This summer issue of LCT Magazine spotlights the group business. Many of you are trying to figure out just how to get a piece of that action — whether working with destination management companies, becoming your own DMC, working direct with meeting planners, or providing your own in-house event planner entity.
I am a big believer in and have had success at cultivating layers of synergistic programs to sell to a single client. There is not much growth going on in corporate America, so why not sell more to the clients you already have?
Sounds good on paper, but without careful planning, chances are that you end up a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. You never want to do anything to jeopardize a solid client relationship, so do not jump into meeting planning cold turkey.
Start small and don’t do this alone. If you are going to be your own meeting planner, hire an EXPERIENCED event planner, even as a part-timer. Do not consider using your receptionist or a chauffeur. Bring in someone who knows how to manage an event who you can learn from. There are freelancers who will work with you as independent contractors, too.
Then, look at your top local clients and research their meetings happening within your marketplace (avoid out of town programs for now). Make sure your event/meeting planner works with you to educate you on the logistics involved. Do not hire someone and be hands off. On the contrary, you MUST LEARN how all the functions of meetings work so your person is actually TRAINING you.
Hone in on the smaller events first (as in less than 300 people) so that you can manage the event turnkey. The bigger the group, the more that can (and will) go wrong. Crawl, walk, and then run.
Here are the four most common mistakes operators make when taking meeting planning in-house:
• Too many event details. It’s your job to listen to your client and advise them on how to have a great event with high impact and as few details as possible. Don’t let the client over-schedule the event. You should be an event “mentor” and help them understand that the more detail, the higher the margin of error becomes. KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid.
• Going over budget. The biggest cost overrun with events is always the food and bar. There are countless horror stories I can name in which the planner lost money on the project because there were no proper goals and controls in place with food and beverage.
• Lack of documentation. Back up EVERYTHING down to the tablecloth rental with a written contract or confirmation memo. Without things in writing, too much can and WILL go wrong in tracking event details.
• Lateness. Event planning deserves a trial run, even if it is a small event. Get the kinks out before your real event happens through rehearsal meetings with everyone involved.
This is a great time to talk to your clients about added services. You probably have a great core group that trusts you and will give you a shot. Plus, everyone is looking for opportunities for more efficiency. If your customer has fewer people to deal with, then that frees up time to focus on other matters. Less cooks in the kitchen is a welcome change today. Good luck!