Make it Work : The Zen of Event Planning
This was my motto long before the ever-dapper Tim Gunn coined it on Project Runway. Although, I must admit he sounds a lot better saying it then I do. I don’t know one successful meeting planner or any other professional, who hasn’t found herself in a do-or-die, make-it-work situation. And the people who make the final cut find a way to roll with the punches.
Planning meetings and events is a lesson in Zen. The preparation is rigorous and extensive, but there is only so much of that you can do. At one point or another, the attendees get there, the caterer has an emergency, or the venue floods and you just have to set your expectations free and think on your feet.
Making it work, and striving for excellence is a huge part of every business woman’s life. After 20 years in the meetings industry, it’s a concept that is at the root of everything I do.
Meeting and Events Misconceptions
There are a lot of misconceptions about the meetings and events industry. To outsiders, event planning must appear be too much fun to also be hard work. Take it from an expert. We are not party planners. Women attending meetings and events are not there to enjoy the complementary shrimp and score a goodie-filled bling bag.
Networking at events lays the groundwork for serious business deals, some of which are actually signed and sealed right there in the exhibit hall. The adage meetings mean business might sound like a cliché, but it’s the absolute truth of the matter.
A $450+ Billion Industry
The meetings and events industry is responsible for $458 billion of the country’s gross domestic product. It employs 1.7 million people in the United States alone. This often overlooked industry has a more significant economic impact than the automotive manufacturing and air transportation industries.
Even in the digital age, business keep circling back to the importance of face-to-face contact with their prospective customers and clients. They want to see a smile and feel the strength of a prospective partner’s handshake. That is what the meetings and events industry is all about. Even if you don’t leave a gathering with a check in your pocket, or the promise of one in the mail, we’ve created the environment you need to make connections and open the doors of opportunity.
The Devil in the Details
With that in mind, you would be surprised to hear how the importance of small details is amplified in this industry. What might seem trivial to attendees can threaten the ruin of an entire convention.
On the day of an important event, name badges without neck cords were delivered to an associate of mine. This might not seem like a world-shattering problem, but name badges at meetings are vital. She immediately deployed her staff to every hardware store in a ten-mile radius to snap up all the cords in town.
When Everything Goes Wrong…
A more thrilling tale comes from another colleague in the industry. At three in the morning of event-day, her entire hard drive was wiped just as she was finalizing appointments for upwards of 150 attendees. Everything she’d prepared for the next day’s 15-hour event was gone.
Panicked but calm, she called her company’s IT guy, left a message, and only then burst into tears. Wiping them away, she called her mother and started surfing Craig’s List for a new job. Then reason set back in. She pulled it together and began rebuilding what she had lost. Eventually, the IT guy called her back and together they restored the lost materials, just before the conference opened.
I don’t know a single professional who hasn’t faced a similar Technological Armageddon. At Smart Meetings we use Certain Software to manage our events department. Their event management technology allows us to be more accurate, precise and efficient in everything that we do. Because it is a hosted program, there’s no danger of our data being wiped out.
Planning meetings, working with meeting planners, and writing about meetings and events has required the implementation of every business skill I’ve ever learned. There has been one constant over time – showing up every day to put in the time and dedication necessary to succeed.
In my opinion, flex time is a myth and part-time an endangered species. We live in an age where “time off” is earned with blood, sweat and tears. That being the case, it’s absolutely necessary to love what you do. Because in the absence of passion, you’ll never be able to do what’s necessary to Make It Work!