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We’ve compiled a list of resources, articles, and websites to answer any questions you may have after reading our recent blogs.
- Here are some tips to help you hire the perfect event planner.
- Worried about the state of your business’s finances? Get back in the black with this article from Forbes.com
- Negotiating a hotel contract can be a long, difficult process. Take a look at these negotiation tips from Exhibitor Magazine to streamline the process.
- Are you trying to plan a convention, but are unsure of where to begin? Take a look at this article from AllBusiness.com for a step-by-step guide.
- Looking for some help for your next meeting? The professionals at Meeting Services Unlimited are experienced in all aspects of meeting and convention planning. Contact us today!
By Debbie Locklear
Reports indicate that organizations invest billions of dollars on meetings and meeting-related activities but very little on training to help spend that money wisely. Hence, hundreds of thousands of meetings are organized each year by people who do not have enough spare time to study new ideas and techniques that will make their meetings more cost efficient and effective.
A meeting is a business tool, and to be effective, it must offer concise, lively, accurate, organized information in an atmosphere that’s conducive to the meeting’s objective. Many organizations have a difficult time accepting the fact that their meetings are not as productive as they might think, despite their huge investment.
Individuals who devote only part time to planning can certainly handle the responsibilities-when given the proper training. Unfortunately, there is a lack of training in the meeting-planning industry, preventing many meetings from reaching the level of professionalism and effectiveness that is inherently possible.
The heart of the matter is that the difficulties and problems of planning and managing meetings are almost universally underestimated. Meeting planning is a profession that requires certain skills and past experience.
There is an art and science involved in developing and operating a successful meeting. A professional planning consultant is a synthesizer of information, creating result-oriented meetings based on a clear understanding of meeting dynamics and the systematic planning process.
The top priority of a professional meeting planner is to avoid the traditional approaches to meeting planning that are often wasteful, erratic and produce ineffective results. A planner’s role is to provide expert assistance in every phase of meeting planning, making sure that even the smallest details haven’t been overlooked.
Some of the benefits to hiring a professional meeting planner could include:
- Negotiating skills used in obtaining exceptional services and facilities at fair prices
- Valuable time saved, allowing freedom to concentrate on other important aspects of the meeting
- Ability to produce more creative events
- Unlimited sources for meeting-related information
- Looking after the clients’ best interests.
Consideration should be given to determining how much time should be spent on actually planning a meeting. Those organizations that have done this view meetings as an investment in dollars as well as an individual’s time. In order to maximize their investment of time and money, many of these companies have developed a department specifically for meeting planning.
As more independent planners open their doors, a word of caution: Thoroughly investigate the companies that are under consideration.
To do this, review the following checklist:
- Check several references.
- Find out the type projects they have arranged.
- What organizations do they belong to?
- Do they attend continuing education meeting in the planning industry?
- Find out if meeting planning is a fulltime career or a part-time venture.
Based on this information, an evaluation of a company’s ability to produce successful meetings will be easy to make.
Hiring a professional meeting planner will allow an organization to draw from years of experience to access their needs realistically and fine-tune a meeting to best suit financial and programming objectives.
Remember one fact, however: A meeting is only as good as the attention paid to the smallest detail.
By Debbie Locklear
Selecting a site for a meeting or event is the most important, challenging and misunderstood phase in meeting planning. Since the space reserved and the flow of the meeting can enhance the program’s objectives and interactions among people, site selection is important.
The challenging aspect of selecting a site is that many pieces of the project may be unknown. It becomes necessary to anticipate and visualize a variety of different structures. Many people misunderstand the site selection process because they see it as a glorious opportunity to be wined and dined. In actuality, the process is a time-consuming, serious and often physically and mentally exhausting process.
Inspections require thoughtful advanced preparation, thorough research, an eye for detail and when visiting sites in one day, an exceptional memory. The follow-up is critical in order to document the verbal commitments made by eager sales people. This step is vital because once a contract is signed, any promises not recorded may be lost.
In order to conduct a successful inspection, it is necessary to know your group’s strong and weak points, the objective and purpose, the budget and attendee needs and preferences. In addition, the number of guest rooms, date patterns and daily agendas are a vital need prior to the inspection. The set-up needs for each session help to secure the proper meeting space, taking into consideration ceiling heights, freight entrances, etc. A facility will also want to know guest room pick-up, rates, meal counts, master account charges and credit records.
Your job will be to find out the facilities’ high, low and average rates, their occupancy levels at various times of the year and week. Inquire about the internal stability of the staff to provide an indication of the facility management.
When the actual tour of the property begins, look at the following areas on the way to and in the guest rooms:
Ask to see the worst room. Make note in your follow-up letter to avoid booking any of your guests in those rooms if necessary. Call the operator and see how long it takes to answer the phone.
By Debbie Locklear
1. Arrange for nightly turndown service for overnight guests. While this service is fairly standard, it can be an exciting tool of communication. Send a note with information about the next day’s activities with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Reinforce the theme of the meeting with specially designed chocolates wrapped and placed on a pillow.
If your meeting lasts for more than one night, the excitement this surprise creates is an automatic topic of conversation. Providing opportunities for attendees to interact is vital to the success of the meeting.
2. A coffee break can lack imagination – the same old soft drinks, coffee and sweet roll syndrome. Budget constraints can play a role in how extraordinary the break is, but with a little preplanning and assistance from the facility, some energy and excitement can take place. It is a break – a time to refresh the mind and body.
If the budget will not permit the purchase of extra break items, arrange to have the luncheon dessert served during the break. This simple alteration is a refreshing and pleasant treat for attendees.
For a psychological change, have the hotel decorate the break table with greenery, flowers or perhaps a décor that will compliment the items being served.
Just for fun, have the soft drink cans displayed so they spell out the organization’s name or logo. This will never fail to generate conversations.
During breaks, try serving items such as fruit, ice cream bars, cookies and milk or yogurt. The change will aid in the relaxation of the attendees which will allow them to use the break as a refresher.
To energize the attendees, incorporate a stretch break conducted by a fitness expert into your program. This will increase their level of productivity during the next portion of the meeting and is added at little or no extra cost.
3. To meeting planners, keeping up with what’s “hot” goes beyond being a mere avocation – it’s an essential part of the job. These days, more meetings include a special event than ever before. Theme parties are especially popular and change in design faster than hemlines.
Some favorite theme ideas that encourage interaction are Monte Carlo nights. This type of high-energy activity will allow each attendee to participate in a variety of activities where they feel most comfortable.
Movie Star Parties (with real stars or with impersonators) create a fantasy atmosphere that relaxes attendees after a long day. An audience can be entertained and allowed to participate in a “Name That Star” contest, with prizes for the winners. “Look-A-Like” contests can be successfully conducted when advance notification and specific instructions are given to attendees.
Themed event ideas are plentiful and more planners are beginning to recognize the benefits and impact these activities have on the attendees. In order to be sure your event or theme is right for your organization, a few things should be considered. These considerations are what help to create an activity that is best suited for your audience.
- What is the purpose of the event?
- Determine what the objective is – What do you want to happen because of this event?
- What are the ages of the attendees?
- What percentage of the attendees are men, women or children?
- What is the profession of the attendees?
- Is the facility capable of accommodating your needs for the event?
- How much time is available for the event?
- How much set-up time do you have?
- What is the budget for the event?
With all of this information gathered in advance, you should have an easy time identifying the perfect event for your group. This is a procedure many planners do not give enough attention to. Information gathering will set you apart from the amateurs.
4. Another area that can be inconvenient and annoying to attendees is the on-site registration process. While long lines are often unavoidable, the wait can be made enjoyable. Incorporate one of these ideas into your next program and observe a more relaxed, happy attendee.
Arrange to have a strolling magician in the registration area. The sleight of hand entertainment will help the attendees forget about the inconvenience.
You may want to try a music group, possibly a small choir from a high school. The result is the same. The distraction keeps the attendees’ minds off of the fact that they are standing in line.
These ideas are effective, but consideration should also be given to the placement of the registration area. Logistically, the registration table or counter should be easy to see. Have the group name clearly identified, allow for free flowing movement of attendees, and have the area staffed adequately.
If you have not made the effort to accommodate your attendees in every possible fashion, the endless complaints will haunt you.
To be successful in the meeting planning industry, be creative, know your resources and ask if your suppliers can do anything that your imagination can create. You may come up with winning ideas for you, your organization and the attendees.
By Debbie Locklear
Professional Meeting Planners brings expert advice – Let’s face it. Most people are not meeting planners nor are they convention planners, but there are professional meeting planners and professional convention planners across the country. These meeting planners and professional convention planners have years of experience negotiating hotel and vendor contracts, coordinating registration for major trade shows, conventions, seminars and conferences. They are experts at recruiting trade show sponsors, managing booth sales, and a multitude of tasks that go into executing first class seminars, trade shows, conferences, convention and other types of meetings. And with that experience comes expert advice. It’s in your best interest to hire a seasoned meeting planning and convention planning professional.
Meeting Planners can save you money – Professional meeting and convention planners have spent years establishing relationships with hotels, equipment rental companies, caterers, convention and conference centers, promotional firms, entertainers and more. Meeting planners and convention planners are able to leverage their buying power to negotiate the best services at reasonable prices for all your meeting logistic needs. Whether it is establishing housing for participants or promotional material for your convention, meeting planners and convention planners know from experience where to get the best deal and how to execute a successful meeting within your budget.
Professional Meeting Planners have Connections – Did you know planning a typical trade show on average requires hundreds of phone calls and emails to prospects in order to assure its success? In addition, dozens of calls are made to the hotels, convention center, audio-visual company, promotional services, city officials to acquire permits, sponsors, etc. But not to worry! Meeting planners schedule every last detail that needs to be arranged. They know who to call and when. Meeting planners and convention planners are connected. The support of a professional meeting planner and convention planner will make your job easier.
A Meeting Planner brings Vision – If you have never executed a large meeting, a meeting professional will be able to offer vision to the meeting planning process. A meeting planner is not only a facilitator but an extension of your team. A seasoned meeting planner has attended, studied, planned and executed hundreds of meetings, seminars, conventions and trade shows and can advise you on what has worked for others and what has not worked. A meeting planner will evaluate the scope and nature of your meeting and help develop a theme and a vision to create a successful meeting. A professional meeting planner and convention planner will use that information as the basis for your conference, convention, seminar, meeting or trade show and make your vision a reality.
A Meeting Planner brings Creativity – In today’s media saturated world, it is sometimes hard to get the attention of your target audience. Meeting Planners have usually seen just about everything. From trade show booth magicians to sponsored golf outings, to celebrity impersonators. There are many creative things that can be done to not only promote your meeting event, but to make your convention have the impact and success you expect. Whether your goal is education, professional networking, celebration or recreation, a meeting and convention planning professional can suggest a myriad of creative idea that can be used to make your meeting a success.
A Meeting Planner can make your meeting profitable – With so many convention and trade show options a potential exhibitor, sponsor and attendee faces you must strive to stand out among the crowd. A professional meeting planner and convention planner can make that happen. Professional meeting planners and convention planners enroll in their own continuing education that allows them to learn the latest marketing techniques to increase trade show exhibitors, sponsors and attendance at conventions. All of this education is used to make your meeting more profitable. In addition, the negotiation skills of a professional meeting planner and convention planner will provide direct bottom-line savings from nearly every vendor involved in your convention.
A Meeting Planner will communicate with your speakers – When you have found the perfect presenters and speakers for your meeting it is very likely they have come from or through your knowledgeable membership. These presenters and speakers need to be informed of critical data to help them have the best opportunity to share their knowledge with your attendees. A professional meeting planner and convention planner will communicate all the important details with the speakers and presenters as well as collect information needed.
A Meeting Planner will share their resources – A professional meeting planner and convention planner has developed many resources over the years that can be valuable to your meeting, convention, trade show and seminars. Just the mere nature of a professional meeting planner and convention planner brings them in contact with hundreds of meeting vendors, speakers, entertainers and facilities. A professional meeting planner and convention planner is happy to share names, pricing and contact information with you to assure the success of your meeting, convention, trade show and seminar.
A Meeting Planner will earn your respect and repeat business – Once a professional meeting planner and convention planner has taken your meeting, convention, trade show or seminar from concept to completion, that professional meeting planner and convention planner is of great value to you. They have experienced every aspect of your convention and know the intricate workings. This knowledge leads to a future of successful meetings, conventions, seminars, trade shows and conferences.
A Meeting Planner is an extension of your staff – A professional meeting planner and convention planner will work with your staff, board and committee to make the most of your experience throughout the planning process. With all the connections, knowledge, experience, creativity, resources and vision a professional meeting planner and convention planner has to offer your meeting, convention, conference, trade show or seminar will flourish and provide attendees the experience they seek.