by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | March 01, 2014
Rules to keep:

• Follow all Americans With Disabilities Act ( regulations.

• You don't need to acquiesce to every food trend, but always prepare to provide special/alternative meals (e.g., vegetarian, Kosher) and address life-threatening allergies.

• Beware: Having participants for an internal corporate event share hotel rooms is unpalatable for most attendees and can risk liability for the company and planner.

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As meeting professionals, we are conditioned to respect specific formulas and rules as gleaned from sources such as the Convention Industry Council, our bosses and seasoned colleagues. While such shared wisdom generally is based on experience, research and common sense, in certain situations it can be advantageous to break with traditional planning concepts.

Following are examples of when and how to rethink accepted guidelines to ensure successful events.

Think beyond goals

Setting objectives typically is the first priority for event planners and stakeholders, with goals often discussed even before the content and purpose have been established. But it can prove more helpful to be a visionary first, and let goals and objectives be defined second.

You might start out thinking in terms of sponsorship and content, both of which reign in modern event management. These elements have been shown to have the most influence over attendance, momentum and, ultimately, event results.

Visionary thinking will help you to attract the right target audience, rather than just a large number of people, of which a smaller percentage will be those whom organizers really want to attend their event.

Omit the Timeline
A timeline that establishes tasks and sets deadlines for meeting them traditionally has been a crucial component of the planning process. However, it can be a waste of time for events that have to be planned post-haste, like product launches, alliance/merger meetings or training events. In lieu of a timeline, create a short checklist with action items, deadlines and assigned ownership.

Loosen breaks
Traditionally, meeting breaks were spelled out in the agenda, with one typically scheduled in the morning and another in the afternoon. But today, attendees saddled with heavy workloads and 24/7 access to their firms and clients appreciate choosing their own time to take a break from a busy event schedule.

Not only will attendees be appreciative, but it will allow them to focus on the content and networking you've arranged while still handling responsibilities and communications in a timely fashion.

Book the Hotel Now
In the past, planners were accustomed to hotels holding space for them until they were ready to sign their contract. Today, space at many meeting properties is in high demand and, increasingly, hotels are holding groups to a time frame of just 48 to 72 hours to accept the contract, particularly when another group has requested the same dates and is ready to sign a deal.

So, when you get the dates you want, don't hesitate to nail them down, or you could well end up disappointed and scrambling to find rooms elsewhere.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, is an event producer and writer who specializes in strategic global event marketing. She is based in Pacifica, Calif.