Meeting Planning can be broken down into a number of areas:
Group History including the attendee profile, the organization, and past meeting history. When planning any meeting you must know:
- who your potential attendees are and, why they will want to attend the meeting;
- the culture, policies, mission and vision of the organization sponsoring the meeting;
- the past meeting history that includes essential information for you and your suppliers.
Before you can successfully begin planning any kind of event, you must understand who your potential audience will be and what the sponsor’s expectations are for the meeting. Consider:
- what data is required in each area?
- where you acquire such data and,
- what approach you will take to collect this information?
The first question to ask is “Is the Meeting Necessary?”
The answer is affected by:
- why the organization is considering a meeting in the first place;
- Who will come and what their reasons are for attending.
Consider the reasons why associations and corporations hold meetings. Why will potential attendees want to spend time and in many cases, money, to participate.
· Many who attend meetings do so for more than one reason
· Both corporations and associations have their own set of reasons for producing meetings
Attendee needs influence all decisions:
· Regardless of what the reasons are for holding the meeting, the needs of the attendee must be considered and met if the event is to be considered a success
- It is not enough to THINK you know the needs and expectations
- You must be CERTAIN of the needs and expectations of the attendees
The Attendee: Profile
Where will they come from?
Point of origin or hometown is easily available
What does this affect?
Method of travel
Destination determination – do you want the meeting to be held close to majority of attendees or farther away???
May also indicate type of meeting and sessions you will hold to hold to ensure good attendance - formal or informal
Statistical analysis of your market
- Income level
- Educational background
- Job titles
- Marital status
- Urban or rural
- Religious beliefs
- Likes and dislikes – food, entertainment, sports, etc
- Social interests
- Other interests
These affect what you include in the program for social activities, entertainment, and food and beverage selection.
4. Other questions you will need to consider (some will come from past history as well)
- How many people will attend?
- Does the group based on information above require special services?
- Will they be more interested in information sharing or obtaining information?
- Is a trade show important to the group?
- What is the importance and need for social and recreation?
- Corporate Meetings - most attendee information from the HR department or the department sponsoring the meeting
- Associations – have a lot of information in their membership files and past meeting files
- If drawing attendance from other organizations, those organizations may be able to provide some information for your attendee profile
- Both current and past meeting registrations –pertinent questions can be included on the registration form.
The Importance of Preparing an Attendee History or Profile
Without an accurate attendee profile and/or history the needs of the group can not be properly anticipated
Profile: defines the delegate and potential delegates
History: describes past attendance patterns
Policies and By-laws
· By laws (associations must hold annual/biennial meeting according to their bylaws) may affect such things as:
- the rotation patter of the meeting (where an organization can or can't hold their meetings
- how the site is selected (invitation process, board decision, etc.)
- type of facility needed... city centre, resort hotel, convention centre
·Some organizations won’t use a convention centre because of old beliefs… they out-grow hotels and limit opportunities because they don’t want to use a convention centre. They want to keep the whole group in one hotel, etc.
Some organizations believe they will get higher attendance if they keep it in one location year to year.
History and Culture
President, elected officials or CEO can also dictate where a group will or will not meet. Organizations hold meetings for many, many different reasons. If the meeting is to be considered a success, the reason or “purpose” of the meeting must be considered beneficial to the continued success of the organization. For Example:
If education is a mandate of an association, then courses, training seminars, educational meetings are held to meet this mandate. Participants must walk away from such events feeling they have learned something beneficial for the meeting to be of value. Failure to create value for the attendees, may lead to lower attendance in the future.
Past Meeting History
Previous meeting data
Statistics worth noting…
- Number of attendees
- Number of bedrooms used per night
- Types of meals and numbers served at each meal
- Session types, number of concurrent sessions
- Types of programs – seminars lectures workshops… etc
- Social events
Some information is acquired from your own records.
- the number of attendees
- budget information
- registration fees
- number of speakers
- topics, content, handouts, scripts, etc
Other information must be provided or confirmed by outside sources, such as the facilities used
- bedrooms used vs numbers booked
- number of no shows
- actual number of meals served at an event vs. guarantees
- amount of beverages served at a reception
- amount of wine sold with a dinner.
This information provides a good understanding of the meeting. It will assist in the future planning process
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Meeting Planner must create an overall beneficial and pleasant experience that allows the attendees to feel that the investment made was valuable and worthwhile