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Cheat Sheet

Meeting and Event Planning For Dummies

From Meeting & Event Planning For Dummies by Susan Friedmann

Planning business meetings and events requires multitasking skills and ingenuity. To succeed, you need to know the basics of meeting or event planning and how to plan effectively. Then, you must hone your skills so that you can negotiate for the best venues, vendors, and speakers for your attendees. And, if you can do all this and keep costs down — and you can! — you'll be a hit with your boss and your clients.

How to Plan Effective Business Meetings and Events

Organization and preparation are key when planning a business meeting or event. You have to cover all the basics from reviewing the content of the meeting to accommodating the attendees. Use the tips in the following list for successful meeting and event planning:

  • Make sure meeting objectives are clear and concise.

  • Determine whether it's necessary to meet at all, or whether you can accomplish your objectives in another way.

  • Choose the right meeting location — one with the right number, size, and shape of meeting rooms.

  • Make sure that you know and understand all the services provided by the facility, as well as its cancellation policies.

  • Invite only the people who need to attend.

  • Gather exact contact information for everyone involved in the event.

  • Stick to the set meeting agenda.

  • Evaluate the meeting or event after it's over.

Basic Responsibilities of Meeting and Event Planning

What does the job of planning a business meeting or event entail? Entire books are dedicated to answering that question, but the following list includes the fundamentals a planner must expect to coordinate:

  • Site selection

  • Hotel accommodations

  • Travel arrangements

  • Food

  • Speakers and entertainment

  • Audiovisual equipment

  • Recreational activities

  • Decorations

  • Printing

  • Gifts and awards

  • Personnel

Venues to Choose when Planning a Meeting or Event

Choosing the right site for a business event is critical — it's the framework for your whole effort. When seeking a venue for a meeting or event, you have several options. Depending on the number of people attending and the type of event, you can go the traditional conference center route or try a road — or a cruise ship — less traveled. The following list contains places to consider when selecting a site:

  • Hotels

  • Conference centers

  • Convention centers

  • Resorts

  • Retreat centers

  • Cruise ships

  • Unique environments, such as museums, stately homes, sporting venues, and theaters.

When in doubt about the choices available in a specific location, ask the local Convention and Visitors Bureau in your destination city for advice.

How to Find Vendors for Business Meetings or Events

Your success as a business meeting or event planner depends upon your ability to hire the right people to help you shine. No one can pull off even a small gathering without a host of helpers. How to find good aides is the question that the tips in this list help answer:

  • Keep an eye out for good vendors when you attend parties and business events.

  • Ask trusted friends and industry colleagues for recommendations.

  • Ask contacts at your meeting location for a list of approved vendors.

  • Contact a professional association affiliated with the industry in which you need to find a vendor.

  • Search the Internet, and keep in mind that you need to check references for the companies you find.

  • Scan trade/industry publications for potential resources.

  • Quiz the local Convention and Visitors Bureau in your destination city.

  • Consider using a Destination Management Company, which could save you time, money, and aggravation by assisting with part or all of your planning.

How to Control Costs for Your Meeting or Event

Make your boss happy by knowing your budget before you start planning your business meeting or event, and then stick to it. Follow these tips to help you control costs:

  • Avoid surprises when renting a facility or working with vendors by getting all agreements in writing.

  • Build a 10 percent contingency into your budget to accommodate unexpected expenses.

  • Check all invoices against written quotations.

  • Question all charges that don't seem to compute.

  • Limit the number of people authorized to charge items to your master account at the facility.

  • Review hotel accounts daily to avoid major surprises on the final bill.

  • Don't sign off on any bills until you are totally satisfied.

  • Keep an eye on hidden expenses such as overnight shipping, taxes, or overtime charges.

  • Watch out for currency conversions when planning meetings overseas.

How to Find Great Speakers for Your Meeting or Event

The most memorable aspect of the meeting or event you plan (aside from the food) is likely to be the program. Hiring the right speaker(s) to address participants is crucial. Following are the basics to keep in mind:

  • Know the program objectives.

  • Understand audience needs.

  • Ask for references.

  • View a demo video.

  • Don’t assume that all celebrities know how to deliver an effective speech.

  • Be wary of grandiose claims.

  • Provide speakers with good information so they give you what you want.

How to Negotiate when Planning Your Meeting or Event

One of the most important skills any meeting and event planner must have is the ability to negotiate. Few things are set in stone, so unless you're planning an event around the Ten Commandments, you can negotiate price, perks, contract language. The basic rules of negotiating include the following:

  • Start with a plan. Know exactly what you want.

  • Do your homework. Understand the value of your business.

  • Be methodical and meticulous. Make careful notes of everything discussed and agreed upon.

  • Use bargaining power. Have another supplier in the wings to help influence negotiations.

  • Avoid vague and confusing language.

  • *Question preprinted contracts.

  • Read the fine print.

  • Insist on shared responsibility. Avoid any agreements that are one-sided.

  • Assume nothing. Ask questions, more questions, and still more questions.

  • Exercise silence. Be a champion listener.

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