by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | March 01, 2004

Behind every successful meeting is the perfect preconvention meeting, better known as the precon.
   There never is an excuse not to hold a precon. No meeting is too small or unimportant to eliminate this gathering. Even events that have been held for years at the same property with many of the same players benefit from a precon, because an element or two always change. Always.

The precon allows all the people who will be handling the meeting to get to know each other and to go over the details chronologically.
   The precon should not take more than 40 minutes even for a long event. Exceptions include preparing for times when something out of your hands might disrupt the event, such as a monsoon.

Generally, the precon is held the night before the program starts. For a complex and long meeting, hold two: one several months out and one the night prior. Hold it when the most critical personnel can attend.

Do your homework.
Bring all your documents, business cards, and photos and bios of your VIPs to hand out.
   Do not arrive late, disheveled or in jeans. You and your staff should present yourselves as organized professionals. Not only is it disrespectful to show up unprepared broadcasting to your colleagues they might be embarking on a stressful event but your group’s value diminishes exponentially.

The precon is your meeting. You run it. Let your convention services manager know which people from the venue you want to attend. You should invite outside vendors who need to be present.
   The hotel should order refreshments for the precon. You should not be charged for these. If the venue indicates you will be charged, decline the refreshments and/or ask for water pitchers only.

Your team, your CSM and your designated banquet captain(s) are critical. (Too often, another banquet captain will be present.) Also important are A/V technicians and someone from accounting, the front desk and reservations.
   Will you have complex food and beverage? The chef should be present. Are VIPs attending? The head of security should be there. Planning activities? The spa director and associated activity directors should be present. Will you have gift deliveries or complex bag or vehicle staging? The bell captain should be present. Will attendees have a lot of down time? The concierge should be present.

Taking the reins of the precon, introduce yourself and your team; give a brief description of the event, your company, the goals and objectives (that are not proprietary), and the VIPs involved (share photos and bios at this time). Indicate special areas of concern.
   At this point, all the hotel people should be introduced, starting with the general manager and working around the table. Then discuss elements of the meeting with the busiest participant and/or the person with whom you have the least to communicate, then allow him to leave.
   Eventually you should be left with your CSM and banquet captain, to go over the banquet event orders and the group’s résumé. Double-check location, space, timing, F&B guarantees and choices, load-in and -out expectations, and designated pre-function space. Insist that new BEOs be distributed if there are major changes.
   Above all, be gracious and appreciative of the participants’ time and efforts, and be upbeat about your event your excitement and passion will be infectious.