As I have explained in the post Developing Managers, meeting planning is all about project management. It doesn’t matter how the sales lead is generated, how you come by the business, it comes down to managing time. It can be your breaking point. Therefore, preparation is vital. Success hinges on lining up those ducks in their right positions, and having enough flexibility for problems.
Today, marks the middle of the second week of classes, and for the next six weeks my students will be given information about their scenarios. I enjoy this time, creating this reality of challenges. This journey isn’t easy. Life isn’t always a bed of roses. They will have to think, use their respective brain power to sort out the twists and bumps. And this morning, I barked a laugh at my latest creation. One group will not be happy. Welcome, to real life. I hope they have listened to me over the course of their time here. I hope they remember that I just don’t sit in my office during office hours and at other times for nothing. I hope they have that epiphany.
[Knocks on the glass] “Hello, anyone out there! Any of my students? Hello?” Questions. It comes down to asking questions. Don’t assume anything. One lesson you must learn as an event planner is don’t assume you know what the clients want. You don’t. You may think you do, but in all reality, you don’t!
Get off your respective posterior and come and talk to me. One requirement of my meeting planning class is they have to meet with me eight times over the course of the sixteen weeks to discuss their projects. Everyone has to be there unless their team leader and I approve the excuse.
Hopefully, by now they have identified their roles and responsibilities. There has to be a team leader, one that will be responsible for getting the job done–the broader goal. The others will be accomplishing the objectives or individual tasks to get to that broader goal.
How they start is up to them. Have they researched the craft of meetings? Have they cruised around their books, the Internet or other sources to understand the process? Are they waiting to be told? I hope not.
My time in event planning and sales was during an era when paper ruled the desktop. I started out as a sales coordinator. A glorified personal assistant to the other sales managers and ran an office. Thank the good Lord, I have been a gadget girl all my life. Old school floppy disks! I worked part-time at an office supply store to supplement and pay for my schooling. I sold the first renditions of IBM and Dell computers. On my desk at the hotel was a 286 processor with probably 50 k of memory. Five and quarter-inch flimsy disks were my life saver. The convention calendar was this behemoth book that had its own desk. For a small hotel, we had two or three major file cabinets full of client files. Some as thick as the city phone book (four inches or more).
Personal planners crammed full of written notes. Notebooks full of third-party information. Day-to-day was all about pushing paper and making phone calls, pounding the pavement and finding leads as well as execution of various events or tour group arrivals. Forget cell phones. Landlines with a complex web of office numbers and only ten speed dial buttons (if that). Back-up wasn’t an option. Lose your personal planner–deep, heart stopping, whole-body anxiety attack until you found it. Total disappearance meant frantic hours of combing through all that paper to recreate your day-to-day work life. And if you didn’t keep meticulous notes, (I just laughed), you were on a bar stool later that night crying into your drink, casting curses and prayers simultaneously to the air and powers that be that you did what you had to do or your other associates had your back (another little snicker). What did I say about life being fair, it isn’t.
The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.
Time management has various dimensions. One of those critical dimensions is communication which is basically the sharing of information. An exchange process. If you aren’t prepared for the encounter, it will show. If you don’t value other points of reality, a host will lose value. The process is stymied by the narrow-mindedness of others. Basically, don’t be myopic. Try to see the whole picture. See beyond that picture. Your developed skill level and capabilities at this point in time may not be as developed as others. Do not discount experience, even those with just an ounce. You do not know the complete picture. You don’t know what that experience was and the depth of impact or how they handled it. Get that through your mind. Open your mind, open your heart, open your soul to receive. The only way you can work together, and that doesn’t mean you can’t lead, but the only way you will all succeed is if you listen and contemplate.
So I guess that comes full circle to that leadership role.
But before we get into that, I wanted to over up a reminder.
I believe that there are four points to successful meeting planning from a customer standpoint:
- Know your client–that means asking open-ended questions, and some closed ended questions
- Know the product you sell–and it is more than you really think it is…
- Know the community in which you are embedded and operate
- Know yourself
Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.
What will the leader of these projects do? What do event planners do out in the real world?
I can tell you a fraction of what you should or shouldn’t do from my own experience. To learn more about leadership, you need to study. Study those that are successful in a variety of fields. Read trade magazines and look for case studies. Visualize the problem and look for plausible solutions.
- Be receptive to ideas.
- Don’t over hash things that nothing gets done. Make a decision. You can revisit it, but it shouldn’t rule your lives.
- Listen to your gut. Know the difference between right and wrong.
- Know standard operating procedures. If there aren’t any, create them.
- Events means experience. Someone has their heart on having a wonderful experience. Own it for them. Make it happen.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- More than one person is affected/effected by the choices you make, especially financial ones.
- Time means one thing to you, and something different to another.
- Be inquisitive. Study from experts. Find a mentor. Ask questions.
- Research the craft.
- Keep a reflective journal
- Be respectful, responsible, accountable. Take responsibility for your actions. Respect yourself and others. Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but respect means more than what you think.
- Listen, just shut up and listen. And listen with your mind and heart.
- Demonstrate empathy, sympathy. But don’t let anyone run you over. There is an art to negotiations, learn it. Compromise is key.
- I know I’m going to get in trouble for this. The customer may not always be right in every situation. Sometimes you have to take the lead and help them realize reality. You don’t always want to be their friend.
- At the end of the day, there are a host of people counting on you. Some for a pay check.
- Tough decisions are painful, but manageable. Tough love is the hardest.
- Be proactive rather than reactive. Damn tough sometimes to recover in service execution. (And if my PPC students are reading this, service is a broad term.)
- Study ethics. Again, every single person is governed by a set of core values and not. Some don’t have core values.
But what do they mean? Do you understand them?
20. Be cognizant of your environment. Don’t live in a vacuum. Be aware. Be open to change. Change is hard. Embrace it. Look for it.
So those are just twenty odd observations to consider, digest and reflect upon.
A good leader knows when to lead, knows when to walk beside and help, and sometimes remain behind and let you on your own.