Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So what is it exactly that Meeting Planners do?

I encountered an interesting situation over the holiday weekend that kind of surprised me. A long-time friend was asking about how my job was going and, after we chatted about that for a while, proceeded to ask what it was I actually did. She knew what my job was in a general sense but did not know specifics…

Meeting Planners actually perform a wide range of duties that can be hard to sum up quickly. The Employment Development Department for California, though, actually has a nice overview document which divides the work of a Meeting Planner into these general areas of responsibility:

Program Development
Marketing and Promotion
Site Selection
Travel Arrangements
Entertainment and Speakers
Food Arrangements
Trade Show Management
Guest Programs
Reservations and Event Registration
Audio-Visual Equipment
Public Relations
Program Evaluation

I would also add Onsite Staffing to this list, since that not only encompasses many of the areas above but also requires a different set of skills and knowledge - and comes with many additional responsibilities. Many things can happen onsite (good and bad!) during an event that a meeting planner is eminently suited to handle.

Some meeting planners specialize in one of a few of these areas while others handle all of them. Most, though, cover the majority of these areas and leave one or two to other specialists or to the sponsoring agency to handle. In my 15 years of meeting planning, I have done everything on this list at one time or another. However, I would not consider myself a specialist or an expert in Public Relations or Guest Programs, for example (I do think I’m pretty darn good at the rest, though).

The other interesting thing about my conversation was the misconception that, as a meeting planner, I only did events from the very beginning to the very end. In fact, a good meeting planner will tailor the services they provide to each individual client’s event. If a conference only needs assistance with their registration process, we can do that separately from every other task. If they just need onsite staffing support for while the conference is “in session”, that can be provided separately as well.

For more information about what meeting planners do here is a one-page brochure describing what RDL enterprises does. We also address some of the more common questions about meeting planners at the bottom of this page.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director