DOING THE JOB
11. Be Flexible
Seven part-time planners have contributed their wisdom to this article, and we appreciate the time and effort they have given us. Here's a look at their juggling acts.
STEVE ALLISON, PH.D.
Day job: Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University; part-time private practice in clinical psychology
Meeting planning duties: Responsible for the annual international conference for the Christian Association for Psychological Studies for the past 14 years.
Day job: Senior executive assistant, City of Rancho Cordova, CA; co-owner, Admin to Admin, a company that specializes in professional development for administrative assistants; Faculty Member-Administrative Assisting Program, Brigham Young University--Idaho; Board of Directors, International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP); Founder of the blog, A Great Day's Work
Meeting planning duties: Responsible for several small and mid-size events per year for the City of Rancho Cordova.
Day job: Executive coordinator/office manager, Dignity Health; co-owner/speaker/professional development specialist, Admin to Admin
Meeting planning duties: Responsible for several large events (employee service awards, leadership retreats) and then some events that are smaller but more frequent such as town halls and quarterly strategy meetings.
Day job: Founder and CEO of All Things Admin, a company dedicated to developing and providing training, mentoring, and resources for administrative professionals worldwide
Meeting planning duties: Currently responsible for three to five virtual training events per month, but in her past career as an administrative assistant in the corporate world she planned four board meetings per year, one major sales golf outing, monthly staff and leadership meetings, and quarterly teambuilding events, plus client site visits and due diligence visits as requested.
ROMANITA L. ROSS
Day job: Office manager at the Chicago office, The Hackett Group
Meeting planning duties: Responsible for planning 15 to 20 events per year for The Hackett Group
Day job: Chief executive assistant, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; current past president for Women Helping Women and past president of the Administrative Professionals of Tri-Cities
Meeting planning duties: Responsible for at least one event a month that range from leadership workshops to one-day conferences to large events of over 1,000 attendees.
Day job: Administrative assistant, The American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control (AAOMC)
Meeting planning duties: Responsible for the annual meeting of the AAOMC.
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
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.
AFTER THE MEETING
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."
Questions or comments? Email [email protected]
This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.