by Andrea Doyle | August 03, 2017

11. Be Flexible

Be prepared for the unexpected. Changes happen, people are unpredictable, last-minute requests will happen. Someone will show up that you didn't plan on showing up. People that you thought would show up become sick or have travel issues and aren't able to come. "Planning for the unexpected is what takes you as a meeting planner to the next level," says Peggy Vasquez, chief executive assistant, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Always have a plan B, C, and D in place."

12. Be an Early Bird
Stacy Leitner,
City of Rancho Cordova, CA

Leitner of Rancho Cordova also recommends creating a detailed planning sheet that includes a timeline. "Give yourself plenty of time," she says. "And do not procrastinate!"

When Witt first began planning meetings, she used to wait much longer to start working on things such as group meal menus, and she often found herself in situations where she didn't have the time to deal with unexpected bumps in the road. "Once you are a few months out from the meeting, there isn't time for much else than moving forward and dealing with what you can in advance," she says. "I really try not to get behind on daily tasks because it's a snowball effect. Once you get a little behind on something, it can set you back weeks later down the line. Now I do things as soon as possible. I know my deadlines, and I try to meet them well ahead of time."

13. Reverse Roles
You've heard how "location, location, location" are the prime components in real estate. What matters most for effective meeting planners are details, details, details. "You need to picture yourself as an attendee of the meeting/event/conference and ask if everything is easy, obvious, appealing, enjoyable, and whether it surpasses their expectations," says Vasquez.

14. Check, Please
"Triple-check everything!  Confirm everything in advance, and always have a backup plan," says Leitner.


15. Take Time to Recharge

Take time to stop and give yourself a break. You don't want to be worn out and sick by the time your conference is over, thanks to all the long hours and high-stress working conditions. "In my experience, burnout is a real problem when you have a huge event and other tasks to keep up with," says Witt. "For a good part of the year I work overtime trying to get it all done, and by the time the meeting is over, I am wiped."

"Finding the rhythm with all our responsibilities is a challenge for all of us," says Allison of CAPS. "I have to push away from the convention work during downtimes, so it doesn't preoccupy my time and energy. There is an annual rhythm to this work, so it's not a balancing act per se."
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This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.