Meeting planners are key in the development of a successful conference. They are decorators, experts in audiovisual effects, food connoisseurs, master of ceremonies, travel advisors, web masters, accountants, administrators, experts in logistics and more.
Companies rely on their knowledge and ability to plan meetings, social events, academic agendas for general sessions, exhibition areas, and more. The question is what are the top 10 key points to host a successful meeting?
1. Plan the conference agenda
The agenda is without a doubt the heart of your event and what participants will first fall in love with, or not. Make sure your agenda includes a balance between business activities, social events and personal time. If possible, incorporate a cultural event. Hosting a meeting is a big investment and a one-time shot to impress your participants. Make sure you select the right partners to help you. Make sure you feel comfortable with your suppliers.
2. Think about contingencies
Life is not perfect, and neither are planning services. Always make sure you have alternatives (speakers, venues, entertainment, activities, events, etc.) in a second ballroom. This reminds me of a time I was running a conference in Bahamas and a water pipe broke overnight forcing us to switch an inaugural conference event for 700 participants to an alternative ballroom at 03:00 AM in the morning.
3. Consider terrorism
No one likes to think about it, but it’s always crucial to be prepared. Make sure you have a plan ahead of time. Have a list of local contacts, plan a staff emergency protocol and work with your local partners in the city you are holding your event.
4. Ask for help
In this business, teamwork is key. Conferences and events need a lot of coordination and if you need a hand, ask. Just make sure to ask the right people.
5. Know the language
Yes, knowing the local language is important but more than that, it’s important to know the language of what you need. Know what you need in the audiovisual department, in food and beverage, electronic registration services, etc.
6. Thank the local team and make them part of yours
Your event will only be a success if you share the success with all the ones involved in the organization. This includes your local team (hotel, DMC, audiovisual company, entertainers, etc.) They will only be great if you make them feel part of the team.
Remember that actions count. Good actions = good results.
8. Anticipate and adjust
We all have experienced a rainy day. Make sure you always have options B and C for everything.
I remember the time I had to let go a Master of Ceremonies in the middle of a conference and ask a good friend to step in and play this roll. It happens.
9. Communicate real and often
Speak with all those who are involved, but most importantly with the participants. Let them feel you care about them, even before the event starts. Send them tips before they travel, welcome them (electronic channels are great, but don’t forget the human touch), inform them about updates and last-minute changes, and finally let them know it was great to have them.
Oh, and don’t forget to ask for their opinion! Surveys are a great thermometer to measure how the event was perceived and where you can improve for the future. Also, if possible use your event as a Media Communication channel. Let your industry know what you are doing. Press releases and social media communication channels can, and will, put your event out there as well as generate engagement (unless your event is a private meeting or an incentive trip)
10. Be kind and listen
Always remember that event planning is part of the hospitality industry and not part of the hostile industry. Kind words will take you a long way. Also, don’t forget to listen and be helpful. Many times, people just want to be heard and express themselves.