#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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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“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… Communication Professionals

In my last blogpost we have explored the impressive organizational skills of meeting planners. A succesful corporate event requires not only perfect logistics but also efficient communication between the meeting owner, suppliers, staff and visitors. As a meeting planner you must be able to relate their very different needs.

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Revealing the vision

“More often than not, I have clients approach me that ‘want an event’. When I was first starting I ‘planned an event’ that was logistically sound, but the client came back and said that the event failed. After that, I realized I had to take more initiative and listen to what the client was not saying and create/establish the vision and establish the course and objectives for the event so that it was successful in the clients eyes.”  (Janna Bowman, @JDuckEvents)

Before you start planning a meeting you need to figure out the purposes of the meeting owner. It can be pretty tough to get the good answers for all your questions because often the meeting owner has not thought about them himself.

Managing suppliers and staff

The venue, the caterer, speakers, the repairman… everyone will contact you about anything that has to do with the meeting. You know what’s next on the task list. You know what will happen next and when. You know who is in charge for what. Since nobody but you will keep track of the whole event you need to be most important contact person for everyone.

Multi-tasking Business Woman

Writing, publishing, branding

“When I started in event planning, I never would have imagined how much writing I would do, nor would I consider it something on my job description.  But I have found that every invitation, every program booklet and printed piece, every press release, every welcome letter from the President, presentation remarks, speeches and every website/registration site contains text. Text which tells the story, conveys the vision, and states the objectives and reason for the publication/website –marketing.”  (Janna Bowman, @JDuckEvents)

“As a meeting planner you become the face of  your organization and brand.”    (Kendra McMurray, @Meeting_Pro)

Many planners have the additional task to invite attendees and promote the event. Next to the writing attendees will contact you before the event  and you will follow them up after. Your external communication influences the success of the event and the your company’s image.

Please tell me what you think

Can you tell us examples from your work as a planner that underline your communicative 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, Kendra McMurray and Janna Bowman for their valuable input.

#PlannersAre: Let’s reinvent the profile of the meeting planner

We have come very far with this blog by exploring green meetings and meeting design. We celebrated the very last Queen’s Day together and warmed up for IMEX in Frankfurt. Time to pay attention to the probably most important people of the meeting industry, the people who prepare, organize and manage all our events and conferences – the meeting planners.

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It was meeting planner and blogger Kendra McMurray who inspired me to this topic with her blogpost ‘We are more than just “Planners”‘. She created a crowdsourced list with all the labels and attributes that characterize a meeting planner. During the next weeks I would like to add more body to her list and that’s where YOU come into play.

Meeting planners are…

During IMEX in Frankfurt 2013 I asked people to fill in the sentence “Meeting planners are…” and I was able to collect many great suggestions. Now I would like to work them out, together with you. I want your stories and anecdotes that illustrate the hats that planners have to wear.

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Please tell me your story

Have you ever had to act like a researcher? A designer? A host? A nurse? Or a negotiator? And give me a personal example for this role? Let’s show the industry how wide the capacities of a planner can reach. Let’s reinvent the profile of the meeting planner. Are you in?