TB: I loved working on the supplier side, but I didn’t want to be on the sales side of things forever. I had applied for meeting planner jobs but it was hard because they didn’t understand the core relationship between the two sides (supplier and planner). I also knew I wanted to get my CMP so I worked as a sales manager while studying to gain the certification knowing that it would help me find a job as a planner.
I’ve now been the Meeting Planner for the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA) for a year and absolutely love it! I am the only planner for the association and while we have over 3,000 members, our office is very small with only eight of us on staff.
TB: Everything! We have our annual meeting in Las Vegas for about 700 people and 70 exhibitors. I am in charge of everything from gaining sponsorships, handling the exhibitors to registration. I also plan 25 fall regional programs all over the U.S. and four board meetings a year. There’s this “planner high” I get when planning and attending the events. There is nothing better than seeing everyone happy and the gratification of pulling off an event. 2013 will be the first National Meeting that I’m handling everything from start to finish. I am looking forward to seeing some of the new things I’ve implemented. There are going to be some competitions that are low cost for the association, but will help create more interaction among the attendees. The other major event is a community outreach we’re doing for the first time. We’re holding a medical device drive and have been working with the city of Las Vegas to help find some non-profit clinics that need assistance. Based on their needs we’ve put a wish list together to give to our members who wish to donate items they aren’t using or have upgraded. My hope is to make this an annual event.
TB: Funding is an issue in our specific industry (cuts with the new Sunshine Act) so we will have to see how much it will affect us. Obviously in regards to meetings, technology is a big topic in terms of keeping up with our members and sponsors. Attendees can’t sit for 10 hours listening to speakers so we are trying to incorporate things throughout the day that don’t cost a lot for money since we’re non-profit. There are little things that we can do to keep attendees interactive and interested, like mobile apps to communicate with others in the meeting room in real time. It also provides us with valuable feedback too, whether they like the speaker or not and ways to improve for next year. Something new this year is that if you tweet or post to Facebook you’re entered in a drawing. This is especially helpful to get communication out there to make folks who aren’t there feel like they should be. Almost everyone has a smart phone and can be tied in with everything – our live streaming at the meeting will also help people gauge what goes on at the meeting.
This is the first year we’re having a live Twitter feed on a screen in the room. It’s a big risk since someone could tweet something negative, but it instills a lot of confidence in our members and elevates our association’s level of excellence. We’re also going to have a lounge with screens that will have both Facebook and Twitter.
It’s not enough to just attend events, you need to introduce yourself, get to know people, and create relationships.
TB: Working in an administrative role opened my eyes before being on the floor which was a great learning experience. It also helps to be a detailed person and enjoy being hands on. When I first started out it was hard to get a chance because everyone wanted you to have experience first. The best thing I did was position myself in the industry and network to get my name out there. It’s hard to get interviews without having connections. Looking back I wish I had a stronger mentor that I worked closer with: I had a handful of mentors but never focused on one of them directly. I think it would be very beneficial to go to one of their events or spend days with them to get that real-life experience that you can use in interviews.
Networking is also key. It’s not enough to just attend events, you need to introduce yourself, get to know people, and create relationships. Find an organization that you have passion for and get involved, you never know who you’ll meet and there’s no replacement for face to face interaction and relationship building. I had an interest in hospice and got involved with their golf committee where I met some great people. It’s important to get to know people that you can rely on and trust, personally and professionally.
Once you’re working in the industry it’s important to stay involved. In teaching a CMP class with my local MPI Chapter it’s fun to see the excitement from future planners and it keeps me motivated and looking forward to see what’s next in our industry.
TB: I find this question a little difficult as every event can be unique for the area, but it would be really great to have a reception at the top of the Empire State Building and then maybe a brainstorming event in the middle of the Google corporate offices.