Committee. The word can frighten even the most
seasoned planner. But committees are a fact of life in many
organizations and associations. Don’t be caught off guard, then,
when a manager or client asks you to work with other individuals in
the organization who might have only the vaguest hint of what
planning meetings and events entails.
Following are some battle-tested tips for effectively working with
and using a planning committee.
THE BIG PICTURE
" Get the inside scoop. First, determine the
reason for the committee. Sometimes this information is best
gathered directly from your boss or client; other times it might
require discussing the issue with trusted colleagues. However the
research is conducted, it is a good starting point to understanding
the dynamics behind the group effort.
Among the possible reasons for a committee approach is
politics: Savvy managers might view involving others in the company
as an opportunity to demonstrate their department’s value to others
up and down the executive chain, or an opportunity to market the
meetings department to different areas of the firm or
Of course, top brass might simply want to encourage teamwork by
gathering individuals with varying areas of expertise.
For in-house events, such as a company-wide meeting, gala or
celebration, committees might make the function more democratic,
ensuring that all departments and divisions have a stake in the
For associations, it is not unusual to work with a local host
committee at the destination when planning national or
" Set ground rules. Find out what results your
manager or client expects from the group effort. Ask about the
specific goals they have for the committee, how much input the
group will have (for instance, will members get involved in site or
venue selection? Will they have any influence on the agenda?) and
who, at the end of the day, gets to call the shots.
" Create a schedule. Determine how often the group
will meet. While you might have a specific schedule in mind, the
others might prefer to meet more or less often; ask about group
members’ availability and preferences.
Keep track of the meetings’ minutes and send a copy to committee
members afterwards including those who weren’t able to attend.
" Make it voluntary. Resentment will
obliterate the potential you can glean from a committee. Make
participation voluntary, and attempt to omit obligations. Recommend
that committee members send a representative in their place if they
cannot make a meeting.
" Leverage expertise. Draw out the committee
members’ knowledge and experience. Avoid a free-for-all atmosphere
by creating a very specific agenda that will remain big-picture and
avoid minutia. Involve participants in ways that leverage their
areas of expertise.
For example, the marketing department can be called upon to
critique invitation copy. The sales department and human resources
representatives can be called upon for recommendations on seating,
ensuring that dignitaries, honorees or top clients are given choice
tables with commensurate hosts.
" Reap benefits. Building trust, developing
empathy for other departments, collecting valuable
interdepartmental information, and ensuring stakeholders requests
are heard and integrated are incredibly valuable tasks. Similarly,
this is an opportunity to market your services internally and to
show top brass and other departments just how versatile you and the
meetings department are.
Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, is a marketing event
consultant based in California’s Silicon Valley.