In the meetings industry we tend to believe that we work in a pretty unique business and we are somewhat hidden off in an unknown corner of the business world. Yes, we do sometimes face challenges that would seem absurd to many professionals in other industries. (But to be fair, I’m also certain that they face things we couldn’t imagine as well.)
However, in all of our businesses you can often boil things down until you reach some universal truths that will apply whether you’re planning a session for 1200 people, running a kitchen in a busy restaurant or providing life insurance for folks.
In almost every case the person making the promises is not the person responsible for carrying out the job. I’ve seen this up close in my slice of the meetings industry often. There’s huge pressure on the sales people to basically do or say anything to get the job. I can’t begin to count the times that I’ve heard someone in management say “get the job, and we’ll figure out how to do it once it’s booked…”
This is on my mind today because we are about to start a small bathroom remodel at our home. Just like a planner choosing an AV company, I basically sent out an RFP and invited bids. I had the typical range of responses. Clear down to having a few companies that just never even responded (I never understand the lack of a response to possible business, even if it’s just a note to turn it down politely). I took the quotes from folks who did bid, compared them and made a choice. My choice weighed the element of price, but it also hinged on my feeling comfortable with the sales person and his promises. (Sound familiar planners?).
I received a garbled call in the middle of last week from someone I didn’t recognize. The next day I happened to call my salesperson to follow up since I’d not heard anything. He said he needed to come by and do a change order for a small change that I’d done to the order. When he arrived on Thursday, he said the call that had been garbled must have come from my project manager, Edgar; who wanted to start on Monday (today). Great! He even called the project manager from my house to let him know that he was with me and doing the change order. Then, he called me back later to schedule an additional time this week to discuss some additional work I’d asked him to price out. We cleaned out the bathroom over the weekend and awaited the arrival of the crew this morning. (The salesperson also mentioned that they might not arrive first thing in the morning on day 1 of the job)…so no problem if they’re not here at 8am sharp.
When I hadn’t seen anyone by about 10:30am, I called the salesperson and the project manager and left messages. The project manager called me back.
He said because I hadn’t called them (i.e. him) back to schedule, that they’d have to start next week. We discussed how he was the person that I should talk to now about anything related to the job. Which is fine, something that I wish I had known that last week, when the salesperson called him from my house to discuss my job that was rumored to start today.
Sound familiar to anyone who has dealt with a salesperson and a project manger to get their AV done? Or a salesperson and a convention services manager to get their meeting setup? Etc., Etc., Etc…
In the end, the success of the job/meeting/event will be very much affected by the ability of those two parties to communicate and stay in sync with each other. I’ve seen teams that have a defined process and who work like clockwork in ticking off every box leading up to an event. And, I’ve seen the disappointed folks who receive a product or service that’s nothing like the vision the salesperson sold them.
For me, today’s really just a small bump. I work from home and can be flexible on the start date. But, if I’d made more specific plans based on last week’s promises by the salesperson, I’d be upset and we’d be off to a very bad start.
When you’re talking bids for services for your event, maybe you should add some questions about process and internal communications to your criteria for choosing a vendor? So often the focus on price drives vendors and planners to look strictly on the bottom line price stuff; and not on the actual promises that they are making to eventually complete the agreed upon vision for the event.
Using AV as an example, since that’s my best frame of reference. Here’s a few questions to consider exploring with your vendor before picking them.
Who will be responsible for my meeting once it’s contracted?
When is that person assigned to the project?
Are they a part of the quote preparation process?
Are they in the same location as the salesperson?
Do they meet regularly with them about upcoming projects?
Maybe ask a couple references about the process once the event was booked and how communication went for them?
Hopefully, you see where I’m going with all this. You want to know that the person making your show happen is well versed in everything you’ve discussed and been promised during the bid process. You want to know that the salesperson (price) and project manager (fulfillment) are constantly in communication so any changes are documented and sent to the right people in advance of the event and while on site.
Make sure that your team is really working as a team and you’ll have a much smoother and less stressful event.
As for me, I’ll be talking to both the salesperson and project manager again before Monday to make sure that we’re all on the same page at each upcoming step of my own remodel. Now paying as much attention to their communication as I do with any vendor that I hire to facilitate events for my own customers.
First let me appologize for the longer than planned break in our postings. I have been dealing with some personal and family health issues and it's kept me away from posting here for far too long.
I'm breaking format in a few ways today, the first being that this will just be a written post and not a podcast episode, the other will be that it links out to a story that I think is very important to consider by all of us in the meetings industry. Back in August I did a podcast on Fire Marshals (Episode #10) and this relates back that information.
Just a few days ago we had another fire tragedy that has left a still unconfimed number of fatalities, with numbers of around 34 killed being reported so far. This horrible fire happened in an unliscenced venue where a music event was taking place. So, while it may not seem directly related to the meetings industry, it has relevence and resonance by the fact that it was a gathering of people...exactly what we all do on a daily basis.
CNN today had a story today discussing these numerous trageties and I thought it was worth sharing: www.cnn.com/2016/12/05/opinions/be-your-own-fire-marshal-barylick-opinion/index.html
Basically the message from the CNN piece is that we are all our own fire marshals and responsible for our own safety. For those who don't want to link over, this is what I feel is the most important message from the story:
"What does it mean to be your own fire marshal? It means that upon arriving at any venue, you must look carefully at the building. Does it look well maintained? Does the staff appear well trained? As you proceed to your seat, take notice of your route. Are there any pinch-points (areas where congestion is likely to occur) that would interfere with quick escape?
Once seated, locate the nearest exit (in addition to the one you came in) and share its location with your friends. Agree beforehand that this is the exit you'll immediately head for in the event of any emergency or threat, be it a fire, an attack, or a natural disaster.
To ensure your safety and those of your friends, go with your gut. If a building feels wrong, or dangerous, leave. No show is worth your life."
All of us in the meetings industry must go a step further than just considering our personal safety. We need to also assure the safety of all of the guests at our events. No matter what your role at an event, you must be aware of potential hazzards and address them immediately with the appropriate people.
This horrible event in Oakland didn't happen in a ballroom or in a hotel, but we all know that there have been tragic fires in traditional venues in the past. Please, work with your local fire marshals and other safety officials to assure that every gathering you are connected to is being held in a safe manner for the staff and the guests. If we all are diligent and aware, maybe tragedies like this can be prevented from ever happening again.
Please be safe and always speak up when you see something that is a potential hazzard.
Wishing you all a safe and joyus holiday season!
We'll be back with our regular podcasts again very soon!
Strategic Meeting Tech Podcast Show #20 - Janee Pelletier, MBA, CMP previews “Budget-Driven Meeting Planning”, her upcoming session at the CMP Conclave
On today's podcast we talk with Janee Pelletier, MBA, CMP, DES of Conference & Logistics Consultants about her educational session at the upcoming CMP Conclave in Baltimore.
Her session, "Budget-Driven Meeting Planning: Contracts, Expenses and Your Career" is a terrific overview of how planners can look at their events with a budgetary perspective at the forefront of their thinking. Flawless logistics are no longer the measure of a successful meeting. And, with a greater focus in organizations on the budgetary side of an event; to progress your career and be more valuable to your company, you need to be able to work comfortably within the budget realm.
Janee will offer practical advice she's found for cost savings, as well as guidance for setting up a budget template and making well considered projections of possible variable expense areas of your event. There's still time to join us in Baltimore at the CMP Conclave, September 16-18.
Strategic Meeting Tech Podcast Show #16 - Jan Roy, PhD, CMP previews “The Importance of Soft Skill Competencies”, her upcoming session at the CMP Conclave
On today's edition of the podcast we talk with Dr. Jan Roy of Kaplan University about her session slated for the CMP Conclave in Baltimore next month. She'll be looking at a terrific area for self-improvement and career advancement.
"The Importance of Soft Skill Competencies for Meeting Professionals" will help attendees better understand the area of soft skills and how it's an area of growing importance within organizations and an individuals potential to advance their career. Her focus will be on the leadership aspects of soft skills and some of the ways that attendees can better understand and develop them.
There's still time to join us at the CMP Conclave in Baltimore on September 16-18. You can learn more here: CMP Conclave.
Strategic Meeting Tech Podcast Show #12 - Karyn Buxman previews her Lead With Levity session at the CMP Conclave
The Convention Industry Council holds its annual CMP Conclave in less than a month in Baltimore. So that means that in less than a month attendees will be able to share in numerous sessions aimed at helping CMP's to hone and improve they personal and professional skills.
The opening keynote at the Conclave titled "Lead with Levity" will be presented by Karyn Buxman.
Karyn, a neurohumorist, has devoted her career and authored numerous books studying the ways that humor can enhance an organization and its leadership. She offers practical tips and advice for applying humor to all types of situations and ways for developing better skills to add humor to your daily habits.
She spent some time on the podcast giving us a preview of her message, as well as a few of the many tips that she'll be sharing in person when she presents in Baltimore.
You can learn more and register for the CMP Conclave at the CIC website. CMP Conclave
Jon Trask, CMP, CMM
A passion to improve both the meetings and Audio Visual industries by helping to create better and more effective technology conversations..