The need to find more time in a day resonates with just about everyone, including meeting planners. In today’s meeting’s environment, planners are expected to do MORE with LESS, as their focus is often times pulled in different directions.
We recently talked with David Peckinpaugh, President at Maritz Travel Company to get his insight and expertise on how to work efficiently and save time while continuing to produce quality results. In his 20+ year career, David has been on all sides of the meeting planning industry and he offers his tips on five areas that consume a planner’s time and how he personally approaches the management of each area.
David offers, “I could easily spend my day dealing with email, my calendar, travel, documents and mail where it not for these five time saving tips and my world class assistant, Lisa Cope, who helps make my time management really work.”
Five Time Saving Tips for Busy Meeting Planners
Time Saving Tip #1: Email
As convenient as email is, it can also be a huge time waster. Between business email, personal email, as well as email you might receive through Social Media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) it’s no wonder without even looking, you can spend half your day answering them.
David offers, “With an inundation of emails I receive daily, I use the TRAF technique: Toss, Refer, Act, File.”
- Toss: If it’s not important or critical to your job or just spam, get rid of it immediately.
- Refer: If it is better suited to someone else or should be forwarded and off your plate, do just that…refer it on. The key is to get yourself off the email chain as quickly as possible.
- Act: This is what fills up and can remain in an inbox. These are items that need to be read, digested and acted upon. Peckinpaugh suggests, “Try using email tracing (“Follow-up”) to manage priorities and always ask for a deadline or due date on any request. That will allow you to manage your time, react according to any priorities as well as not miss a deadline (well almost never).”
- File: If you know you don’t have to act on the email, get it out of your inbox and filed. Try using an email folder system within your email software to manage this.
Responding to emails and phone calls in a timely manner is essential. It can mean the difference between securing a speaker, a venue, and/or making a deadline. David points out, “I personally use a 24 hour rule for all business responses. I don’t allow an email or phone call to extend past that time UNLESS I have arranged for time out of the office.”
Time Saving Tip #2: Calendar
Keeping an up-to-date calendar that tracks meetings, deadlines, as well as personal commitments is essential in saving busy meeting planner’s time.
- Multiple Calendars: Just as in the case with email, you could potentially have more than one calendar to keep track of. Peckinpaugh offers, “This one is especially tricky in today’s e-world where we may have multiple calendars. I personally only use one calendar and sync all of my other calendars to my main one. It really cuts down on time spent looking at multiple calendars throughout the day.”
- Use the Rainbow: Peckinpaugh shares, “I use color coding so that I know if it is a meeting with one of my board members, a direct report meeting or general meeting.”
- Reminders: Every night, go over your calendar to be sure you are prepared for the day. Additionally, try setting your calendar to remind you at 15, 10 or 5 minutes before the meeting and be sure to build in travel time to and from any off-site meetings.
Time Saving Tip #3: Travel
Travel is an essential job function for meeting planners, and if not managed properly, can really set you back in your time management. In today’s world, technology allows you to remain connected all the time, however it also becomes much harder to truly disconnect when you want to. David suggests, “think of your time away in three different buckets: Business Travel, Personal Time, and Unplugged Time Off.”
- Business Travel: When traveling for work, try to keep to a 24 hour response time just as you would while in the office. This rule will really help when you return to the office and aren’t inundated with messages. It can be a challenge when traveling, but will really pay off once you return to the office.
- Personal Time: Let’s face it with technology, it is often times hard to truly unplug and not check your work email and messages. The benefit is that upon returning to the office, you won’t be hit with a sudden deadline or a fire you need to put out.
Check your email and messages sparingly if you can, but when you do, try checking email once in the morning and again one time late in the day. Only respond to those situations that require your attention and utilize the TRAF technique offered in Tip #1.
- Unplugged Time Off: There is nothing better than leaving for a vacation and actually feeling like you HAD a vacation by staying unplugged from the office. The key here is preparation. Inform your key stakeholders and leave an “out of office” message that clearly states your availability and provide the necessary additional contacts for needed action. You’ll be grateful when you return to the office feeling recharged.
Time Saving Tip #4: Documents
Between contracts, proposals and regular correspondence, failure to manage documents can quickly become a huge pile on your desk. Peckinpaugh offers, “Again, I use a color coded filing system that seems to work well that includes breaking them out into a three color coded system.”
- Red: Urgent or signature required
- Yellow: Items requiring follow-up and/or non-critical items
- Blue: General mail, magazines, etc.
Time Saving Tip #5: Snail Mail
Snail mail (yes, it still exists), is one of those things that we probably don’t realize can steal away our time. The key is to open the mail, deal with it once and move on. If you don’t, the mail can build up quickly over time and become a stressor. Block out 10 or 15 minutes a day and immediately use the same TRAF method:
Once you’ve gone through the mail, be sure to then use the color coding system of Red, Yellow, or Blue as with documents.
Bonus Time Saving Tip: empowerMINT.com and Your Local CVB
When researching destinations for your meeting, save yourself the time of an endless online search and begin by going to www.empowerMINT.com. Powered by Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), empowerMINT.com is THE resource savvy meeting planners go to:
- Search and compare destinations
- Submit one RFP to multiple destinations
- Manage a single planner profile where you can manage all of your meeting information
- Stay on top of what’s new in hotel and venue developments in every destination
- Quickly get in touch with a CVB professional that can help answer your questions
- View destination maps with locations of hotels, venues, and airports
And perhaps the most useful time saver for meeting planners is your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB). The CVB sales professional’s excel at handling many of the time consuming details that clog your time such as:
- Acting as an advocate for your meeting by communicating the value of the meeting to hotels efficiently
- Being a facilitator for the time consuming details of the RFP proposal process
- Providing resources to the planner to ensure meeting goals and objectives are met
Whether you are planning a meeting in a destination for the first time, or returning for the 10th year, you’ll find resources and people to help you at more than 145 meeting destinations at www.empowerMINT.com.