Meeting and event planning is an industry of its own. It takes a variety of skills, including reliable systems to sift through details, problems and personalities. The fact-finding process begins with a few fundamental questions/asks. Each question/ask comes with its own options and hurdles to anticipate. A starting point for a few of the fundamental questions include:
- Why is there a call for this meeting?
- What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish?
- Where will the money be coming from?
- What is the benefit to the attendees?
- How many attendees do you anticipate?
- Where is the ideal location for this meeting?
After the above questions have been addressed and assessed, we can take a deeper dive into putting your team of experts together. You will need decision makers and implementers/doers. The doers are your right hand from start to finish. The meeting and event planner is the cog of the wheel. Information and documentation filter through the meeting planner.
Now, we move on to creating the systems, which entails forms and communications. Probably the largest task is developing a schedule with all the tasks involved to produce a successful meeting. This schedule can be developed by task or chronologically; my preference is chronological. At this point, a planning schedule is developed that includes deadlines, forms and checklists. Once the schedule is established, you must assign the tasks to individuals with checkpoints and deadlines. This information becomes the documentation for reporting and evaluating the status of the meeting.
Guidelines are essential to try to keep everyone flowing in the same direction. It is best to establish the guidelines upfront. Some examples of this would be registration cost, registration cutoff dates, tour deadlines, deposits required, speaker check-in, exhibitor setup/teardown, etc. One of the biggest guidelines to establish is to determine if this meeting is to make money. If yes, how much? If no, is the expectation to breakeven or lose money? Where is the revenue to be generated from – registrations, sponsors, exhibitors, etc.?
To ensure a successful meeting, you must create a budget and prioritize how the money will be spent. Money matters affect almost all areas of the meeting. Expenditures and revenues go hand in hand. Even if it is an estimate, it is best to establish what is anticipated for expenditures. (I always estimate on the high side.) Again it is best to define how much revenue this meeting anticipates making. It is helpful to know the financial and economic issues directly or indirectly related to the meeting.
Checklists are my go-to. I suggest developing a checklist for each identified task and then placing a deadline on the checklist. Checklists can be for, but not limited to, site selection, registration, exhibitors, food and beverage, audiovisual, meeting room sets, VIPs, etc. As for site selection, I include:
- Sleeping room rate
- Number of sleeping rooms in the hotel
- Percentage of the type of sleeping rooms
- Number of meeting rooms, if there’s a storage area and condition of public space that includes meeting rooms
- Percentage of tax and gratuity
- Average price of a gallon of coffee.
This is just one example of a checklist that becomes my working document when I present/report to the decisionmakers.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I ask all those involved to submit their reflections to me. I compile the reflections and distribute them to the involved individuals. In addition to the reflections, I create a history of the meeting that includes:
- How many sleeping rooms were actualized
- Food and beverage
- Guaranteed numbers vs. actual
Documenting this history is as important as the initial planning. This information becomes valuable in the following years when the negotiations start.
The devils are in the details, so try to enjoy and remember to bring your sense of humor.