As a planner passionate about the growth of the meetings community, and a small business owner, I am occasionally asked a variety of questions about issues within our industry. The questions have centered about the next “it” technological device, union issues, hotel and restaurant recommendations in specific cities, or what I think of a certain government agency overspending and causing havoc for all of us. Sometimes those issues are not positive ones. And, other times, they are simply a product of our current world and economic environment.
As a former Director of Meetings for a non-profit, I can sympathize with association leaders – whether a director, vice president, or board member – who is faced with a declining spend budget coupled with increased pressure from above for continuous meeting growth and enhancement. However, not every leadership pushback is financial. The adage, “We’ve always done it that way” irks me like no other. And, more importantly, it is terrible business sense and logic. If you are not at least open to considering new ideas, how are you keeping the best interest of your program or organization in mind? This stale attitude affects common program goals such as revenue generation and attendee experience, but also may stifle staff creativity and output. I have seen it numerous times. And the association members, constituents or clients suffer for this laziness the most.
My goal is always to successfully execute logistics and negotiations so that the client can focus on their core business. Basically, I want to save my clients money while contributing to their event success. Sometimes it may be difficult to streamline realistic needs with the desires of the client. And contractors do not always do the best job at explaining the benefits of extending your staff in this unique manner.
How do we show a bottom-line savings to the client, or the potential client’s CFO who often does not truly understand the meeting planning process? Sometimes when budgets are cut, the first items lessened or omitted are components people do not always know a lot about or see as a direct hard, tangible value. Membership marketing or credentialing costs are well-recognized. However, the benefits of a contract meeting planner are not always as evident. But they become evident when you consider the total comparisons, including that of added costs of a regular staff employee or the expertise a true meeting industry professional brings to the table. I know what items should cost, such as lanyards and program book printing, additional staff and hotel food and beverage, and can likely negotiate a better deal utilizing my expertise.
How do we save you time? We all know time is money. As a business owner, I know this very well. Contract planners are able to streamline your workflow. For example, site selection can be a very time-consuming process, but it is not the only job you have to do. The contract planner can spend time on this project for you, saving you time to fulfill other tasks. And, we have the knowledge and expertise to search and narrow down the opportunities available based on your needs. My expert niche is meeting planning logistics. Let me utilize my talents so that you are free to better work and strategically plan for the future of your organization.
A few advantages regarding contracts and negotiations…I excel and enjoy those pesky contract negotiations. I don’t mind being the “bad guy,” pushing back to the salesperson as needed. However, a negotiation result should be a win-win for both parties. I know what items a hotel or venue will automatically negotiate, and those that may be a little more difficult but not impossible to lower the costs. And, not only on hotel contracts, but contracts of all shapes and sizes from AV to registration options to décor, VIP services, printing services and more.
Relationships – Relationships in this industry are extremely important. The experienced planner should have strong relationships in the industry among hotel chains, decorators, and many other vendors.
Volume – The volume of business the contract planner has generated benefits you, as the typical hotel chain or city will bring the whole of that planner’s business into consideration when they are negotiating for you. This can be beneficial to the client, especially if you are looking to branch out into a new city.
A word on volunteer committees – Some organizations have very strong and active volunteer committees. This can be a beautiful thing, as volunteers have a passion for and know their profession better than any contractor. However, volunteers are just that — volunteers. They have full-time jobs and are giving of their free time to assist their professional organization. It can be a beautiful marriage when volunteers give guidance and insight to the contractor. Hence, the volunteer is freed from logistical details to utilize their talents to better the organization.
Logistics – It’s my passion! And my expertise! No one likes to spend time creating multiple forms, budgets or planning documents that independent planners should have at their fingertips.
Credentials – As in many fields, credentials in the planning community are no different. Hiring credentialed personnel, whether full-time staff or contractors, is very important, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:
- They show value the community – The credential shows that the community is valued. I want to be an expert in my field and improve the meetings community.
- It’s a reflection of hard work – I care enough about this industry to pursue the credential – spending my own money to obtain them (but that’s a story for another day!) and committing the necessary time to study.
- Knowledge is valuable – I love learning and do so daily, but I do have expertise and knowledge that comes in passing the test to receive that certification.
- It’s a boost to credibility – Having the credential shows all the above, but also establishes a level of professionalism.
Why hire a contract meeting planner in tough times? Economic or community challenges, world events or weather can change our lives in an instant. Hiring a contract meeting planner allows for greater flexibility. Contractors are paid by either the project or hour and the client does not directly pay their benefits, insurance, or 401K, provide training or provide hardgoods such as a desk, and computer. What might seem like an added expense, can be a savings when hiring a competent and dedicated contractor.
A client recently said to me at the conclusion of their challenging conference, “Thanks for understanding our crazy and still be willing to come to the party and be the lead magician.” It might be one of the best, and most fun, compliments I have ever received. That makes it worth it for me.
In summary, there are many reasons to hire an expert. Whether it is a plumber, carpenter, technical guru, or meeting planner. It is my hope that you now have a better grasp as to why I am passionate about my industry, and the importance of the role independent planners play as partners with your organization!
About Cori Dossett
Cori Dossett, CEM, CMP, CITP, is the President of Conferences Designed, a full-service meeting planning firm. Cori has had multiple articles on the meetings industry published since 2001. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.