Keep it in your mine
By: Ruthanne Terrero
Really, how difficult could it be to set up a gathering of a few hundred people, serve them some food and have them listen to a few speeches? It certainly is difficult if you’re not well versed in how to pull off the perfect meeting. This is for all those “do-it-your-selfers” who decided to go it alone and learned the hard way that you can never live down some obvious meeting-planning blunders.
- You booked your conference space at the hotel a year in advance only to receive a call from the sales rep that the big ballroom was no longer available. You let him talk you in to a smaller space — he was so nice, after all, and he has the same first name as your favorite brother. It was only once you got on site that you realized that alternate venue was under construction and three miles from the hotel. Did we mention it rained the entire time and there was just one tiny shuttle bus to transport guests to and from the hotel?
Lesson learned: When you are advised of venue changes for your meeting, get all of the details in writing and don’t be shy to ask every “what if” question you can think of. Make the trip to check out the new space and be sure you have a direct liaison at the property to ensure they can deal with any last minute issues onsite.
- It’s so important to have proper name badges at a conference so that people can network easily. You knew this and so you ordered some very nifty-looking product well in advance. You didn’t really know, however, that you needed lanyards to go with them and you became the joke of the party as everyone walked around holding their name tags in their hands; some even scotch-taped them to their shirts.
Lesson learned: Don’t assume you know everything just because you’ve been to many meetings as an attendee. Leave the details to the experts.
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- You had a great line-up of speakers for the first morning session, which ran three hours straight. Who knew you were supposed to provide the occasional break in between for bathroom visits and perhaps even some coffee? When the lights went up after the closing speech, half the audience ran to the restroom and the others were asleep in their chairs. All of them were angry with you.
Lesson learned: Logistics are vital for a meeting and need to be planned out just as a dramatic presentation must be. Choreography, stage directions, and yes, bio-breaks should be written in to every meeting script.
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- You found a neat venue for an evening function and it was only 30 minutes from the conference center. But you didn’t realize the highway you needed to take to get there was under construction and all but one lane was closed. And you were transporting your group at rush hour. They arrived for their special dinner starved and so in need of a drink they doubled the tab you’d planned for the open bar. When you finally got them back to the hotel at midnight they were all vowing not to attend the morning session because they were exhausted and had too much work to catch up on.
Lesson learned: Don’t go with your heart when scouting out off-site meeting venues. Select something interesting but keep transportation issues front of mind and be sure you’re getting your attendees back to their rooms at a reasonable hour so they can attend to work or home issues.
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- You got a great deal on the room rate for your conference group, just $99 a night, not bad for a center city hotel! You were warned that the hotel lobby, gym and swimming pool would be under construction but you forgot to communicate that to your group, even though you knew about the situation months ahead of time. Your attendees showed up, jazzed for a great meeting in a great hotel, only to be shocked at the sound of drills and jackhammers going off in every public space around them. Even the hotel bar was being revamped and had been relocated to a small conference room, with drinks being served from a banquet table. Some attendees actually checked out of the hotel and booked a room down the street, vowing never to attend one of your events again.
Lesson learned: A deal is only a deal if it brings value to your meeting attendees. Putting them in a venue that does not work for networking gatherings or that is just plain uncomfortable is simply not worth it. If there are going to be challenges with the conference site, communicate, communicate, communicate well ahead of time so that no one is surprised when they check in.
What are some of the do’s and don’ts you can share when it comes to using a professional meeting planner? What are some of the pitfalls you’ve witnessed when someone did it themselves?
Source: International Meetings Review