“Relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests, and the means of achieving them.”
Early in my career, meetings professionals were viewed, simply, as the person who ensured a meeting ran successfully – the room was set to specifications, the speakers and attendees showed up, the coffee was ordered, and the food was pure perfection. We were “order-takers,” even though behind the scenes we have ALWAYS had to be strategists – budget negotiating, client-facing, C-suite managing, wand-waving miracle workers who make it all happen.
As the meetings and events profession has grown, meetings professionals have become more strategic in their approach to creating an experience, answering to executives and delivering results to stakeholders, all while sticking to a budget that can, some days, seem impossible. Today, meetings professionals and suppliers wear a strategic hat. Suppliers wear it when selling a specific city, hotel, or venue, while meetings professionals wear it when convincing a client to go with a specific venue or hotel that they know will be the best location for attendees. These strategic conversations ensure the best experience to increase overall sales for the company and provide a great return for stakeholders.
It’s hard to plan an event without understanding the expectations of your C-suite, and that is why ensuring you have a seat at the table is more important than ever. Meetings professionals are finally getting insight into their respective companies’ products, strategy and services, whereas previously they were not as involved because it was not part of the “job description.” This has created the perfect opportunity to involve ourselves in knowing the day-to-day business objectives of our attendees and executives. In turn, this will afford meetings professionals the opportunity to provide the best meeting services possible to assist in attendees’ overall career success and enhance event “take-aways.”
So, what, as meetings professionals, can we do to help ourselves be effective? Meetings professionals in actuality are project managers for their respective companies and stakeholders. No matter what the circumstance, they use best-in-class project management tools and work processes that keep events organized and on track.
Our responsibilities include selecting an appropriate venue, keeping in mind any company-wide discounts that might be applicable while also negotiating further cost savings, making it a win-win for all parties. A meetings professional leads vendor contract negotiations with facilities and suppliers, and develops comprehensive budgets and project timelines. They execute a detailed game plan for an event’s logistics and act as on-site management for the entire event.
The supplier role is also evolving into the role of strategist. If a hospitality partner is doing an effective job working with a client, the client stops seeing them as a third-party vendor and starts to engage with them as a strategic partner and advisor. However, recognize that this level of trust must be earned and that is where FICP can be instrumental in developing these relationships and trust levels, leading to productive business engagements down the road.
For both meetings professionals and suppliers, becoming a strategist requires a shift in thinking from just the day-to day operations to becoming more forward thinking, anticipating needs and sharing best practices learned across the industry. For instance, we are involved in NewsNet, blog posts and social media in order to share these best practices and get insight on new trends.
The meetings professional role has changed into that of a consultant and overall “expert.” We assist our clients to understand the current environment and conditions that affect where, why and how we book business. Meetings professionals advise their internal clients on the challenges that we, as meetings professionals, face with key issues such as pricing, which currently is on an up-swing despite many corporate budgets being on a constant flat-line.
In the end, as meetings professionals and hospitality partners, our role has significantly changed, but changed for the good. We are no longer viewed as “party planners” but rather viewed as “strategic partners.” We are collectively aligned within each company to ensure meeting success, resulting in positive results for all stakeholders involved.
Meeting and Event Specialist
Global Atlantic Financial Group