Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What is a “Pre-Con”?

“Pre-Con” is short for pre-conference (or pre-convention) and can refer to any meeting that occurs before the main conference or convention. However, for meeting planners and hoteliers, the term has a particular meaning that is instantly recognized by any who have been in the industry for a while. We use the term to indicate a specific kind of meeting that takes place before the conference, one between the meeting planner and the venue. So why is this special meaning important? What happens at these meetings that make the term stand out in the hospitality industry?

At its most basic, a pre-con is a meeting in which a representative for the group producing the meeting meets with a representative from the venue in which the meeting is being held for the purpose of reviewing the details of the event to ensure accuracy and completeness. This meeting gets everyone on board and “on the same page”.

A typical pre-con begins with the venue welcoming the group. Introductions are made of all of those present from the hotel side and their role in making the event a success. The planner will introduce their team as well. I think of this part of the pre-con as the “big picture” section. We review the goals and objectives for the event and discuss the keys to making the event a success. This section is not always needed and whether or not it is included is often a function of your needs and preferences as well as the size of your event. The larger your event, the more likely this will be included in some fashion. For small functions, an informal round of handshakes may suffice before you move on.

The next portion of the pre-con, which I call the “nuts & bolts” section, usually involves a much smaller group than the “big picture” piece. Where the “big picture” piece can involve as many as 20 people, the “nuts & bolts” piece will usually not involve more than five or six – and I have often had just two or three people (including myself) for smaller meetings. This portion of the pre-con is where the details of the event and the BEOs are discussed in…well, detail. Everything is reviewed to ensure that everyone knows what is scheduled to happen when, what goods or services are to be provided, and who the responsible parties are. This portion of the pre-con is the part you should not ever skimp on – take the time to do it and do it thoroughly.

For large events, I make sure to meet with my CSM far enough in advance to make sure that there is time to inform every department of any changes and get them “on board” with my group’s requirements. Typically, holding the pre-con the day before the event starts provides sufficient time for this, though I have seen pre-cons done as many as three or four days ahead of time. If I am managing a small event, do I still do a pre-con? Absolutely, though it may just be a quick review of the BEOs with my catering manager the night before my meeting starts. In any case, though, I never do a meeting or conference without conducting a pre-con prior to the beginning of the event – and neither should you!

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises