By Derek Grimaldi and Al Morgan, Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre.
Chaos is a common scenario for a lot of Meeting Planners. It’s not the easiest job and sometimes you tend to lose perspective. That’s why we picked the brains of several members of the IACC community and came up with some effective insider tips. We only gathered from the best, so use our information wisely!
1) IS THE VENUE AS PASSIONATE ABOUT MEETINGS AS YOU ARE?
It is likely that you are a Meeting Planner because of your passion for organising events and bringing people together into an environment where they feel inspired and valued. You will be a 'detail' person and will know that meetings are an opportunity to help people and organisations perform at the top of their game! But can you say the same about the venue and the staff you are working with on your RFP? Don't be afraid to ask them what percentage of their overall business are meetings and conferences as it will tell you a lot about how they structure and skill their staff. If meetings are their staple and they value being certified by associations like International Association of Conference Centres, it is a sure-fire indication that they take meetings seriously! The prominence of the Meeting Information pages on their website is another good way to figure this out!
2) CONSIDER THE PROFILE OF YOUR DELEGATES AND THEIR VENUE PREFERENCES
It’s difficult to always achieve this, but considering that your delegates might have a different view of what the ideal venue looks like can have a number of benefits. If you put a delegate in an uninspiring environment for days on end for a training workshop, expect uninspiring results in terms of their retained learning. Organisational culture, demographics and even the countries that delegates travel from to attend your meetings will all play a part in their venue preferences. Do you know your delegates this well? See some of the recent research proving how different generations value venues in another way and you will see that we do not all think the same!
3) EXPECT TO BE TREATED BY YOUR VENUE TEAM LIKE YOU TREAT YOUR DELEGATES
It’s not too much to ask and don’t settle for anything less! You and your delegates should be treated in the way that you treat your delegates. After all, it’s the hospitality industry right? It doesn’t matter how big or small your meeting is. You should leave it feeling like your group was the only one at the venue that day, even if you were one out of ten! If you do not feel this way, just tell your Conference Planner. A good venue will want you to walk away feeling completely satisfied and pleased about choosing them.
4) DO YOU GET A BEAUTY PARADE OR A MEETING & SITE INSPECTION?
There is a lot that can be read into the first visit you make to a venue when considering it for your next meeting. Did you get a guided tour of the facilities with the obvious pointed out? Or did your Conference Planner see this as a business meeting to understand your requirements, before looking to match these with their venue services and facilities? In other words, did they see this as an opportunity to learn what is important for YOUR meeting, or did you get the same parade that every other Meeting Planner gets? Whether they are organising a training course, board meeting or conference?! Try calling the venue an hour before arrival and leave a message from a fictitious named person and then see how well the message is captured and relayed back to you upon arrival. Communication is an important tell-tale sign of an operationally efficient venue. Just consider the impact of your CEO not getting that all-important message when they attend your meeting!
5) CONNECTIVITY ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH NOW
These days we couldn’t imagine a venue without WiFi anymore and that's a good thing of course. But now we’re entering into the phase where fast stable broadband is an expectation and the average delegate needs to connect two devices at their meeting, if not three!
Ask the venue what the speed of the WiFi (bandwidth) is and check out what the minimum is that you need for your meeting by using an online bandwidth calculator. DO NOT settle for less because you don’t receive any complaints. That will not wash with your delegates when they fail to connect during their presentation and the essential informative YouTube video blocks halfway through...
6) BRING SOCIAL MEDIA OFF THE TABLET AND MAKE IT PART OF THE FURNITURE!
Social Media Displays are coming into their own right now. At your next conference, consider that there are many different attendee touch points that can both benefit the conference and attendees, beyond hoping that delegates are tuned into their Social Media App on their smartphone. Creating a “Social Media Hub” display, where all social media platforms come together in one place is exciting. It allows guests to engage with other attendees while sharing the happenings across the venue space! Cvent SocialWall and Eventstagram for live display feeds are worth a look!
7) NEGOTIATE THE RIGHT PACKAGE FOR YOU!
A good venue expects to mound its product around a Meeting Planners needs, it’s called being flexible! No two meetings are the same and a good conference centre operates to allow flexibility and creativity to provide the best meeting experiences! Your Conference Planner will want to know about any challenges that you may be having from a services or budget perspective.
8) SPEND YOUR ALLOCATED BUDGET ON ITEMS THAT WILL PROVIDE THE HIGHEST IMPACT TO EACH GUEST
Often Corporate Meeting Planners are given a budget by their boss and are told to “Book this for me please!!” Conference Centre meeting planners are happy to help you find the best bang for your buck. For example we might suggest if you are down to your last $300 in your budget and you are planning a dinner for 30, perhaps adding a fourth course to your dinner would have more impact on everyone attending, than four $75.00 centrepieces. Conference Centres always have something simple that can be placed in the middle of your tables that will fit into the overall look. Ask us for help. As you already noticed, we love sharing our ideas and thoughts.
9) START YOUR MEETING EARLY, END EARLY
This is applicable especially if you have a number of guests that are local and are driving to your meeting. If you start at 7:30am instead of 8:30am, you allow your attendees the opportunity to beat heavier city rush hours. Likewise if you start early, finish at 3:30pm. You beat the afternoon rush hour and it will feel like you are giving your attendees an afternoon off if they usually work until 4:30pm. Also, you get the first opportunity to partake in shared coffee breaks and earlier starts might allow you to schedule an 11:30am or 11:45am lunch to beat the rush there as well.
10) ASK FOR A MEETING TO REVIEW THE FINAL INVOICE
All Conference Centres have their own format of providing you with your final invoice. Ask your Meeting Planner for a face-to-face meeting or a phone conversation to go through the final invoice line-by-line. Email is not as efficient a method to review this matter. Direct conversation is most helpful when dealing with tax structures, gratuities and attrition charges. If you encounter a property that gives you a feeling that they are trying to find a way out of this post event meeting, be wary. Ask them about this meeting when you initially book, just to see what kind of reaction you get. Every professional Conference Centre Planner should be thrilled to have a chance to review the invoice with you as soon as possible after the event is over. It will help with a quicker payment and will facilitate both parties.
That sums up our 10 best Insider tips and we are sure that they can be of value to your work. At IACC we find these kinds of guidelines important, as it makes working as a Meeting Planner easier and more professional. That’s exactly why we don’t mind sharing this essential information. So absorb it, make good use of it and achieve your full potential as a professional Meeting Planner!