#PlannersAre: a new profile for the meeting planner

In the past weeks we have explored many different skills and functions of the meeting planner and we have heard many impressive stories from a planner’s working day. If you consider the many responsibilities and roles of meeting planners, then ‘planner’ does not seem an accurate term.

Multi-tasking Business Woman

“An event planner wears many hats. Depending on the client, some expect you to be a psychologist, a referee, a babysitter or a negotiator while others have little respect for your expertise or what works best in your venue even though you have produced thousands of events”                                                                                          (Kate Mazzarella-Minshall)


Several planners feel that they don’t get enough respect for their profession. Most people underrate how much time, effort and creativity it a successful event requires.

“I watched how clients showed up to events with their own preconceived notion of how things were done and devalue the process it took to make their event successful. No recognition, no thoughtfulness and no respect for the profession. They would walk away saying ‘I could have done that’ it almost like having someone look at a Picasso painting and say ‘I could have done that’.”                                                                      (Vanessa Farley)

From planner to manager?

Planners organize every detail of a meeting, coordinate all finances and communication, are first contact for all problems, questions and emergencies. Wouldn’t meeting/event manager be a better term for this job?

“Sometimes I feel like I am the DOE – Director of Everything!”                       (Dianne Davis)

“I am an advocate for doing away with the term “planner” which sounds too much like a hobby and instead adopting project manager or producer. Those are much higher paid titles, and include more respect. I believe we can transform our industry by changing our title to one which uniformly garners respect and pay equal to that. Producer, Project Manager, those are well accepted by business circles, and I like the idea of adopting them. We do so much, we have so many fields of expertise that our industry should be paid in the 6 figures without so much as a thought. But I truly think the term ‘planner’ holds us back from that.”                                                                                      (Heather Mason)

Please tell me what you think!

How would you describe the profile of a planner? Do you think that ‘meeting planner’ is an appropriate term? What your suggestions?

Finally, I want to thank everybody who contributed to this series. I was fascinated by all the impressive stories you told me and without them I couldn’t have written these posts. Thank you so much!

#PlannersAre… Emergency Experts

By now we have explored many different skills and responsibilities of the meeting planner. Impressed? Well, we are not done yet. Have you ever been on an event where nothing, absolutely nothing went wrong? I don’t think so. For all small or big emergencies, you need to act quickly! Here are some examples.

130626 Blog Holland Meeting Planners Fire

The quick EMCEE

Conferences have such a busy schedule. For some participants this can be really confusing.

“I remember an emcee on a user conference, who jumped the gun on the agenda and hit the podium 45 minutes too early to make his housekeeping announcements. He nearly released 850 attendees to break (when there was no food set out yet) and upstaged the keynote speaker who was next up.
Luckily, I had a ‘notes’ function in the downstage monitor that allowed me to send a message only he could see: ‘Surprise! It’s your BOSSES turn to talk and THEN we’ll take a break. Groovy?’. I flashed it until he acknowledged with a small nod and he handled it like a pro by introducing the next speaker.”                                                 (Roberta Boucher, @ProEventGal)

Bug reception

Sometimes planners have to deal with unexpected, bad surprises, like defect technology, delayed speakers or… bugs.

“The reception was going to be held in an old barn, which has not been used for a week. When we arrived and opened the barn doors, my assistant and I screamed when we saw that the tables and the floor were COMPLETELY covered in bugs, spiders and mice. It was so terrible. We found an exterminator who was able to come out within an hour to spray the bugs and get the mice out. We kept guests at cocktail hour for an extra 45 minutes until the caterer could set the room. None of the vendors could eat their dinner knowing what had happened.”                                                                                               (anomynous)

Food accidents

Planners can also find themselves in really dangerous situations, as this story shows.

“I remember being on hand when one of our temporary registration staff members ate a meal that caused her a serious allergy. I called the hotel emergency to dispatch an ambulance, ran ddown to the gift shop to get a package of Benedryl, came back up to calm her down and watch her while we waited for emergency personnel to arrive. Her face was swollen and she was scared because her throat was closing slowly. At that moment, I was not the Meeting Planner she reported to during her temp assign, I was the person caring for her during an unexpected emergency that could have ended up badly.”                                                                (Kendra McMurray, @Meeting_Pro)

Please tell me what you think!

Can you tell us a story from your work as a planner that underline your skills? And what other skills do you have? Leave a comment or send a tweet with the hashtag #PlannersAre. Let’s show the industry how broad the capacities of a meeting planner are.
Finally I want to thank Roberta Boucher and Kendra McMurray for their valuable input. More planner stories? Join my discussion group on LinkedIn.


#PlannersAre… Perfect Hosts

So far we have explored all the skills required for planning and organizing a succesful event. But your job is not done yet. At the event itself you might be more important than the CEO of you client company because you have been their most important contact person during the past weeks. It is your responsibility that the event continues smoothly. You have to be the perfect host.

Blog Holland Meeting Planners Hosts

Care for attendees

Attendees will approach you with all their questions and they will ask a lot of your attention. During the event you are not only the planner but also the host who takes care of them.

“I am present at every meeting I have planned to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch. I’m the housekeeper, who checks if the venue is perfectly clean and if all items are where they belong. I receive and welcome the guests, tell them where they bedrooms are and when the programme starts.” (Carmen Gonsalves)

“Planners are mothers (and fathers) as we sew on buttons, apply bandages, buy panty hoses, hand out Kleenex and know where the bathrooms are.” (Gail Martinson)

Support the team

The meeting owner and staff will rely on you during the meeting and expects that you have everything under control. Don’t let them down.

“We are essentially an arm of the hospitality industry. I’ve served as a former Director of Meetings ‘right hand man’, a disabled attendee’s transportation assistant, a facilitator’s sounding board, and even an exhibitor’s table staffer while they had to tend to an emergency! In each of these roles I had to go above my daily duties as a planner and give them the attention and care they needed at that time.” (Kendra McMurray, @Meeting_Pro)

Blog Holland Meeting Planners keep smiling

Keep smiling

Whatever goes wrong – while everyone else is allowed to freak out, you are not. You will keep calm and put out the fire. A good dose of humor is helpful.

“If you have to deliver bad news, a sense of humor is helpful. For example: your outdoor luncheon is moved indoors because of rain; the hotel runs out of your entree, a guest is put into a King room, but has brought his/her family along and had requested a 2 bedded room….a little levity goes a long way to lightening people up, calming them down, giving them a little perspective on the situation, while you attempt to rectify it.” (Beth Cooper-Zobott)

Please tell me what you think!

Can you tell us a story from your work as a planner that underline your hospitality? And what other skills do you have? Leave a comment or send a tweet with the hashtag #PlannersAre. Let’s show the industry how broad the capacities of a meeting planner are.

Finally I want to thank Carmen Gonsalves, Gail Martinson, Kendra McMurray and Beth Cooper-Zobott for their valuable input.

#Planners are… Researchers

So far we have explored many skills and functions of the meeting planner and I have to admit that I was really impressed by everything I have learned. But besides organizational, communicative and negotiation skills you need more. Knowledge, for example. Since you are the first contact person, all questions concerning the event will be directed to you. As a good planner, you will always have the answer.

Modern business concept

Walking information desk

Beside research for a proper destination and venue you need to explore the surroundings of your location. Your attendees will ask you for the way.

“Attendees often ask me questions like ‘Where is the next bus stop?’, ‘What is the fastest way to the city center?’ or ‘Do you know a good pub/restaurant around here?’. I always try explore my chosen destination to collect facts that might turn out useful for the attendees, like bus stops, train schedules, clubs, bars,supermarkets…”  (anomynous)

“I often have to plan international meetings with many international guests. This often turns out to become a study of foreign cultures and habits. How do I receive Russian visitors? What food do the Japanese prefer? And how can I make sure that my Spanish guests will be on time?”  (anomynous)


Of course, even the the meeting planner can’t know everything. In this case you have to find out.

“My clients are typically non-profits, which fall slightly under the “up with technology” in their company, much less their evnets. So in order to push and integrate updated features, it has fallen on me to either know and do, or know and oversee or not know and be willing to try. Among the things I have done are registration sites and databases, webpage design, social media, audio-visual requirements… shall I go on?” (Janna Bowman, @JDuckEvents)

Blog Holland Meeting planners discover


“I know a lot of planners use 3rd parties to source their meetings and research venues but for me, that’s not only the fun part but it’s the most important part.  During the data gathering and research phase for any event, it’s during this process you make the most connections and build the most relationships.

Outside of site research, we have to find the most cost effective ways to do business.  We are often tasks with finding assessing the best registration software, discovering new methods of attendee engagement, accessing the most sustainable supplies, securing the most inspiring speaker and integrating latest technology to meet the needs of the clients and/or attendees.  We pride ourselves on being creative so it only makes sense that we actually enjoy staying up nights researching.” (Kendra McMurray, @Meeting_Pro)

Please tell me what you think!

Can you tell us examples from your work as a planner that underline your overall expertise? And what other skills do you have? Leave a comment or send a tweet with the hashtag #PlannersAre. Let’s show the industry how broad the capacities of a meeting planner are.
Finally I want to thank Carmen Gosalves, Janna Bowman and Kendra McMurray for their valuable input.

#PlannersAre… Designers

If you have followed my previous posts, you will understand by now that planning a meeting demands all you attention and energy. But whatever kind of meeting you plan, it is more than simply coordinating the logistics. A meeting needs more than a venue with chairs and food to become an experience. It is up to you to create that experience. Or in other words:

“Planners are the key person who puts all the key ingredients or details of the recipe or meeting plan together to create the perfect dish or meeting.”           (Michele Shephard)

Blog Holland Meeting Planners Spyglass

It starts with listening…

When a client talks to a meeting planner for the first time he will have more or less an idea about the kind of event he wants. As Janna Bouwman told us in one of my previous posts this idea often turns out to be a mere vision. If there is no meeting designer who takes this task, it will be up to the planner to design the meeting the client has in mind.

“I have worked with a client who is in his 60’s now and has been with the organization for 30 years. The event I did for him is now in its 25th year.
The client kept saying, ‘We need more people to attend!’or ‘We need younger leaders to attend!’  He didn’t really have a plan how to do that, so I implemented and pushed through a strategy.

If we want to meet the younger audience we have to consider where they are: we meet them on their smartphones, social media and online.  So that was the route I had to take. The invitation was emailed to them using magazine flip technology. I created  a Facebook event page and an event hashtag. Registration was offered by a mobile app, which also included a conference map and schedule and a QR code for the conference. I also hired a photographer that within hours of a session had photos posted online for all attendees to view, share or print. 

The photos were a huge success with nearly 10,000 hits a day for 15 days following the conference with only 350 attendees.  The feedback from the guests were ‘this conference feels fresh.’ ‘The younger crowd brings an excitement and freshness to the discussions.’ By listening to my client and then establishing the path, goals and objectives and then to implement and achieve it throughout every aspect of the conference, he became the rockstar and I have a contract for the following year.” (Janna Bowman, @JDuckEvents)

Please tell me what you think!

Can you tell us a story from your work as a planner that underline your design skills? And what other skills do you have? Leave a comment or send a tweet with the hashtag #PlannersAre. Let’s show the industry how broad the capacities of a meeting planner are.

Finally I want to thank Janna Bowman, Michele Shephard and Carmen Gonsalves for their valuable input.

#PlannersAre… Lawyers and Politicians

In my previous blogposts we have explored the organizational and communicative skills of meeting planners. But if you want to survive as a meeting planner you need more. Planner, meeting owner and suppliers often have conflicting priorities and as a good planner you also need to keep the attendees in mind. If you want to reach the best result, namely, a succesful meeting, you will have to negotiate with all stakeholders – and you have to be good.


Dealing with suppliers

The demand for hotel services has steadily increased these past few years, tilting the negotiating leverage in favor of suppliers rather than meeting planners. The planner would need a strong will and good negotiation skills to achieve a nice deal for a meeting.

“Most of the times you will need to dicuss with the supplier about what services they will offer and at what price. Of course, we both want to struck a good deal, but I also have to keep my budget in mind. Therefore I always contact several suppliers so that I can compare their offers and get an idea about the prices I have to expect. A second offer can also be a great weapon during the negotiations”
(Carmen Gosalves)

I’m a big believer in creating partnerships with the sales managers I do business with and, whenever possible, I like to go back to them for my future meetings. Once a sales manager has earned my trust and delivered on their promises to me, that relationship is very valuable and one I’m not willing to risk by trying to force concessions or unrealistic demands on the property
(Paula Rigling)

Difficult meeting owners

 “I had a client I would label as my ‘worry wad’. I would provide her with extensive updates, spreadsheets, and production schedules. You name it she had it. But like clock work the day of her meeting or event she would freak out in a panic. I would get to the venue to set up and she would be there giving direction. It was so distracting.”
(Dafrine Jones-Forbes)

The meeting owner might have demands you cannot realize or which prevent him from reaching his goals for the meeting. Sometimes it seems completely impossible to satisfy the client. You need a lot of self-confidence to deal with such difficult clients and a smart communication strategy to convince them of your own plans.

Obama tough talk

You are the boss!

You are the planner, who coordinates everything and knows what is best for the meeting. Therefore you should be able to have the final say!

“I am a city wide event planner. I’m a negotiator, as I try to break down the walls of jealousy between the cities, and teach them to work together. I stand between the city associations and their merchants, becoming their advocate. I am the liaison between the merchants and their potential customers.”
(Pamela Gressett)

Please tell me what you think!

Can you tell us examples from your work as a planner that underline your negotiation skills? And what other skills do you have? Leave a comment or send a tweet with the hashtag #PlannersAre. Let’s show the industry how broad the capacities of a meeting planner are.

Finally I want to thank Carmen Gonsalves, Dafrine Jones-Forbes and Pamela Gressett for their valuable input!