Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio December
Back to Basics
BY MIKE KABO
Hiring a Meeting Planner
Here’s how to bring in reliable outside help
For many of you, there comes a time when you just have too much
on your plate and you have to outsource. To meet this challenge,
you must face the task of hiring a fellow meeting planner.
In today’s marketplace, finding someone with the skills you
require at a price you can afford can be tricky and difficult. And,
as we have all faced in our working lives, it is one thing to be in
total control (or so we hope) of a project, but quite another to
Separating The Wheat From The Chaff
Just like planning a great meeting, making a good hiring decision
requires you to think through your needs, clearly identify your
expectations and be prepared with contingencies when things don’t
go quite the way you expected. You will need to consider the
following seven elements during the hiring process.
Scope of the assignment. What do you want this
person to do? Define specific responsibilities based on what the
client has requested, the dynamics of the meeting and what you can
reasonably handle yourself. Will this planner be on site the entire
meeting or will he have set hours? Will he also be involved in
pre-meeting activities such as supplier selection, developing the
program and registration? Without clear detail, defining the
strengths you are looking for will be impossible.
Skills and experience. Once you have determined
the responsibilities of the planner, spell out the specific skills
you require. Don’t forget to look for someone who communicates
well, verbally and in writing. In terms of experience, the number
of years in the business may not be as important as finding someone
who has worked with the client before or has been involved with an
event at your destination or venue. Finally, will the planner meet
regularly with the client and/or attendees? If so, include
appearance on your list. First impressions are important, not only
to you, but to clients and delegates.
Payment. Before you contact anyone, have a good
idea of what you are willing to pay. Be prepared for questions
concerning hours, overtime, travel time and reimbursement.
Candidates will also want to know when they can expect to be paid.
Be clear on your budget and where you can negotiate. Two tips for
independents: Remember, you are in business to provide great
service but also to make a profit. And, if you have never hired
another planner before, talk to your accountant about the
Finding the right planner. Networking is the
best way to find independent meeting planners. Contact trusted
colleagues and ask them who they know or with whom they have
worked. Talk to hoteliers with whom you have a good relationship.
Listen to recommendations from people whose opinion you trust,
because in the eyes of the higher-ups, the person you hire will
reflect directly on you, your abilities and the success of the
The interview process. To get the best
information during an interview, ask open-ended questions. If a
question can be answered with a yes or no, then you will not get a
good sense of how the candidate thinks on her feet. You need to
find out how well the person can handle unforeseen problems and
stress. Write your questions down.
Also, be sensitive to your own feelings about how well you will
get along with this person. You won’t have the luxury of time to
build a strong working relationship, so you and the new planner
need to have good chemistry right from the start.
Finally, meet with your candidates face to face. Use phone
interviews only to introduce yourself and to reduce the list down
to a manageable level.
Making the right decision. Take good notes
during the interview, then match the candidates’ answers to the
skills and experience level you previously defined. Check
references and probe very carefully about the work habits of the
candidate. Finally, sit back and concentrate on your impression of
each person. Don’t be afraid to go with your instincts; they won’t
let you down.
The contract. Once the offer is made and
accepted, prepare a contract. It should be precise about the terms
and conditions of the employment relationship, the specific
responsibilities the planner will have and the method of
Mike Kabo is president of Solutions Inc., an
independent travel and meeting management consulting firm with
offices in New York City and San Francisco.
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