What do you wish someone had told you when you started in the
meetings business? In a recent post on our planner blog, "Liz on the
Biz," author Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM, outlined the basic advice she
would give to her younger self. Her tips are below, followed by more
words of wisdom from highly experienced professionals in various
meetings industry segments.
ELIZABETH ZIELINSKI, CMMIndependent Planner
the opportunities you have been given. Work will always be work, but I
have had the opportunity to do my work in places I might never have seen
otherwise. Sometimes they were five-star resorts, and other times they
were humbler places that I would not have chosen to go to on my own
time. I found so many of them to contain beauty and culture beyond
anything I had anticipated. Work travel is never glamorous, but see it
as a chance to experience everything you can.
Don't relate your
personal value to your buying power. When I started my career, I was
given a lot of autonomy. Because of that, suppliers recognized that I
represented decision-making power beyond that of my typical peer group,
and I was courted, appeased, sought after. By contrast, years later when
I became an independent planner, the approach I received from many of
the same people was much less responsive. It wasn't personal; it was an
appropriate use of their business resources. I know the same thing
happens to people who start their careers working for a Fortune 100
company and later go to work for a small association.
the business you are in. Service providers study their customers to
learn how and why they work the way they do, in order to better meet
their buying needs. Planners should do the same. Study your supplier
partners and vendors just as you do your peers and your attendees. You
can learn powerful and effective work strategies by better understanding
what your partners prioritize.
TERRI BREININGThe Breining Group
Meetings Industry Consultant
yourself to a high standard. Conduct yourself with humility and honor,
and you will be OK in the long run. It might take a while longer to
achieve success, but what you do achieve will be much more sustainable
if you don't sell your soul to get it.
Keep learning. One of the
great things about the meetings industry is that there is always
something new. So even when you get lots of experience under your belt,
look at every new project with fresh eyes and enthusiasm. When your
enthusiasm runs out, look for something else to do -- whether it's
learning new skills or taking on new responsibilities or even moving to a
new organization. Life is way too short and far too interesting to get
stuck doing the very same thing you've always done.
you know. We will never be diminished by giving away what we've learned.
I have served as a teacher to many and a mentor to some over the years.
What I know for sure is that I am always enriched by sharing my
experiences with others. And to watch someone I've taught go on to
create their own success is an amazing experience not to be missed.
MAURA GASTExecutive Director
Irving (Texas) Convention & Visitors Bureau
hard at the job you have. Every job you take may not necessarily be the
one you were hoping for, but that doesn't mean there won't be valuable
experience in it.
Take every opportunity presented. Take every
single thing out of every opportunity that you can, and harness it to
get you where you ultimately want to go.
Go above and beyond.
Never hesitate to pick up a scrap of paper on the floor, or the messy
work of a project that's floundering. Both show leadership, focus,
attention to detail and commitment.
DAVE SCYPINSKISenior Vice President
North Potomac, Md.
other side's contract will always be biased to that party. Be diligent
in reading the contract carefully and identifying where the advantages
for the other side occur. And remember that a single word or number can
change the entire clause, especially in the big four: attrition,
cancellation, force majeure and dispute resolution. These are the most
important clauses for both sides to draft correctly; they can make the
difference between your organization paying damages or being able to
cancel a contract if an "act of God" occurs and you cannot perform the
Keep it clean. Never send a final contract containing
cross-outs or changes. The final contract should always be clean and
free of anything that, three years later when the negotiating parties
have moved on, could be misconstrued or end up causing problems. Many
times, I have been the referee for a contract dispute and had to advise
the parties to work something out simply because the contract was
impossible to read or interpret because of handwritten changes. In this
age of Microsoft Word, there really isn't a good excuse to sign a
contract containing clauses with cross-outs.
negotiable. Despite what might be said to the contrary, every contract
clause is open to negotiation. The determining factor in most cases
comes down to which party has the leverage during the negotiations. An
old friend of mine had a saying that not only got many laughs but also
always proved to be true: "Some days you are the bug, and other days
you're the windshield."
Consider the salesperson's motivation.
Is the sales goal based on annual, quarterly or trimester returns -- and
how close is he or she to achieving it? In this case, knowledge is very
powerful to crafting an optimum contract for your company or
association (see the next point).
The best deals are found at the
end of the quarter or the end of the year. As I mentioned above, make
it part of your negotiating checklist to ask about timing. Most planners
know to ask for everything on Dec. 29, but the same advantages might be
found on March 30, June 30 and Sept. 30. I am perennially amazed how
much a hotel will give at the end of a goal period. Make sure you ask
for everything you want -- and even more. If you don't, you'll never
know how much you left on the table.
JONATHAN T. HOWE, ESQ. President/Senior Partner
Howe & Hutton
being too smart. The best thing to do is ask questions even thought you
might think you know the answer. Never be afraid to ask a question in
response to a question. When someone asks you about something, ask why
they want to know. In other words respond to a question with a question.
the entire document before you sign it. Too often planners and
suppliers fail to do a basic fundamental requirement. How many of us
have hit the "I agree" box on the Internet without having bothered to
read all those terms and conditions that we have just agreed to abide
Find a mentor. Seek out someone who is prepared to spend some
time with you to help you navigate both the smooth as well as the rough
waters, because Murphy's Law is optimistic when it comes to this
Be honest. When you know what it really is, tell it
like it is. One of my admonitions is always that I cannot blame you for
bad news, but I sure can blame you for not telling me. Similarly, when
negotiating, your integrity is on the line. While the hospitality
industry may seem large enough to disappear into, your reputation will
follow you. Keep it honest, straightforward, civil and respectful.