Six weeks before the annual conference for 600 people is not the best time to begin your search for a meeting manager … four weeks is even less desirable. I had submitted my initial proposal about 75 days prior to major arrivals and followed up regularly without being a stalker. It was a complex program and I was doing my research a couple of times a week to see what new nuggets might appear that would give me some talking points. I knew my references had been checked so I was curious why we weren’t moving forward.
Finally! Twenty eight days prior to major arrivals I get the call and it is all systems go! Some of the things that were completed were:
Research and secure an exhibit services company. Get the exhibit packets to the exhibitors, do floor plans, work on signage and security.
Schedule and hire temporary staff for registration and badge checkers. Also find and schedule security guards for the meeting rooms.
Find and schedule volunteers for technical duties. Find flights and ground transportation and manage reimbursement.
Work with the hotel on VIPs, staff rooms, speaker needs, menus, staff meals, transportation, amenities, and all special considerations in the contract. Speaker needs included hiring models, arranging piano delivery and researching translators.
Work with the committee chairs to tie loose ends and work it into the overall theme and timeline.
Review and print a 28 page program. Research several printers for price, delivery date and quality less than a week before the show.
Work on stage décor and miscellaneous audio visual pieces.
Write the survey content for daily feedback and print 3000 sheets.
Supervise the delivery and inventory of stored equipment.
Review no-shows and reservations changes daily.
Attend the pre-convention meeting to be sure we are set up for success. Maintain daily contact with the chairman’s needs and the hotel making changes as needed.
Research nightlife and plan social events.
There were moments when I felt like a firefighter … little blazes would erupt that required immediate attention and blazes were popping like popcorn all around us. We managed each blaze with a smile to keep everyone around us calm. The excitement was exhilarating AND EXHAUSTING but the show needed to go on. Once the first day was behind us, we knew the majority of the opportunities had surfaced and the program was in motion. The chairman was able to socialize with the attendees and knew that the meeting management was secure. I made lots of new friends and was able to use my network of supplier friends to create great value for my client. We presented ourselves as a cohesive team so there was trust and warm greetings.
So here are the 10 tips for an Effective Meeting Manager:
Ask lots of questions so the goals are clear. Get to know the key players and ask for advice.
Prioritize those items that require more lead time and keep a checklist of those things that still need attention.
Present at least 3 bids and be sure you are working with people who respond to deadlines
Use the convention bureau for local referrals
Don’t engage in SWAMP (Speaking Without a Meaningful Purpose) talk regardless of the pressure around you.
SMILE even when your eyes are bloody from no sleep.
Partner with the convention services manager to be sure they know your needs as they are ultraistic service folks who enjoy solving problems and they are POWERFUL! Respect the time the convention service manager is spending on the group. Insist they go home when there is no longer a need for them to be around. They are easy to reach if there really IS a problem you can’t handle.
Watch the bottom line. Don’t say no … suggest alternatives that provide savings and be sure to praise generously.
Manage the budget daily and get the final approved bill to the client within 10 days of the final guest’s departure.
The final test of an effective meeting manager is when their fee is paid for with the savings the group enjoys.
I am pleased to say that my greatest reward is not the praise and testimonials, although those are exciting. The greatest reward is to earn the status as their trusted meeting planner and I will be planning and managing their meetings in the future.
If you know anyone who needs an effective meeting manager, please contact A2Z Meetings & Events at 813-990-0950 or www.a2zmeetingsandevents.com. It would bring me joy to put the pieces together for YOUR next successful event.