Meeting Planning Companies: Experience Counts

 Why 1Meeting planning companies come in many shapes and sizes; from mega-size companies to one-person shops.  The huge companies can provide everything from meeting planning to rebate programs while the small shops offer great pricing but can often only offer the basics of travel and logistical planning.  If you need help with your meeting, how do you know which one to pick?  There seems to be a planning company for every need and each one says they are the best at what they offer.

How can you be sure they can deliver on their promises?

For my money, I’m going with the company that has the most experienced staff.  Anyone can purchase commodities like rooms, food and AV; but can they get the best value for your money?  An experienced senior planner can.  They know the going rates, what hotels are willing to give away and how to negotiate an advantageous contract.

Experienced planners also have a better understanding of communication strategies, adult learning, risk mitigation and the latest trends in hospitality.  Using their extensive industry relationships, they know what suppliers are hungry and will offer deals and who will not.  They know the newest properties and hottest destinations.

But the value of experience doesn’t end there.  The greatest value of experience is during on-site operations.  Meetings are complex events with many moving parts; from transportation to workshops to F&B.  When everything happens according to plan, anyone can operate a meeting.  But that’s not real life.  Most meeting plans require fine-tuning and adjustments as the plan encounters unexpected changes and attendee dynamics.  Sometimes the challenges are simple and easy to handle.  Other times, they can be very complex and difficult to manage; like severe weather, infrastructure failure or wide-spread illness. That’s when you need a planner with the training, experience and resources to address the issue and make sure your attendees are safe and secure.

When you are looking to hold an effective meeting that provides the greatest value to your attendees and your company, look for meeting planning companies with the most experienced staff.  They will save you time and money while insuring that regardless of what happens, your attendees will have the best experience possible.

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Corporate Meeting Planning – Trend Cycles

400-06172676Corporate meeting planning has gone through a number of permutations over the last decade, but has anything truly changed? I’ve been pondering this question for a while and have finally reached a firm conclusion.

Yes, but not really.

Having spent over 26 years planning corporate meetings, I’ve observed many cycles of change in the industry. These cycles come and go, usually lasting two or three years before things swing back to the other extreme. For example:

  • In-house planners give way to outsourcing and a return to core competencies
  • Creative or technical WOW is replaced by a greater focus on content
  • Resort hotels lose out to urban or airport properties
  • Budget-conscious events get more expensive by adding food and beverage upgrades, amenities and attendee gifts

This is just a partial list but you get the idea. It seems the more things change, the closer we get to where we began. As a result, what may seem like a major change in the industry is often just another swing in a cycle. Currently we are in a no-frills, do-it-yourself cycle where cost control is more important than the efficacy of the event; but, it will swing around when the need for innovation and growth replaces maintaining share price as the driver of corporate America.

To me, the most interesting cycle to observe, and the one that has the most impact on my business, is the corporate leadership cycle. The more challenging the economic and business environment becomes, the greater the focus on self-reliant leaders who manage by edict and resist input from the people around them. Then, when business improves or the marketplace demands innovation, these dominant leaders are replaced by managers who welcome input and manage by consensus.

But the biggest change in corporate meeting planning isn’t part of a cycle and many companies haven’t a clue to its significance. Corporate audiences have changed dramatically; and how we communicate with them has to change as well. The whole model of adult education has evolved to accommodate the generational differences in the learning process and meeting formats must change to remain effective.

As an old planning dog, I’ve had to learn some new tricks. It is incumbent on me to stay at the forefront of industry knowledge, techniques and best practices so I can provide the greatest value to my clients.

That’s something that will never change.

 

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