MM: Complete this sentence. The best meeting planners…
RP: Are doers, not planners. They have never met a task and said, “That is not my job”; this applies equally to both suppliers and planners.
MM: How can planners make your job of providing an outstanding meeting experience easier?
MM: Anything else?
RP: Sure. Planners need to understand that if they are asking for something, they may need to give something. It boils down to communication and working together. For example, space is king at most properties. If a planner books 20 percent of the sleeping rooms, it is difficult to give 60 percent of meeting space because it limits others from hosting there. Together we would find a solution so that both parties win. Can a General Session be used as one of the breakouts? Can a room be double set? Can an offsite dinner be brought onsite? To keep labor costs down, can a room flip be avoided?
MM: What work habits make an outstanding meeting planner?
RP: Planners who have realistic, not low, expectations allow us to exceed these and deliver a “wow” moment in the end. Also, entering the process as partners, knowing we want to book your business and give you an amazing event as much as you want to host with us.
MM: What is the key step in your sales process?
RP: The steps leading up to the closing of the contract are most important. I never assume a client understands the attrition clause or what a cutoff date is. Therefore, I review it with a client to ensure understanding of deadlines and what is being signed off on before they are “stuck” because I never want a client to feel “stuck” in a contract or shocked by something that pops up later.
Equally important is the post conference call or meeting. Things are never perfect 100 percent of the time. If there is something we can do better, we want to know so we can BE better. If we are not told, we do not know.
MM: What are some changes you have seen in the industry in the past three to five years?
RP: I can think of several. For instance, groups are keeping their meetings closer to home, which puts monies in their own communities. Also, the planner role is being assigned to staff members and volunteer board members rather than a professional planner. This requires suppliers to step it up and walk them through the process. I also see groups booking in shorter timeframes, which has availability challenges. However, if the group has some flexibility, we may be able to find an opening and pass on benefits for filling an open date last minute. This is a definite win-win. And, of course, budgets have become more important; this has benefits and downfalls. Competition makes people and companies better, working hard to earn business. But the downfall is that some properties cut rates too low, disallowing reinvestment in the property, which hurts the property and the client in the long run. And, when rate alone determines selection, the process becomes depersonalized because a client will move on to the lowest offer year after year.
MM: What do you do to better the industry and keep current on issues, events and trends?
RP: My work ethic and attitude represent what the hospitality industry stands for and I keep up with trends and ideas that benefit my clients and company. I read Midwest Meetings and apply that which improves both. I attend trade events to not only hear speakers but also to interact with other meeting professionals from whom I learn so much. I use Google Alerts to keep abreast of current events involving my clients. If there is a layoff or a merger, this affects their events, or even the tone of their next meeting. Staying current with the industry and with my clients is part of my every business day.
MM: What advice can you offer for those new to the industry?
RP: Ask for help. Be open to advice from those with industry tenure. Put in the leg work. Experienced professionals are not always right, but gain their knowledge. THEN, forge your own path.
MM: What is the best compliment you have ever received from a meeting planner?
RP: Honestly, having Selby Sayre, an AFLAC State Administrator and Meeting Planner, recommend me for this article ranks above the rest. She works with a lot of location contacts and the fact that I stood out in her mind really means a lot.
MM: What is your quote to live by, and who said it?
RP: “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you got to say, and say it hot.”
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