I recently chatted with one of my peers about an upcoming conference. We were chatting about the workload it takes to really pull off an organized, worthwhile and fun conference.
Long time ago.. in a galaxy far away… I worked as a meetings coordinator for a large trade association that had been in existence for over 100 years. Not only that.. but it had an annual meeting in one of the swankiest.. most expensive hotels in NYC. Enter me… the rookie.
Happily, that trade association had plenty of staff and an experienced Lead Planner herding us all into an organized team. The meeting was all CEOs of mostly public companies. It included not only the main meeting of their Board of Directors, but also a special honorary luncheon, a spouse shopping event, and a special executive committee dinner offsite. The meeting was a success due in large part to everyone’s willingness to not point fingers, pitch in and most of all– set aside ego.
Fast-forward to 2007. Haven’t worked in meetings in a major city since 1995. First real meeting event in 11 years… equally swank digs in Vegas, high pressure meeting with a different company- different board. The challenge: the first time this staff had ever worked together as a group on a major event.
Overall, I am grateful for my peers pitching in…. and we did have a lead meeting planner in place– though she’d only been with us for about a month. But we were all exhausted… and why? Everyone had a different way of approaching the meeting.. the meetings planner, the individual staff directors, the support staff, the marketing team. The logistics were a tad off– we needed individual mics (very very expensive) and would’ve been nice to have wireless internet access for our Board (that too was cost prohibitive). Our planning came together a bit later than we would’ve liked.. but overall it was the communicating and re-communicating that made us tired.
We wanted to ensure we all were on the same page- headed the same direction…but we were all coming from different directions and different perspectives.. so it took alot more effort and energy to be kind, patient and clear with one another.
So while there are checklists, flowcharts and other items you can list and check against.. it’s the thousands of individual nuances, regulations and/or procedures that challenge the planner- the Board member that is Vegan or allergic to a specific cheese. What about the religious observations of those of a faith that don’t allow alcohol of any kind to be involved? (Did you know there are restaurants and caterers that make a champagne vinaigrette?) What about the physically challenged? Or those that require an interpreter? What about making sure your sponsors names and logos all make the program in the right proportion to what they paid?
The list is endless. This is why there is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) exam and designation. There are several other related types of certifications in the meetings industry as they relate to conventions, convention centers, exhibits, tradeshows etc..
But as many admins will attest to.. we are constantly being asked to arrange, plan and pull-off board meetings, executive retreats, retirement parties and send-offs for colleagues. We are constantly seeking the information and tools to do this as effectively as we organize our executive’s calendar! As one of my industry CEOs said to me one day… ” You guys (admins) are the hidden meeting planners” and he is correct.
In our hearts we know that so many things are made to look easy.. but they look that way precisely due to the inordinate amount of effort invested into not forgetting any details. Easy to say.. and oh, so hard to do.