Meeting and Event Planning For Dummies
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Successfully organizing meetings is an under-appreciated business skill. With the umpteen details meeting and event planners need to handle, mistakes are bound to be made, and sometimes heads will roll as a result. To make certain that yours isn't one of them, here are some common meeting blunders to rise above.

Forgetting to check dates

Before finalizing any dates for your meetings or events, check that they don't overlap with any religious, public, state, or federal holidays. Also, consider avoiding an overlap with any major sporting events, especially if you're looking to attract a predominately male audience. At the beginning of the calendar year, generate a checklist of all the upcoming holidays and events so that you don't let one slip by you. It's so easy to do!

Booking a site before making a visit

Often when you're organizing an event at a destination many miles from home, there's not enough time or money in the budget to make a site visit. Big mistake! Why take the risk that everything won't be fine on the day of the event or rely on someone else's judgment? This is particularly critical for larger meetings and events. In addition, checking out the scene beforehand allows you the opportunity to meet and build a rapport with the staff you'll be working very closely with on the day of the event.

Failing to market your event

It's really quite simple: In order to get people to attend your event, you need to let them know about it in plenty of time. It's all about marketing and communication, which is part and parcel of your planning and organizing process. The longer you wait to inform potential attendees, the stronger the chance that they'll have made alternative plans for your meeting dates. Communicate your message in plenty of time so that your event is their number one priority.

Signing contracts that lack specifics

One meeting planner had her day in court when she cancelled a meeting because the hotel she booked had not made, in her opinion, sufficient progress on its planned renovation. The hotel argued differently and, in fact, won the case. The written contract had specified that "substantial progress" would be made prior to the meeting date. Being such a subjective phrase, it was open to different interpretations. Make sure that your contracts are ironclad with undisputable details. Avoid phrases like "to be negotiated" or "to be determined at a later date."

Failing to plan

Fail to plan, and you're laying yourself open for disaster. Far too many pieces of the puzzle need to be put together for you to just wing it or pay lip service to a plan. Vow to be as thorough and meticulous as possible. Check and recheck details. Discuss your event with people not involved in the business to get outsider opinions. Create checklists and checklists of checklists. Cover all your bases. The more thorough you are, the less chance of failure and more probability of success.

Neglecting to check references

Having a gut feeling about someone is great, but always check to make sure he's as good as he says he is. Yes, it will take some extra time to check references, but it's well worth the effort. Why take the chance of spoiling your important event with a supplier who lets you down at the last minute or supplies you with second-rate equipment or poor-quality service? A key question to ask the reference is, "Would you use this supplier again for your next function?" You know what to do if the answer is negative!

Leaving important details to the last minute

Putting your meeting together takes time, and the more you have, the better the chances of making fewer mistakes. The more rushed and panicked you are, the more likely you are to forget some of the essential (and sometimes most obvious) things. Use your checklists religiously, and handle details in the early planning stages. Leaving the basics to the last minute will undoubtedly cost more money, as you'll probably incur rush charges, and it will definitely add unnecessary stress to your life!

Letting someone else do the planning

So you want to take the easy way out, and you find yourself a professional planner to handle all the details. Can you afford to just sit back in the hope that this wonderful person performs magic? Just because you hire some assistance doesn't mean you're out of the picture. On the contrary, you now take on the role of steward, which makes you responsible for directing all the operations. Let others do the running around on your behalf, but always have a visible presence in the background making sure that everything runs smoothly.

Neglecting contingencies

Another aspect of your planning process involves developing contingency plans. Unfortunately, the chances are pretty high that something you planned for won't necessarily go as arranged. So what's your backup? If you don't have one, all your original plans could be destroyed in an instant, and you'll be scrambling to put a second strategy into operation. Have a Plan B ready "in the wings" just in case you need it.

Trying to save money

With tight budgets and a boss breathing down your neck and expecting you to do more with less, the temptation to make vendor decisions based solely on price is strong. Yes, you'll always find someone who's prepared to under-price services just to get the business. But how good and reliable are they? Cheap prices and good quality usually don't correlate. So the next time you're tempted to make a buying decision based entirely on price, think again!

About This Article

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About the book author:

Susan Friedmann is President of The Tradeshow Coach, which works with national and international exhibitors planning trade shows and special events.

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