Does this sound like you? The occasional meeting planner…as in part-time, once or twice a year, not your day job kind of meeting planner. You find yourself in charge of your company’s sales or customer event, perhaps a social or sports event but…you aren’t a professional meeting planner!
For the professional, as well as the occasional planner, planning any sized meeting requires multi-tasking skills, a little ingenuity, and a lot of organization. The key to a successful meeting outcome lies in first doing your internal homework, then partnering with a CVB sales professional to work toward accomplishing the meeting’s goals and objectives. It may seem like a daunting task, but fear not, after implementing these five tips, you’ll feel like a meeting planning pro!
Five Tips to Look Like a Pro:
Tip #1: Do Your Homework
The key to setting your meeting up for success lies in first doing your internal homework. By completing the work upfront, you will ultimately save yourself time down the line. And who doesn’t need a little extra time?
First, you will want to determine the answers to what we call the 5 W’s:
- Who: There are a couple who’s you’ll want to answer:
- Who will be attending? This sounds easy enough, but you’ll want to determine if the meeting will be mandatory or optional. If it’s optional, then you definitely want to plan for promoting the meeting to potential attendees.
- Who are the decision-makers? Is the final decision maker you, the board of directors, or perhaps the CEO? If there are multiple decision-makers, make sure you build in time for any involvement/interaction they may need.
- What: What type of event are you planning? Understand the style of the event such as: is it a high-end meeting with planned outside team-building activities, or a sports event where few frills are necessary? This will help you to determine what type of venue and/or hotel will be the best fit.
Pro Planner Tip! Jason Outman, Director of Sales & Services with the Columbia Metro CVB recommends, “Talk with your local CVB about unique offerings in the destination. CVBs are local destination experts and know the ins and outs of their city, and are free to all groups planning a meeting!”
- Where: Think about what is most desired in the venue for your meeting. Talk to decision-makers about their expectations and ideas. Additionally, think about the demographics of your group. Do they favor a particular area of town, city or region?
Planner Pro Tip! If you do not already have a specific city in mind, try to narrow your possibilities down to no more than three locations.
- When: Identify your preferred dates and determine if there is flexibility within those dates.
Planner Pro Tip! If possible, be flexible on dates and the day of the week pattern. For example, your meeting might be a great fit for a downtown hotel that is busy during the week, so hold part or all of your meeting over the weekend when the hotel might have lower occupancy.
- Why: Determine the overall objective of your meeting. By understanding the goals and objectives of your meeting from the start, it will help to guide you throughout your decision-making process.
Planner Pro Tip! Jason Outman recommends, “Be sure to communicate your overall objective to your planning partners – the CVB, hotels, etc., this will ensure everyone is on the same page and working toward the same successful outcome.”
Tip #2: Brush Up on the Meeting’s History
Has this meeting been held before? If so, that’s great! You’ve already got a wealth of information at your fingertips. Try to get access to notes, meeting history, food and beverage orders, invoices, and the past year’s program. Even if the meeting isn’t being held in the same location, there will still be a lot of useful information you can use, saving you precious time.
Additionally, talk to anyone you can that was involved with past meetings. Ask them what worked, and perhaps what could be better for this year’s meeting.
Pro Planner Tip! If your meeting has been held before, get the meeting history. This will really help when negotiating with hotels. The meeting history should include: the rates your group paid, the dates the meeting was over, and the space used – both total hotel rooms and meeting space.
Tip #3: Determine Your Budget
Be sure you understand your budget parameters. Is there a preset amount you need to stay within or are you creating the budget from scratch? Additionally, determine the rate range for hotel rooms your event needs to stay within.
Pro Planner Tip! Learning what your target room rates should be and how many rooms you need will save you time by being able to pre-determine what size and type of hotel will be the best fit for your event and budget.
Tip #4: Set Your Timelines
An important skill in planning any sized meeting is the ability to stay organized and meet your timelines. In the planning process, determine your deadlines for key milestones such as:
- Sending your RFP (request for proposal) out to potential venues
- Receiving RFP responses
- Board approval (if necessary)
- Inviting attendees
- Selecting vendors (food and beverage, audio visual, speakers, entertainment, decorations, etc.)
Once you have all of your dates in order, create a calendar to keep you on track.
Tip #5: Team Up With the Perfect Planning Partner
Meeting planning isn’t like an individual sport. To truly succeed, you need a team, and the local Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is your offensive coordinator. They are the local destination experts and are there to help you work toward accomplishing your meeting’s goals and objectives.
Best of all, CVB’s love partnering with meetings of all sizes! In fact, most destinations have people on their team dedicated to smaller meetings that don’t have dedicated full-time meeting planners. Your CVB sales professional can assist you with:
- Determining which hotels provide the best fit – by style, size, sleeping room rate, and amenities.
- Advising you when you are creating an RFP.
- Serving as your representative to the hotels that have received your RFP, fielding questions they may have as well as collecting completed proposals on your behalf.
- Scheduling a site visit.
- Acting as your advocate throughout your meeting planning process.
No question is too big or too small for your CVB. They truly are the destination experts and best of all – their services are free to you! They know the ins and outs of their city and are here to make your meeting a success. Jason Outman, offers, “We want to make sure every meeting that comes to our destination is so successful, that they will want to return in the future, either for another meeting, or with their family.”
To get in touch with a CVB sales professional in over 140 destinations, visit empowerMINT.com. At empowerMINT.com, you can search by region, or if you know which city you are interested in, you can go directly to the local destination page. At the destination home page, you can get contact information as well as search for hotels based on size, distance to the airport, and much, much more.