I think we can all agree that in today’s value-centric environment, managing stakeholder expectations is a critical part of a meeting planner's evolving responsibilities. This topic became a focal point during one of my recent industry workshops, where many corporate and association planners were frustrated by the unrealistic expectations of their meeting stakeholders and senior management. They also vented about the difficulty to obtain timely information on specific meeting management components and on-going changes to the meeting agenda and drain on their time management. Perhaps by now you're thinking "welcome to my world"?
An important first step is identifying all internal and external meeting stakeholders and identifying their contributions, and priorities, to the overall meeting management process. This includes department managers, procurement, senior management, and anyone else with their hands (or fingerprints) on your meeting activity and support. Typically, these stakeholders do not have a lot of experience in meeting management -- thus the many comments regarding unrealistic expectations. If you follow my Strategic Perspectives on these pages, you have heard me comment that "meeting value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder" (or, in this case, the stakeholder). The path to assure success is having a meeting or phone conversation with each stakeholder and identifying their core objectives and vision for each meeting, then providing your ideas, recommendations, and action plan to make it happen.
What Do Your Stakeholders Value?
Since your stakeholders generally do not have a career path involving meeting management, it is essential to know their vision and expected outcomes, which gives you the opportunity to establish parameters on timelines, costs, metrics, budgets, and support required to achieve success. Stakeholder value components can include communicating the organizations core initiatives and vision, cost savings, hotel contract risk mitigation, meeting content and communications, attendee interactive learning, and achieving each stakeholders stated objectives. In the Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) world, this is called Return On Objectives (ROO).
Managing (and achieving) stakeholder expectations should be at the top of your meeting value playbook and be viewed as both an opportunity to grow your recognition within your organization and a path to getting a seat at the table. When you get unrealistic requests -- and you will -- be proactive in establishing realistic parameters and metrics to forge forward. Today, stakeholder "reality checks" come with the territory. For corporate and associations planners, all this is part of the shift, from logistics to strategic. Don't look at yourself as the company meeting planner, view yourself as the company "meeting consultant" and stay focused on solutions. As a result, you will see a big impact to your organization, and to your personal brand!