Top 10 Lessons from 10 Years in Meeting Planning

Lessons Learned

Written by Mary Adams

Mary E. Adams, CMP, is the President of ECG, a full-service B2B Meeting Planning, Association Management and Exec Ed firm, focused on the financial services industry. She’s also the Executive Director of Bergen County Professional Women’s Network (BCPWN) and serves as an Editorial Advisory Board member of Real Assets Adviser. Mary holds an MBA from Fordham University, New York. For more information, please visit

September 24, 2014

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 via email, social media, text or phone, if you would not be proud to publish the conversation in the paper, don’t say it; don’t write it; don’t post it. Technology prohibits you from deleting embarrassment.
  8. It’s not rocket science, but it is an amazing skill. Don’t sell yourself short on this profession. What we do is plan, problem solve, jump through hoops, move support beams in ballrooms. We create experiences, communities and education.
  9. Not all meeting planners are created equal. Bad meeting planners are a dime a dozen. Excel at what you do. What’s your niche? What value do you bring to your clients?
  10. This job is cool. I never dreamed I would be a meeting planner because I didn’t even know the profession existed. It is challenging and creative, frustrating and rewarding. In one day’s work we are HR, IT, CEO, Chef, Therapist, Lawyer and Housekeeping.

I feel fortunate to have weathered financial crises, industry sector downturns and budget cuts over the last decade. I am indebted to the amazing people I have met, the knowledge and wisdom they have shared and the impact they continue to make. I welcome the next twenty years…

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