Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May
Back to Basics
BY MARTHA JO DENDINGER, CMP
Lose Control: Delegate, Even if it Hurts
When the task pile up, use your staff to divide and
Some people think planning a meeting is as simple as A-B-C, but
without the D - delegation - no meeting, regardless of size, can be
managed effectively and efficiently. The verb "delegate" means to
assign responsibility or authority to someone else, which is not an
easy task for control happy planners. Next to cloning, however,
good delegating is a godsend for managers.
At least once after a difficult meeting, most planners have said,
"Next time, I won't do everything." Yet many managers don't
understand the true worth of delegating. It goes beyond telling
someone what to do or assigning tasks. There are two aspects to
delegation: First, the responsibility to get a job done is
transferred. Second, the appropriate level of authority is
conferred on the delegatee.
For example, the lead planner on a project traditionally has
been responsible for processing registrations. The planner would
like someone else to handle this task, freeing up time to
concentrate on program changes and logistical requirements. So the
executive assistant for the department is assigned the registration
process and is trained on the basics: how to key in information and
maintain the database. Yet, weeks into the registration period, the
planner is bombarded, as usual, with questions from registrants and
In this case, only a task has been assigned (the
responsibility). By not giving the assistant the authority to make
changes to the process and handle questions, the planner has not
empowered her. Delegates must be able to act in the meeting
manager's absence and to make decisions.
Many readers are saying, "But I have to know what's going on!
Speakers have to know how many people have registered for their
sessions. Are we on target? Do we need some last-minute marketing?"
Do not mistake delegation for abdication. Soliciting regular
reports and feedback on the tasks that have been passed off is part
of this process.
The key to success is ensuring the planning still goes smoothly.
After matching the person with the project, the lead planner must
define the parameters clearly. Describe the desired outcome of the
tasks and provide the information and authority to get it done.
Focus on the desired result and the time frame. Be clear on the
authority that is being delegated.
Managers also should identify what feedback they want and when
they want it, and they should determine what resources and support
the delegatee will need. Beware of asking too often for reassurance
that the job is getting done; it only shows the manager's
reluctance to give up the project and can destroy the delegatee's
Many meeting managers suffer from perfectionism, feeling they can
do any job better themselves. To a certain degree, this may be
true. But having one person doing all the work causes burnout at
the expense of other staff members and volunteers.
Delegating helps everyone involved, freeing up time for the
meeting manager and helping other employees and volunteers learn
the planning process. Many managers are slow to delegate because
they fear no one will do the job properly. But each veteran planner
was once a naive novice, needing only a little education and
hands-on experience. Consider delegation as a tool to propagate the
WHAT TO GIVE AWAY
A good delegator has learned which jobs to hand off and to whom.
Managers looking to give away parts of the planning process need to
sit down and identify the pieces that someone else can handle.
Researching sites and vendors, overseeing registration and managing
traffic are good places to start. Also, look for areas where
stronger skills are needed. Tap into the special talents of staff
members and volunteers, looking for those who want to learn new
ways to use their knowledge. Then match those people with projects
that have more responsibility and authority.
Even in an organization with a small staff, there are ways to
delegate. One colleague distributed a list jobs to her staff
members, promising trips to the meeting venue and other enticements
to those who signed up for them. Also, volunteers and interns
provide valuable support. And don't forget to delegate up. It does
work in that direction, too. For example, the boss may be the best
person to handle communications with board members.
Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting
planner in Atlanta.
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