The Importance of Memorable Events

Event planners from all walks of life are often given a straightforward task: “Make this event great!” As if you were planning on making it a catastrophe. This directive is issued from the top, either from internal leadership or the head of client organizations, and is the one and only thing that you’ll be judged by when it’s all said and done. But what does it really mean? Greatness in the event space is defined by many as a smooth, crisp operation where everything goes according to plan. The shuttle busses don’t break down. A hurricane doesn’t force a last minute site relocation. The tuna tartar doesn’t cause a salmonella outbreak amongst the Australian delegation. But what event planners define as success, attendees and clients define as minimum expectations. Of course the food will be great. Of course everything will run smoothly. These are their baselines. And they will not wow them, nor help them define the event as great. So, what will? Great memories based on unique moments. This is the time to break out the goodie bag of unique vendors, unique venues, creative applications and user-friendly systems that will make each attendee feel like a king and queen. Who do you know in the area that can make these people sing, dance and laugh in a way they never have before? What app developers can put something together that will make each person feel like Steve Jobs – with the ability to change everything with the click of a button? You have these folks in your rolodex – now it’s time to use them. Don’t be afraid... read more

What to Expect When Your Venue is a Restaurant

If you’re new to temporary or On Site Management (OSM) work, you might think that working a few hours at a dinner program in a fancy restaurant is an easy-peasy assignment.  And sometimes they can be, but other times, watch out!  When you work a number of these programs you’re bound to experience all kinds of interesting ‘happenings’, and sometimes the challenges will be a test for even the most experienced planners. So, what can you expect if you’re a new OSM and/or this is your first restaurant-venue assignment?  Here are a few tips that will help you towards a successful program in what might be new territory for you as a planner: 1)      Upon arrival, clarify the name of your group as it’s listed at the front check-in which may be by the pharmaceutical name or by the drug or other identifiers.  This is important because many times there are multiple medical programs going on in these popular restaurants and attendees get confused right along with the wait staff.  This is also important for you at registration to reconfirm what session you have.  I’ve actually had guests sign in, sit down, commence eating before they realized they were at the wrong lecture! 2)      Understand that restaurant function space is not as user-friendly as hotels, but you have to work with what you get.  When you walk into the room, check the site lines for AV as well as traffic flow for servers and move tables accordingly making sure to work with restaurant staff as you do so.  Because of limited space, there are normally undesirable seats so do... read more

Great Storytelling to Grow Your Business

A steady stream of clients is the lifeblood of any event planner’s business. Most event professionals go to great pains to ensure they have a crisp website, strong SEO presence and a robust network of referrals that keep things flowing. But that’s only one part of the equation, and it often overlooks a critical component – clients buy you as much as your business. When you’re in front of people at a networking event, or during a face to face prospect meeting, one key above all others will ensure they’re hooked on the story of you and become personally invested in you as their event planner. Here are the best ways to ensure your origin story becomes a hit with your prospects: 1) Begin with the relatable story of your past life. No, not the past life when you were the 14th century Queen of England. The life you had before you started your event planning business. Most of your prospects have a similar job to this one and would love to follow their dreams as you have. Hook them on your journey. 2) Talk about the “A-Ha” Moment. That inspiration moment in time when you decided it was time to take the plunge – what inspired you to do it, how you knew it was the moment. People become attached to pure emotion, especially when it comes from a place of inspiration. 3) Reinforce your Decision. Talk about how it was the best decision of your life, and how you wouldn’t change a thing if given the opportunity. When people know you love what you do, they know... read more

African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program

I was recently given the honor of speaking at the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda.  AWEP is a U.S. Department of State initiative started in 2010 to help support women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa.  In front of an audience of 17 women business owners, I spoke of how, despite coming from vastly different perspectives, we each face similar challenges when it comes to being a woman in business. Although my words needed to be translated, our unspoken language penetrated the room.  As each woman stood to introduce themselves and share a bit about their business, it was evident to me how passionate they were about their products and how eager they were to learn.  These talented artisans showed off their handmade jewelry, clothing, accessories and home décor items with pride. I was a bit concerned after seeing their talent that I may not have much to teach these women who had obviously already come so far.  But it was my goal to inspire and encourage them and with such an ambitious and enthusiastic audience, this was easy to do. With a room full of smart, entrepreneurial-minded women, the question and answer session provided a time to share information.  I must say though, that I believe I was the one in the room with the most to learn.  I gained so much from the experience and left with a much greater understanding of what the women of Rwanda face in starting and growing their own businesses. I wish to thank the U.S. Department of State for the invitation to speak at such a worthwhile... read more

Medical Meetings: Compliance and Transparency, and NPIs, Oh My!

By now, most of us on the planning side are aware of the sweeping changes that took place in the management of medical meetings since the passage of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA), aka “The Sunshine Act.” Since 2009, small steps have been taken to put guidelines in place for enforcement, but as of August 2013, it got serious. That was the start date for the first reporting period of all gifts and payments greater than $10 made to physicians and hospitals by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. What does this mean to planners? Well, for starters, now we’ve all become compliance monitors, right? But do you even know what that means? Because there are so many terms thrown around at each medical meeting we manage, I thought it might be beneficial to provide a brief cheat sheet of frequently used terminology that we are now seeing on our paperwork. Think of this as your “Cliff’s Notes” version of compliance communications! So here goes: Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA). The PPSA officially began in August 2013. In its simplest form, PPSA is meant to discourage improper influences by the pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing industry over research activities that could compromise the integrity of patient health care. Think of this as the pharmaceutical industry policing themselves in lieu of the government taking over this job. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As the repository for all the medical reports that are now being generated, CMS is responsible for public postings. Compliance and Compliance Officers. In its simplest form, compliance means obeying the guidelines set forth by the PPSA. Compliance... read more

Confused Over New Pharma Guidelines?

Yes, it’s tax time again. And if you lose sleep just thinking about a potential audit of your own personal income because you might possibly have stretched the truth just a teensy bit about some business deductions you made last year … well, consider yourself lucky you’re not a meeting planner for one of the big pharmaceutical companies. It’s possible they’re all sleep deprived now that the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (PPSA) has taken effect. Thanks to PPSA, a key part of the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010, meeting planners and on site managers can now be held accountable for both the information we gather at our meetings and the accuracy of the final submission of those reports. What does this mean to me? As a member of the GCG network, it’s pretty much a given that you’ve worked some pharmaceutical meetings; and for those of us who’ve been at this a long time, “Oh, the changes we’ve seen!”  To the point, it’s no longer good enough that we capture barely readable contact information from our program attendees. You know, the doctors that don’t like taking the time to sign their name on your registration forms?  Well, the requirement for accuracy and compliance in whatever format is requested per client program is our new mantra, and rather than fight the new systems you’d best jump on the PPSA train as fast as possible to avoid being run over by it.  Simply put, now more than ever before as a GCG On-Site Manager (OSM), it’s your responsibility to pay attention to those pesky details that may seem ridiculous but... read more

4 More Creative Ways to Jazz up Your Next Meeting

Meetings that are fun, unique, and memorable are sure to draw rave reviews from your attendees and will reflect positively on your sense of style. In the first installment of this two part series, we outlined three creative ways to take your events to the next level. As promised, here are a few more ideas about how you can help ensure your next meeting leaves a lasting impression. 1. Schedule Your Event Around a Small, Local Festival Planning a conference in New Orleans during the Super Bowl would, to put it delicately, be a catastrophe regarding pricing, flights, and hotel capacity. But many locales have smaller events and festivals that don’t tie up hotel rooms or raise prices and which can be fun diversions for your attendees. A local ethnic parade or food festival would be a great touch to show your folks a great time. 2. Invest in a Great App Most large meetings these days have an app that shows the schedule and floor space, but very few truly engage the users to create a hands-on experience. An app that opens a chat room for attendees to discuss the sessions, upload pictures, plan outings, and provide continuous feedback would be a tremendous value-add for everyone. 3. Rent a Unique Venue for the Large Celebration A lot of planners rent out nightclubs or other similar spaces for “the party,” but ballparks, museums, and kitschy restaurants can also offer the same amount of fun with a unique angle. Focus on food and entertainment that fits the backdrop of the venue to create an all-encompassing experience. 4. Have Continuous Prize... read more

3 Creative Ways to Jazz up Your Next Meeting

The reviews from your last several events have been good. The food is acceptable. Decent enough speakers. No major problems. And, thankfully, everyone had a good enough experience that they plan on returning. So, the question becomes … Where Do We Go from Here? Complacency is a common issue in most professions. You find a routine, a groove, a pattern, and you stick with it until something goes wrong and forces you to change the way you do business. But what if, instead of waiting for the formula to go awry, you took the bull by the horns and proactively made things better? This is the first in a two part series that outlines some ways you can take your meetings from good to great to truly memorable. What are you waiting for? Jazz up your next meeting, get people raving, and carve out your niche as a go-to event planner: 1. Kick Things Off with Interactive Entertainment. Most large meetings will start with a fairly entertaining opening speaker, but a presenter that can engage the audience with activities will set a fun and lively tone for the entire event. 2. Have a Tasting During the Opening Reception. The standard wine, cheese, crackers, and fruit display just doesn’t light up the room like it used to. Find a local vineyard and cheese/jam manufacturer and invite them to have a tasting at your event. Local is de rigueur these days, and it will allow your attendees to have a true taste of the area where the meeting is being held. It’s also a great way to build lasting relationships with... read more


If you do any amount of temporary work at all, it’s bound to happen at some point, especially with the typical pharmaceutical sponsored dinner events. You show up at your hotel/restaurant/meeting venue only to discover there are multiple similar meetings going on at the exact same time as yours. So, the hostess/concierge will ask, “Which group is yours?” TEMP: “Um, the pharma one?” VENUE: “We have three pharma groups tonight.” TEMP: “Um, the GCG group?” And, 99% of the time that’s the wrong answer. As a temp, the groups we work are almost always booked under one of the following ways: the name of the sponsoring pharmaceutical company, the name of the company that has been hired to manage the program, the drug/product being promoted, or the presentation’s actual title. So, while it’s technically true you are on site working for GCG, rarely will you find the GCG name showing on any of the venue paperwork. For the most part, the venue’s contact will only be the party/company name that’s financially responsible, which is why it’s really important that before you arrive you clearly understand who the ultimate client is and know them by company name. The point of this discussion is to make sure that you know before you go who you are ultimately working for on each event. This is obtained through paying attention to the paperwork issued by your GCG rep as it is always clearly contained within those documents and if necessary, make a copy of the assignment sheet and take it with you for reference. The best way to put this is ‘know before... read more

Solving Conflict with a Client: 3 Hypothetical Situations

Relationships with clients are complex, tricky things. They’re very similar to the dynamic a teenager has with their parents. You love them, you hate them, you laugh with them, you fight with them, but ultimately, you depend on them. This wrinkle in the relationship creates a scenario where simply walking away from a conflict isn’t always a viable option. These folks pay the bills, but they also have to operate within mutually agreed upon expectations. This is why effective conflict management with clients is critical to your success as a meeting planner. Here are some common scenarios, and the best ways to handle them. 1) You’ve planned an event with an expectation of 800 attendees, and the client turns around a week before the event and tells you to prepare for 200 more. Initial reaction: “WHAT!?! How am I going to accommodate room blocks? Catering? Seating?” How to approach the client: “I understand your need to accommodate more attendees, but as you know, we have very limited space at these venues and hotels. I’m going to check with our vendors to see exactly what their capacity is, then get back with you. We’ll do the best we can to take care of as many people as we can”. Why this works: Demonstration of a good faith effort, while also maintaining realistic expectations. Clients expect that you’ll go the extra mile for them, but they have to know you’re not Superman / Wonder Woman. 2) Too many cooks in the kitchen. The client has multiple people giving you mixed messages about how the event should go. Initial reaction: “How can... read more

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