The true relevance of meetings Gone are the days when a meeting planner's main concern is “Are we going to serve enough fish and chicken in equal proportions and at the right temperature?” It’ s far more important that meetings have real relevance, [to ask] “Have I found the right content that engages the public imagination? Is this meeting the business’ need?” That is a very unique skill around editorial judgment. That really has been the success of TED — that they have managed to take people and subject matters that would have only appealed to super-nerds and make them interesting and sexy.
Building community This is especially relevant if you're building a conference. Conferences and trade shows have moved away from a monolithic model to being very focused seminars and conferences. And the ones that have been successful have been able to build a very tangible community around that topic. I think the same logic applies to internal meetings: The role of the meeting planner is community building— understanding the key stakeholders and the key issues, maintaining contact with the participants and stakeholders. Not just during the event, but in the spaces between events as well. What to do with your content A key question is, how much content did your meeting generate? What is left over after you pack up all the chairs and put away the screens? Did you create short, sharp, five-minute excerpts with interesting blog posts? White papers? Because it is that content ultimately which, in public events, gets distributed on social networks and that people share on LinkedIn. For internal meetings, it's the content that top executives and leaders can say, “Okay, we have fixed, tangible outcomes out of this meeting.”
Brand your meetings and events At our organization, we try to clearly identify our programs. We have a clear brand — we try to brand our programs so that people who go to our meetings or our events know that, oh, this is an AAIA program. You can become a brand ambassador for your organization and align your programs so that they match the overall image your organization's trying to portray; then you are well ahead of, I would say, anything else.
Market yourself as the best You want to make your event the place where they have to be. You have to be the best program out there within your industry. So if you can brand yourself as the best, then everyone else is going to try to keep up with you, and you're going to be the one leading that.
It's not just numbers “I think about it in terms of our trade show and what we call our event — it's not about the number of bodies that are there, it's about the quality of the attendees in terms of buyers, because we have a commercial show. It's about the quality of the attendee and not just getting bodies in for bodies’ sake. And making sure that when you have an event, that the right target audience is at that event. We have to show them a business reason for them to come to our event.”
Be a good partner One of the other professional skill sets that I think we all need to have is, we're basically diplomats. You have to get things done, but you have to figure out how to do them without stepping on somebody's toes or making the other person disappointed or upset. We work in a really tricky place where we work with the venues where our events happen, but we also have to be representing ourselves to the associations. Negotiations and when things happen on-site and you have to make things work. You have to get the results you need, but you also have to realize that you're working in a partnership with these people, too.