations. Leave no detail uncovered orassumed. Everyone will be happier in the end if you follow these three simple rules.—Amy Beadle, Springfield (Ill.) CVBWhenever you need to make a change to some existing system, program, schedule or event, have a pool ofpeople, or a “consequence team,” that can help you evaluate potential decisions and repercussions. This teamcould be other planners, friends, staff or outsiders, but a combination of all would be a great mixture.Sometimes when we bounce ideas off other planners, they only offer us one perspective, but an outsider mayoffer a totally new perspective that we hadn’t considered.—Dean Jones, Collaborate MarketplaceWhen branding an event, make it simple. Whittle your message down to the essentials; remove everything else.—Bruce Turkel, author and branding expertStay organized. Ninety percent of my work is done before the group hits the door. The curriculum, recipes, foodcooked—my ducks are in a row so that I can relax and enjoy the group.—Tami Cecil, chef and team-building facilitator, Woodhaven FarmDate your ideas, but don’t marry them. Don’t be afraid to take risks, actually do what you say you’re going todo and think outside the box.—Billy Kirsch, Kidbilly MusicThink about transportation. Many CVBs provide options for shuttles or ground transportation. Share detailssuch as shuttle routes, pickup times, cell phone numbers and number of attendees.—Crystal Morris, Columbia (S.C) Metropolitan CVBSITE SELECTION AND NEGOTIATIONSVenues, CVBs, Room BlocksReach out and don’t be afraid to go after the city you want, but keep your cards close and do your shoppingfirst. Don’t declare your top choices right away.—Stephen Hahn, Marriott InternationalDon’t base site selection entirely on price. You’ll always find people who are prepared to underprice theirservices just to get business. But how good and reliable are they? Next time you’re tempted to make a buyingdecision based entirely on price, think again.—Susan Friedmann, author and speakerIf you are close to signing with a venue or hotel, you might get better pricing and concessions the closer you getto the end of the quarter and end of the year. Sales bonuses and incentives for most salespersons make year’send a great time to ask for those extras.—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmartAlways stop in and check out the public restrooms in the hotel or facility.—Stephanie Hudson, Providence EventsBefore contracting a hotel or convention center, ask if it utilizes a union labor force and specifically whichdepartments are in the unions.—Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions
  3. 3. If a destination or property is new to you, go beyond the site visit tour and really experience a property, puttingyourself in your attendees’ shoes. If possible, visit on your own and spend some time in the lobby.—Cynthia Rich, independent plannerDo your homework to get up to date on any and all municipal cutbacks on emergency and standard services soyou can be better informed.—David M. Brudney, hotelnewsnow.comContact CVBs three to five years in advance of a citywide event to ensure availability, and choice of hotels andmeeting facilities.—Crystal Morris, Columbia (S.C) Metropolitan CVBRehearse your opening words before negotiations. Your opening words set the tone for the discussions thatfollow. Make certain that you know exactly what it is you want to say. Craft the words so that your message isclear and concise. Then spend time rehearsing your lines.—Susan Friedmann, author and speakerPRODUCTION AND PROGRAMMINGAudiovisual, Online, AudienceMake sure your AV partners understand your meeting objectives—your audience, your priorities and your hotbuttons. Always inform them of changes to your program and include them in meetings with your venue.—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmartIt’s the responsibility of planners to create programming that keeps people involved. This is done with activelearning, which is when people are involved in more than just listening to a lecture. When it’s all lectures, thepeople who learn the most at your conferences and events are the speakers.—Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw ConsultingThe coolest thing right now is the ability to bring your online and offline, face-to-face and online world,together…They drive each other.—Samuel J. Smith, Interactive Meeting TechnologyThe younger generation is not really into what Gen X or the Baby Boomers are into. They simply want instantgratification. Their span of attention is very short, so you need to grab their attention there and then.—Sahar Andrade, diversity and culture competence consultantEngaging an audience ensures continuous attentiveness during longer presentations. During a 60-minutepresentation, getting audience feedback after each 20-minute span of time can ensure that attendees’ brainsremain in the “active” rather than “passive” mode so they retain more information.—Ray Hansen, IML audience response systemsColor is an important component that can tie the meeting together, bringing in all elements from invitations toflowers, food, linens, gifts and props. Colors can also help maximize budget. For example, you can use bowls oflemons instead of floral arrangements and pineapple-yogurt parfaits for a healthy, colorful dessert that alsoserves as table decoration.—Diane Budion-Devitt, hospitality professor at New York UniversityStorytelling is another way to think about how to frame your meeting. Know your message. Then, develop thestory with a plot, a beginning, middle and end. Communicate the story using multiple messages: Theme thescene, reinforce it with music to create the right moods and immerse your attendees every step of the way.—Lenn Millbower, Offbeat Training
  4. 4. Create the right physical environment with ergonomic chairs, comfortable room sets and opportunities to movearound, and schedule breaks during programming every 90 minutes.—Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh AssociatesIdeally, people should sit no closer than twice the height of a screen and no farther away than eight times theheight of a screen. So if a screen is 10 feet tall, the audience should sit no closer than 20 feet and no fartheraway than 80 feet from it.—Scott Reagles, Initial Production GroupFOOD & BEVERAGEAction Stations, Wish Lists, Wow FactorsLet the chef know what you are looking for, but be open to suggestions—especially when it comes tosustainability—if they can offer an alternative with the same taste.—Robbie Delaney, chef, Virginia AquariumDessert is a good place to go for the wow factor. Face it, attendees can not like the salad, find the meal just OK,but if you wow them with the dessert, they’ll remember the whole meal as being fantastic.—Steve Enselein, Hyatt Hotels CorporationMove away from lengthy meals to more action stations, where attendees can mingle and sample.—Giorgi Di Lemis, Gaylord HotelsAlways use a trained bartender. This is not the place to cut corners.—Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh AssociatesMake sure you have a clear understanding of what goes toward your food and beverage minimum. While coffeebreaks, receptions and meals should all be included, try to include such things as hospitality suites and F&Bfunctions from sponsor organizations (who wouldn’t be there if not for your function).—John Foster, hospitality attorneyEvery destination or venue has its own specialty, sometimes synonymous with the season, the local growers,manufacturers and producers, or a chef who is noted for a contribution to the cuisine. When it’s a plentiful localproduct, hotel chefs and caterers will be happy to match your theme, or you can begin with their specialty menuitems and create your theme accordingly. It also will be cost effective to use readily available ingredients.—Liz Mitchell, Beaufort (S.C.) Regional Chamber of CommerceFresh and locally produced ingredients, intense rich flavors, and, thankfully, the demise of supersizing is whereAmerica’s chefs are trending.—Robert Zappatelli, Benchmark HospitalityAny meeting planner who wants to get the biggest bang for the buck should always talk to the chef. And don’tlet any salesperson say you can’t talk to the chef.—Janet Pickover, Site Inspections PlusSAFETY AND SECURITYPrivacy, Protection, Legal IssuesIn the event of a hotel strike or other event disruption, look into your options for transportation. If attendeesstaying at the original hotel need to be shifted to another facility for the event, you need to plan how attendeeswill get there as safely and efficiently as possible. You can’t assume the original hotel will take care of these
  5. 5. details for you.—Philip Farina, Farina and AssociatesYou might think that trip hazards are things that are in the way of walkways or exits, but trip hazards can alsobe considered thing that could be in walkways. Fire marshals may require chairs to be tied or fixed together,preventing them from being moved into areas where they would be in the way if there was an emergency.—Scott Reagles, Initial Production GroupMore legal tips from Barbara DunnA force majeure provision should be included in every contract. It is also important to include a catchallprovision such as the following: “or any other cause beyond the parties’ control.”—Barbara Dunn, hospitality attorneyMake sure all exits are clearly visible, and all aisles, walkways and exits are clear of obstructions. Make sure alldrapery and scenic material have been fireproofed.—Scott Reagles, Initial Production GroupTell attendees about emergency plans during housekeeping sessions.—Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educatorPartner with law enforcement agencies in the early planning stages for a better understanding of any overallthreats, including recent crime information, as well as potential threats directed toward either the event or thefacility.—Bonnie Wallsh, Bonnie Wallsh AssociatesMake sure the hotel and meeting center has a good paper shredder and find out what security measures arepractical.—Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educatorTECHNOLOGYTexting, Tweeting, WidgetsCreate a revenue stream for virtual events by charging for content during and/or after the event. If people reallywant the good stuff online, they need to pay.—Lynn Randall, Maritz Travel CompanyAs an event planner you come across needs for resources that are outside of your circle. Perhaps you need aflorist in a different country for a client. How would you know who is reliable? With social media, you can nowview websites that rank any company in any industry. You can read feedback that comes from mostly unbiasedreviewers. You can also send a tweet to your community and will likely receive many suggestions.—Liz King, Liz King Events
  6. 6. Tech tips from James SpellosIf you have decided that you are going to implement an event community, you need to teach people how to useit. You need to have a session and allow people to ask questions and really be patient, speak in plain Englishand not text terms. Do a one-hour Twitter 101 session to really give people an overview; it helps them not onlyfor the event but it teaches people a new skill.—Jessica Levin, Seven Degrees CommunicationsStart simply. You don’t have to bite off the whole world. It does take manpower, and you need to have the rightcontent for the right audience.—Kate Spellman, UBM StudiosProvide a website widget of the Twitter hashtag that users can post on blogs, personal pages and websites. Thiscan be done using Twitter Fall, TwitterFountain, TweetGrid or Widgetbox.—Jeff Hurt, Velvet Chainsaw ConsultingUse online registration. After the event, you will have a long list of the most active members of yourorganization, along with their mailing addresses, home addresses, e-mail addresses and other contactinformation. Use this list as a membership database and build on it between events.—Sarah McNeely, Attendee Management Inc.COMMUNICATIONPhone Calls, Silence, IntroductionsLearn the lingo. It alleviates miscommunication and will add to your professionalism. I learned this lesson whenI asked for a trash container instead of a wastebasket. I was brought a mobile dumpster.—Dean Jones, Collaborate MarketplaceToday, you have to be transparent and communicate with a level of trust people can respect by telling the trutheven when it’s bad news, by being collaborative rather than hierarchical.—John Graham IV, ASAEJason Ryan Dorseys tips on communicating with Gen Y
  7. 7. Follow-up is a time-related concept. If you have a conversation with someone, take some immediate actionwithin 24 hours (e.g., repeat the person’s name, make notes on the back of his or her business card to triggerwhat you discussed, especially key points the other person made). Then, within that same time frame, send an e-mail or personal note.—Bob Littell, NetWeavingExercise Silence. The old saying “silence is golden” is particularly true around the negotiating table.Negotiating mavens know that when discussing a deal, the first to speak loses. In fact, the more you talk, themore information you’re supplying your opponents. Your silence will also help create the perception that youare a thoughtful and methodical decision-maker.—Susan Friedmann, author and speakerIf you are having a difficult time catching an unfamiliar name at an event, ask the person to spell it. Foreignnames can be especially difficult to pick up, and people will appreciate you taking the time to spell and say theirname correctly.—Dallas Teague Snider, author and speakerIN THE INDUSTRYQuestions, Relationships, TravelAssociation memberships are expensive. Not only is there a yearly membership fee, but there are luncheons andother monthly events that cost money to attend. Instead of joining every association that may fit your need,focus on one that could bring you the most benefit, and once you choose that one association, get involved.—Christine Doyle, Meeting Planning For YouMany airlines, including Delta, Southwest and American, have re-instituted their meeting/group departments inorder to retain loyalty and fill empty seats. Reach out and partner with the airline that best serves the area whereyour meetings are taking place. You’ll find the discounts, perks and benefits are well worth the call.—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmartNo question is a dumb question.—Sandra Schutrop, Hilton HotelsDon’t brush off anyone. You never know when that destination or service will turn out to be the exact fit you’vebeen looking for.—Dean Jones, Collaborate MarketplaceClean out your computer cache and cookies before logging back into an airline website. Airline ticketingwebsites attach a cookie when you search prices, then if you go back in, you’ll find the price went up. I didn’tbelieve it myself until we tested it out on multiple sites.—Loretta Lowe, Meeting Planning and Special EventsWhen you are introduced to someone, try to use the person’s name three times during your initial exchange. Forexample: “Hi, John. So, John, which division do you work for in for Biotech? How long have you been with thecompany? Well, John, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope to see you again sometime.” Using someone’s nameduring the exchange should provide ample opportunities to connect something to that person you could recall ata later date.—Dallas Teague Snider, author and speakerContent is king. Everyone wants to know what is going on. They want educational content that helps them sortthrough the volumes of information in their field. Where are the frontiers?—Judy Randall, Randall Travel Marketing Inc.
  8. 8. TRADE SHOWSSwag, Sponsors, Show FloorSpend time getting to know convention services managers. They are by and large the best professionals in theindustry. They can really make a meeting planner’s life run smoothly on-site. They’re a wealth of knowledgeand have years of experience and tons of connections.—Eric Blanc, ACOM and Tampa Bay Convention CenterWhen it comes to sponsorship, if you don’t have the time to invest in it or don’t have the skill set to organize it,outsource it.—Louise M. Felsher, CMP, meeting and event consultantThis positive environment is composed of many small details. Putting down carpet, for example, creates a morecomfortable environment. As a result, they may stay on the show floor two or three hours longer, making themmore likely to spend more.—Susan Friedmann, author and speakerWith promotional products, buyers sometimes forget that shipping to the company address and then resendingthe shipment out to the destination wastes dollars. Do some research into fulfillment options at the event siteand compare costs.—Marty Bear, Professional Marketing Services Inc.Ask your suppliers and your attendees what will make your show successful for them. Listen to them. Makesure the right people are coming.—Chris Price, Graphic Arts Show CompanyStrategic audience acquisition has become a focal point. It’s not enough just to fill the exposition hall with alarge number of attendees; the presence of decision-makers is key. The recruiting process has to be tight andspecific.—David Ecton, Syscom TechnologiesThe hanging banner is dead. It’s no longer just about how many people saw it. Rather, it’s about which peoplesaw it and how long they viewed or interacted with it. Interactive and experiential sponsorships get attendeesinvolved with brands, products and marketing messages.—Charles W. Allen, The C.W. Allen GroupSPEAKERSReferences, Storytelling, TimingHeadline speakers can end up being a significant cost for an event. Look for local speakers to reduce travelcosts, seek out a corporate sponsor, or try to negotiate costs to save money. Often speakers are willing to reducefees for the chance to promote a book or other personal interest.—Amita Patel, Ontario (Calif.) CVBTell a speaker the goals of your program and what you want to achieve. My story is my story. I have my corespeech, but I’m always happy to adapt it to meet the needs of the group.—Joan Brock, speakerAsk talent and presenters for their needs and requirements well in advance. This may include Internetaccessibility, specific types of microphones to use, someone to operate a PowerPoint presentation and so on.And pass that information along to your AV provider.—Scott Reagles, Initial Production Group
  9. 9. Talk with your speaker of choice about the timing of their presentation. Comedy is useless before 10 a.m. sodon’t even bother earlier than that.—Anita Renfroe, speakerRequest that speakers send you a list of six people you can call for a personal phone reference. When they giveyou the list, be sure to call the last three on the list. This will ensure that you are getting a true assessment, sincemost people will list the best references first.—Dallas Teague Snider, author and speakerTell all the speakers one month before, one hour before and just before they speak how much time they have.Let them know that they will receive a sign (timer) to know when time is up. With prestigious speakers, thisdetail is sometimes avoided. Don’t avoid the discussion; they will understand.—Pegine Echevarria, author and speakerVOLUNTEERSTraining, Empowerment, EventsThere are people who have volunteered for me before, and if there are ones I like, I’ll ask them again.—Pat Ahaesy, P&V EnterprisesWhen volunteering, do small projects that make sense for the community and the organization.—Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building CouncilIf possible, give a volunteer task that they’re interested in.—Jo Anglea Maniaci, Special Events PlanningTry to get people within your organization to volunteer. If they have a reason to come and get something out ofit, they will be more likely to be excited about volunteering.—Stephanie Hudson, Providence EventsUse current volunteers to recruit volunteers. When someone sees that someone else in their industry is willing todonate their time to the event, it makes it easy for them to do it as well.—Denise McGinn, Association GuidanceGOING GREENRecycling, Teamwork, GoalsRead trade magazines and make a note anytime it mentions a green destination.—Janiece Sneegas, Green Meeting Industry CouncilDon’t go to a venue with a checklist [of green needs]. It’s a give and take. Decide what’s most important to you.—Martie Sparks, Mandalay BayHave processes in place to make sure everyone understands their goals. Document everything you’ve done, thegood and the bad. The most effective learning tools are the barriers and obstacles you’ve overcome.—Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building CouncilTo make sure venues meet your green standards, insert an addendum in every contract requesting the venueadhere to waste management, recycling, energy usage, use of renewable resources and conservation—and bespecific.—Kevin R. Johnston, PlanSmart
  10. 10. Make sure extra food is being donated and promote that fact to raise awareness among attendees and yourorganization.—Joan Eisenstodt, hospitality consultant and educatorEncourage and award attendees for going green. Hand out “I was caught green-handed” buttons or offercontests for practices like carpooling and recycling, allowing the winners to go first in the food lines.—Nancy Wilson and Cathy Kretz, CMPs, from their green meetings webinarGuests and hosts learned from each other about the growing importance of going green, even in areas that werepreviously unknown to the vendor. Anticipate environmental needs, cultural differences and basic hardware thatmay be needed when you least expect it.—Terrell D. Rich, Partners in FlightJust pick somewhere to start. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Every decision you make comes down to those threethings.—Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreenADVICEIdeas, Experience, Good ShoesGood enough is good enough. When was the last time you heard someone complain about the resolution onYouTube? As Seth Godin wrote, ‘Get it out the door’ already.—Bruce Turkel, author and branding expertBe willing to go on a journey. For all of us to stay relevant, it’s critical we stay open to innovation and newapproaches…being able to look at what you do as if you’re doing it for the first time.—Amy Spatrisano, MeetGreenMore meeting fundamentals from Bonnie WallshDon’t burn bridges. The industry is too tight-knit to harbor ill feelings toward your peers. You’ll end upcrossing paths again down the road.—Dean Jones, Collaborate MarketplaceLots can go wrong that you as the meeting planner are the only one that knows about it. I have a new index todecide how bad something is: Did anybody die? If no one died, whatever it is, I can deal with.—Garland Preddy, U.S. Marshals ServiceBusy planners have many passwords to remember. Agile Web Solutions creates passwords and then stores themdirectly into your web browser. You select one of your passwords from a menu, and the system automaticallytakes you to the website, securely fills in your user name and password, and logs you in.—Monica Compton, Pinnacle Productions
  11. 11. A good pair of shoes is a good investment. If your feet are shot, so are you. Paying good money for a qualitypair of shoes is an investment in the success of your event.—Dean Jones, Collaborate MarketplaceStop focusing on what you do and start focusing on what your clients want. Unbundle what you have anddeliver it in a different way.—Bruce Turkel, author and branding expert

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