The new catalogue came in the mail today from your local adult education center.  You open it up and find a course on how to become an Independent Meeting Planner.  “Wow!  That sounds glamorous!  I think I’ll give that a try!”  Before you block your nose and jump in with two feet, here are some things to consider.

  1. Paperwork, yuck!  Once you open the doors to your new business, there’ll be all sorts of paperwork to fill out… and it never ends!  Local, state and federal governments want to know about you, there’s insurance to get, bank accounts to open, all sorts of boring, time consuming details.  Consult with professionals about what you will need to do to start a new business because that’s what you’re doing… starting a new business.
  2. Sales and Marketing.  You THOUGHT you were going to be planning glamorous meetings on the paradise island of Kauai, but what you’re really going to be doing is cold calling, networking, and writing proposals (all right from the luxury of a corner of your family room).  You can figure that you’ll be spending a large amount of your time doing sales and marketing rather than meeting planning.  So I hope you enjoy it!  And if you think that’s only for a while until things get going, well, think again!  You must never stop doing sales and marketing, you must always continue to get new clients in order to keep your business going.
  3. Glamorous, Glamorous, Glamorous!  If I had a dime for every interview I had with a young, eager, newby meeting planner who told me the reason they wanted to do meeting planning was because it was glamorous.  Well, it’s NOT!  Even when you’re actually lucky enough to be planning a meeting on that paradise island.  Meeting Planning can be as complex as negotiating multi-million dollar hotel contracts and as tedious as stuffing badges until 3:00am.  It can be stressful, thankless, deadline-driven, back-breaking work.  Long hours without a break…I’m exhausted just thinking about it!  (Okay, I have to admit, I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some of the most spectacular resorts… and meeting planning has afforded me the opportunity to travel to many places I never would have dreamed of going on my own, but I just want you to know, it takes a LOT of work to get there.)
  4. The Devil’s in the Details.  If you’re not detail-oriented, forget it!  You must be organized in order to keep it all straight.  And you’ve got to be able to multi-task.  You would be surprised to learn everything that goes into each step of the planning, and if you haven’t paved the way for every little detail, it will show.

I don’t mean to discourage you.  (Well, yes I do.)  I just want you to be prepared and go into this with your eyes wide open.  And if you do, it can be a very satisfying, rewarding career.  I wish you lots of luck and much success!

 

Lori Gershaw started her career in the event industry in 1989 as an Independent Meeting Planner and grew her business into a full-service meeting planning company.   In 2003 she founded her second company, GCG Event Partners, a nationwide network of Independent Meeting Planners and On-Site Meeting Managers.

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