Being a meeting and event planner is a 24-hour commitment. Among the many responsibilities, there are budgets to be approved, destinations agreed upon, hotels to be selected, transportation schedules coordinated, and so on – and then the first day of the big event arrives. Reach for the aspirin! Worry, with all its variants and nuances, has only just begun. With that, a myriad of questions rolls off a planner’s lips. Questions like has everyone checked in, are they happy with their room assignment, is the catering director aware of our special dietary requirements, will all tech equipment be up and running by 8 a.m. the next morning, was the convention manager able to create an interesting sightseeing itinerary that will engage spouses and guests, and are there vetted babysitters on site if necessary.
ROI, Technology, and Staffing
The big pill to swallow, however, is the reality that while there is a full assortment of issues to keep any planner up at night fretting away the hours, there are always new ones being added. According to Freeman, one of the most respected global event planning companies, things like the increasing costs of meetings and events. Freeman quotes Senior Managing Director Phyllis Ballinger at the American Association of Cancer Research on this (www.freeman.com/resources/). She says, “Yes, everything from travel and hotel to the goods and services is skyrocketing…this impacts ROI. But for us, it’s about the young doctors. We have a lot who are just starting out and they can’t afford to go to these meetings. We do as much as we can for them and want to do way more.”
Other concerns? The ever-changing world of technology. “I’m constantly trying to keep up with technology and to understand it,” she adds. “This is more personal to me, but I think it’s really important. I have great partners like Freeman who come to me with new technology and keep me on top of it. That’s vital. We can’t always do all the innovations that are being offered. But we need to know and understand our options.”
Even with that, AACR’s planner confesses that lately, she’s increasingly worried about staffing at every level, internally and externally, as a lot of people have left the industry since Covid. “We have new team members we need to train. A lot of our long-term vendor and partner relationships are new. So, that trust you had earned on both sides now has to be rebuilt.”
Value, Learning, Barrier-Free
Freeman also quotes Jeff Davis, group vice president of Action Sports & Outdoor at Emerald, on his viewpoints. He notes that the three main questions he asks himself these days are: How do we deliver more value, what are we learning, and are we barrier-free?
For instance, regarding value, he worries if “the customer” is getting the expected ROI that they are looking for. As for “learning,” Davis claims product development is never over, and he asks himself constantly “is there something we can learn that can help us do something better?”
Finally, barrier-free? What does that mean? Davis explains: If a customer is experiencing any friction in doing business with us, how do we eliminate it? Every touchpoint matters. And the younger audiences demand a frictionless experience. So, making this a priority is crucial to our present and future.”
If, as a planner, you find yourself identifying with any or all of these laments and observations of what’s going on in the industry today, and if you’re wondering if you’ll ever master the art of meeting and event planning, you are not alone. And, while there’s always something new coasting down the runway to worry about – that’s what makes the profession so challenging because, when it all comes together, when everything goes right and it often does, meeting and event planning is one of the most rewarding professions there is and attendees will be talking about your conference or convention until – the next big event.
That said, as a meeting and event planner, what’s on your mind? What are you worrying about these days? We’d like to know.