Push Number One to the Top

Who wouldn't like to move their business forward drastically in the next few months? Perhaps your company has done a business plan, and now management is hounding you to keep on target with your goals. Whether you're leading a meeting planning department of five employees or a workforce of 2,000, you have to identify your firm's number-one priority to keep the wolves at bay.

Be aware that not everyone in your department will know what the number-one priority is. Many people are not on the same page, so you need good planning, communication, and systems that tie people and projects together. And remember that occasionally a manager is too close to see solutions. Be open to outside parties who may see a different picture altogether.

When it seems that people are plodding along the road of progress, sometimes an exercise tool can bring the matter into focus. It can give managers a wake-up call to what truly is the number-one priority at a given time. Furthermore, it gives direction to the utilization of all resources, which rockets you, your department, and your company from point A to point B faster. Ultimately, being able to achieve goals quickly and accurately is what breeds success.

If you want to push the number-one priority to the top of your to-do list and make some fast, impactful changes, here's a six-point plan:

1. Make a list. Identify 10 projects you should be working on.

2. Prioritize by impact. Place the list into numerical order.

3. Delegate shrewdly. Find the best person on your staff to handle each item and get the job done right and fast.

4. Double-check your list. Have an impartial person, with some analytical skills, review the lists looking for the "unseen."

5. Develop a system. Select the number-one priority and feed it into a "project plan" which may include various project management tools and mechanisms.

6. Set deadlines. It's the best way to ensure that things will move forward.

Most meeting, convention, and incentive travel planners do not have the time or budget to personally research all of the possibilities and specifics for every destination being considered for their group's programs. At best, they possess only basic knowledge of the destinations being considered. However, many organizations expect the planner to be an expert in every aspect of every destination.

The process of selecting a destination management company (DMC) to assist you in designing and implementing events, activities, tours, transportation, and program logistics for your group can be quite simple. Here's how to find a DMC that will be the best fit for your group.

Identify Candidates
Rely on word-of-mouth. Ask your peers and colleagues whom they have worked with successfully in the destination where your program will be held. Check with the Association of Destination Management Executives at www.adme.org; the most professional DMCs are members.

Ask your contacts from the convention and visitors bureau in the host city for their three top DMC recommendations.

Check the membership directories of professional associations you belong to, such as Meeting Professionals International, the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, American Society of Association Executives, and so on.

Ask the hoteliers you're working with for their top three recommendations as well. Make sure that the hotel is not paid or commissioned by the "recommended" DMCs. Then compare the results of the five sources above to see which DMCs stand out the most.

Narrow the Field
Select two or three finalists based on the answers to the following questions: How long has the firm has been in business? Is it a licensed business? How many full-time employees work for the company? What is the experience level of the employees who will manage your programs? Are their company values and individual personalities compatible with yours? Who will be on site during your programs? Can they be reached after regular business hours?

In addition, ask to preview the DMC's contract terms up front. Require proof of adequate insurance coverage; a minimum of $2 million coverage is standard. Ask for proof that its vendors are insured as well. Also request a list of references who had programs similar to yours.

Requesting Proposals
Give your finalists all the group particulars. Specifically, they will need to know the group demographics (age range, male/female ratio, etc.), the specific interests of the group, the program agenda and any time constraints, the group's past history, and the program budget.

Then specify what services you want them to include in their proposals. These are generally items such as meet-and- greet/airport transfers, other transportation services, tours and recreation, special events, dining arrangements, and gifts and amenities.

If you require shuttle services, make sure that your finalists are building their proposals from the same criteria, in order to make a valid comparison. The criteria for a program usually consists of the number of passengers, quality and quantity of vehicles, proposed routes, average passengers wait time, number of staff included, quality and quantity of signage on vehicles and along routes, and the shuttle experience of bidders.

If you will be including tours and recreation in your program, provide your finalists with the dates and times, whether the activities will be hosted, the type of recreation (on-property, off-property, educational, adventure, sporting, teambuilding, and so on), spousal participation, and if meal functions will be included.

If your program will include special events, ask your finalists the following: How much experience does the DMC have producing special events? What events has the DMC created similar to yours? (Be sure to check references and request photos and videos of these events.) Has the DMC produced other events at the venues they are proposing? Are all expenses included in the proposal?

Read each proposal thoroughly. If possible, meet with finalists to review their proposal in person. Select the DMC whose proposal most closely meets the needs and objectives of your overall program. Keep all proposal information confidential unless the DMCs allow you to share it. Never allow a finalist to read a competitor's proposal.

At the end of your program ask attendees to evaluate the DMC services.