WHO AM I? KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!

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...

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...

Top 10 Lessons from 10 Years in Meeting Planning: Reflecting on a Decade in Business

I haven’t done it all; but I’ve seen a lot. I started my meeting and conference planning business in 2004 and have learned a tremendous amount along the way – some of it the hard way. Here are a few nuggets I share with you: 1. How you treat people makes a difference. As planners we deal with a spectrum of personalities and individual agendas. It is critical to treat everyone with respect, even if they don’t deserve it. 2. Boundaries are paramount. Part of that respect for people includes you. Meeting planning is inherently back breaking, so protecting your integrity and physical self is important. 3. Educate yourself. Go to industry events, join an association, read a publication and have coffee with a competitor. It is too easy to fall behind and into a rut if we don’t plan on maintaining education. 4. There is a lesson in everything. I fired a marquis client because they did not trust or respect my staff or me. I am proud of that decision, but looking back I clearly see how I could have made the relationship work. Reflect on the sub-par times; there’s a lesson there. 5. Strive to be the dumbest person in the room. Surround yourself with extremely smart people – it will have a positive impact on you and your career. 6. Laugh. A sense of humor (about yourself) will get you through almost anything, including a power outage during your ice cream break or a tornado during your outdoor cocktail reception. 7. Communicate as if it were a headline in the New York Times. When communicating...

15 Travel Tips for Meeting Planners

We all know how crazy travelling can be these days. Unexpected delays, mishandling of luggage, scary, turbulent, white-knuckling rides…and that’s just the cab to the airport! Whether you’re going on a site visit or attending a conference you’ve toiled for months and years to plan, here are some tips to make your trip as smooth and stress-free as possible: 1) Download the “1Weather” app. It’s free, and has the most accurate and detailed forecasts and radar for your trip. Five minutes on this app will save you five hours stranded at the airport. 2) Google map the street view of your destination to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land. It’ll help you avoid the inevitable parade of missed turns, u-turns, and wrong turns back on the interstate. 3) Familiarize yourself with the restaurants in the area of the hotel and check their reviews beforehand. Plan your meals in advance. This will save you more time than you can imagine, and help you avoid the questionable tacos at El Chalupa. 4) When renting a car, always check in-terminal vs. off-terminal locations. On most travel sites, this difference will be specified, and choosing the in-terminal option will shave off at least an hour’s worth of waiting for and riding the shuttle bus. 5) When packing, mentally walk yourself through each day of your trip and exactly what you plan to wear for each occasion. Don’t overpack unnecessarily and throw your back out lugging what feels like a rack of bowling balls. 6) When checking into the hotel, chat up the front desk staff. “How long have you worked here?”...

You Know You’re a Meeting Planner When…

– You’re asked to do a lot more with a lot less. “Deb, we need to bring that meal cost down to 37 cents per attendee. And the Red Roof Inn is running some great group deals. I think we can get 4 in a room this year.” – The sound testing works perfectly. Until the speaker begins and no one can hear a thing. Including the speaker. – You’re asked to plan a conference in Minneapolis…in January. With a straight face. – The “special accommodations” of the keynote speaker require you to find a rare, $50,000 Persian rug for their suite at the Intercontinental. – You’ve carefully vetted the menu, and later find out the Council of North American Rabbis was served a shrimp cocktail appetizer with a parmesan pork entree’. – The Expo floor opens at 9:30 a.m., but is printed as 9:30 p.m. on the conference program. – The event you’ve planned for 5 years is finally happening at the NYC Javits Center. The week of the transit strike. – One of the conference attendees had too much to drink and fell asleep in the Marriott elevator. Then woke up and threatened to sue every person at the conference, including the valet parking team and custodians. – You’re told to plan next year’s International Conference at the Pumpkin Grove, Wisconsin Expo Center because the CEO has a summer cottage there. – Lower budgets demand more creativity for entertainment. “No ice sculptures this year. But Barry from accounting will do some card tricks for the opening cocktail reception.” – The keynote speaker encourages the use of social...

What to Do When Tragedy Strikes

It’s hard listening to the news these days with everything going on in the world. As a meeting planner, my heart goes out to the people traveling to the AIDS Conference on the downed Malaysia Airlines flight. I’ve certainly handled my share of emergency situations on-site at conferences, including having to cancel a meeting in Washington, DC on September 12, 2001 due to the tragic events of the day before. Although we had speakers and attendees on flights that had to be turned around, we fortunately did not have any participant fatalities en route to our conference. As a meeting planner, how do you handle such an event on-site at your conference? What is appropriate in this circumstance? No doubt, if I was running a conference that endured such a fate, I would make sure that we paid our respects to those who perished. But how? A moment of silence allows everyone to quietly reflect upon the events in their own way and show their respect to those who perished. While it may seem the right thing to do for some, offering a prayer may offend some people. I would remind anyone making remarks to the audience that all remarks should be kept secular. Offering a place for people to leave messages may help the healing process for attendees. This could be handled in a number of ways: Line a wall with flip charts and provide markers Provide post-its where participants can write a message and post them to a board. Start a #hashtag where people can tweet their condolences. Tone down any receptions or parties planned to take...