Big events and meetings are projects like any other with a beginning & end, and milestones & deliverables in between. They have to be managed like a technology deployment or software implementation with a project manager and a support team. The major difference is obviously that the final date can’t slip. Once it’s scheduled, your meeting will happen whether you’re ready or not.
There are four phases to a successful meeting or event – be it internal or external.
- Contracting the event
- Follow up
Phase 1: Contracting the event
When you approach the contract negotiation with your desired meeting location – ask for everything you can, knowing you may not get it all. Ask for 60 staff rooms, they’ll counter with 60 rooms at 50%. Then you negotiate. Some things are put in the request knowing that you’ll have to let it go. A comprehensive review of the contract by your legal department is key. If your company is lean, it’s prudent to hire this out to an attorney.
To get started on the right foot, do a deep dive into what you need to execute the concept. Due diligence up front is worth its weight in gold. Spell out your findings clearly in your RFP in order to start with right foundation. And maybe add a bit more than you need to give yourself some flexibility.
Negotiations are a key part in the contracting phase. Your mission is to maximize the concessions you receive from the venue(s). Use any angle to demonstrate your event’s significance and leverage any in-kind value you bring to the hotel and spell it out in the RFP. Your attendees may be looking at the space as a future venue for their own events – this detail can help in your negotiations.
Phase 2: Planning
In the planning process, you must identify risks as early as possible. Walk through every scenario that could happen, and err on the side of overly conservative. Determine ways to mitigate those risks, and accept the risks that remain. If your summer event in Florida is outside by the pool and you may need to be move it inside at the last minute – make that contingency plan early.
Do a project plan to track the moving parts. There are project plan templates available online. Managing budgets, staff, a trade show, general sessions, workshops, meals and logistics can get out of control without a plan. Appoint one or two people to have the 36,000-foot view – someone who sees the entire project. When putting your team together, delegate responsibilities to empower the person to claim ownership for his/her assigned tasks. It’s good for morale and career development.
Determine ways to mitigate risks and accept the risks that remain.
Decide where to spend your money, knowing you don’t have to spend the entire budget. Make your spending selections carefully and then review them again. Remove an afternoon break or question if full A/V is needed in each room in order to reduce costs. However, always remember to spend money where it is best utilized for the overall event and attendees’ experiences. View our list of ways to rein in Meeting costs.
Remember to get marketing involved to brand and promote your event, and to encourage participation. The social media team needs to be engaged before and during the meeting, too.
Phase 3: Execution
Your project plan is complete and it’s time to go on-site for the big event. Start things off by explaining the desired atmosphere of the event to the team – keeping it positive and uplifting. Everyone on the events team has to be positive all the time, but it helps to have a war room to decompress and blow off steam. Out on the floor – execution must always be 100% professional and positive, especially to your attendees and sponsors. The team leader is like a duck, seemingly floating placidly, but paddling its legs 1000 miles a minute!
Just prior to the meeting, schedule time to meet with the department heads of the hotel for introductions. This sets the tone for interactions with the hotel and it opens the meeting planners to embrace the hotel’s team. Starting at this moment, you’re all one team with one goal – to wow the attendees. Empower the hotel staff to come to you if something doesn’t look right or needs attention. Something will inevitably happen and you’d prefer to hear about it from a hotel employee than an attendee.
You’re all one team with one goal – to wow the attendees!
Early morning staff meetings are an important way to share information. You’ll need a way to communicate with everyone once a day. No technology can replace this meeting. Take a moment to celebrate successes with the staff and recognize their efforts.
Phase 4: Follow Up
This is when you collect feedback by sending a survey to attendees, sponsors, and staff. Address any egregious comments and highlight some of the lessons learned. You’ll find out what worked and what didn’t from many perspectives. Set up the survey so that if a responder ranks a response below a certain threshold, force them to say why. A poor ranking needs an explanation. Be specific when asking what can be improved and don’t forget to ask about the venue.
Your follow-up phase should result in one or two things that you’d want to do differently if you get to handle the same meeting again next year. The survey feedback can help determine which items should take priority.
Try something new if it’s an annual event, but don’t go overboard and revamp the whole event. Look for innovations and process improvements and try one or two new things next year.
Keep your eyes open for process and technology improvements. Ask questions of your reliable vendors. They can keep you posted about relevant technologies they’ve used in other events. An investment in electronic nametag scanners, for example, could change the whole experience of your company’s largest meeting.
How do you know if you are getting a good deal from your RFP respondents? Check out Demystifying the Meetings & Groups Hotel RFP Process.
Ready to speak with a corporate travel expert about how you can better manage your meetings & events? Get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation to make your budget go farther.