All Hands On Deck
By Della Green
How do you know if partnering with a meeting planning company could be beneficial? Will you lose control of your meeting? Will it help you to do your job, or make it harder? Are you concerned about how it may affect your role in your company, or the acknowledgement you receive as a meeting planner? Is it too expensive, or could it even come at a savings?
As with most things in business, the bottom line rules– time (which equals money), and money! Conference management companies know this. Their bottom line is to help you save time and money.
The fact is, planning and executing a meeting is a big job. There are certain times where you need more than two hands to get it all done. And in the final months before the conference, you may be pulling staff from other departments and stretching yourself too thin to make it happen successfully.
Can you plan all the logistics, strategies and programming of one meeting while simultaneously searching for the next meeting location? If not, site selection might be a task that could be done by a conference management partner, who will recommend and research targeted destinations, accompany you on site selection trips to make them more productive, negotiate contract terms with selected venue(s), and ensure that you get the best fit overall for your meeting. Taking this step allows you to stay focused on this year while someone else works on getting next year’s potential locations lined up.
Submission systems and registration are another area where an outside conference manager can take a big weight off. “We’re getting more and more questions from clients who are manually handling their submission systems, and looking at adding staff because it’s such a big job. When they find out MeetGreen® can help them to locate an automated system that streamlines the process and can manage it for them, similar to what we do in registration management services, they jump at the chance to free up their staff from these time consuming tasks,” says Britta Ehnebuske, Project Manager at MeetGreen®.
When you need “all hands on deck,” what’s the opportunity cost to your other business needs? For those who aren’t full time planners, are you neglecting your other important responsibilities because the conference takes over? If so, a good conference management partner may be a great solution.
Let’s say you have the luxury of a large staff, does that close the door on hiring a conference manager? Maybe not, consider the benefits of having someone with extensive experience to work with your vendors, ensuring you get the best deal, before, during, and after your conference.
In-house meeting planners are responsible for managing a multitude of different tasks that require a variety of skills, some of which may not be their strengths. For example, many planners admit that, though they do their best, negotiating is not their strong suit. A conference management partner is skilled at negotiating, having done this countless times each year for a variety of conferences, in many locations. Also, conference managers are able to use their long term vendor relationships and collective buying power to better persuade vendor to offer the best terms. As an example, MeetGreen® brought their experience to bear and negotiated a $20,000 savings on a wireless internet package for an 800 person conference.
Bottom line – It’s a core competency of a conference manager to be skilled at negotiating, and to stay abreast of the latest in contracts and negotiation practices.
Conference planning companies also bring a breadth of knowledge that can be applied to the smaller “negotiations” that happen throughout the process. For instance, much can be accomplished through daily reconciliation and invoice review. During a reconciliation process, MeetGreen® recently saved a client $1,500 at one meal function by isolating food and beverage mischarges for their 2012 conference. Over several meals, having someone watch those charges can really add up! A conference management company won’t take away from the acknowledgement of your contribution to your company. Quite the opposite, the conference management company’s role is to support you and make you look good. Planners who use conference management companies are treated with the same level of appreciation with opportunities to attend, present or participate in industry events.
If you’ve got the time, resources, and negotiating know-how, you’re in good shape to manage your own conferences. But if there are times when you or your team are stretched too thin or you fear you may be leaving money on the table during negotiations, it’s time to seriously consider partnering with a conference management firm. It’s quite possible that they can save you more money than they charge in fees.
Once you’ve chosen to hire a partner, it’s important to select one that is reflective of your goals and values, and to act as an extension of your staff. Your next step is to determine which tasks are the most time consuming and difficult then offload them to your new partner. You then are free to attend to more important tasks only you can do that bring the most value to your organization. An article by Pam Graham (published by Canadian Society of Association Executives) provides some quality advice about selecting the best conference management firm to help you reach your goals.
Hiring a good conference management partner will enhance your value within your organization because you’ll get the credit for putting together a successful event, using the new partner as your support team. You’ll have peace of mind, knowing that the details are taken care of while you focus on the mission and objectives of the conference. And once the cost savings roll in, you’ll be triumphant knowing you saved time and money!