What’s that, you say, you didn’t even know that temporary planners existed? Welcome to the new order of meetings management. This may be news to some of our readers, but there is a whole world of temporary, or to use the more common language, contract meeting planners ‘out there’ just ready and waiting for that next phone call to help some soon-to-be-named client with the pre-planning or onsite management of their upcoming conferences or events.
More than ever, planners who are managing to hang on to their jobs are consistently short staffed and overwhelmed by their workloads. Many are also being asked by their management to produce more meetings with less money, garner bigger attendance numbers, and “oh, by the way… (drum roll while waiting for the axe to fall), let’s also look at paring your staff down to minimum.” If you’re lucky, you might just be able to convince your boss to at least allow for some temporary contract management to help you meet some of those impossible goals.
But as an employed planner seeking contract labor, where do you turn to get professional help that won’t require you to spend hours and weeks of your precious time on industry training just to find someone qualified to cover your immediate needs? Some of the more obvious options include networking within your local community through area chapters of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and International Special Events Society (ISES) to find available planners that might consider contract work. Plus there are many local Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB) that already have active lists of convention help used to working temp assignments covering all phases of conference assistance.
You can also reach out to industry contacts through online communities such as LinkedIn®, but there are plenty of professional sources as well.
Companies that specialize in providing professional planning staffing have been around for a number of years and can partner with you to find a good fit for your specific needs whether it be on location wherever your meeting is held or within your own corporate office. Where they can really be invaluable is when you have a multi-city series of programs, thus eliminating the need for remotely screening, contracting, etc. with multiple planners.
According to Rod Abraham, founder and managing director of The Rod Abraham Group (www.rodabrahamgroup.com) who is considered to be the pioneer of temporary professional planner staffing, the need for matching contract meeting planners with clients is great and the customer base continues to grow.
“It’s unlikely that we’ll ever return to the days of companies being overstaffed, especially in terms of their meeting departments. It just makes sense for a business seeking outsourcing of their meeting services to turn to a company that specializes in matching pre-screened, experienced planners with the unique requirements of an organization’s meetings and events.”
On the flip side of the discussion, there seems to be no shortage of qualified planners out there seeking temporary industry work, and to be fair, many planners do contract work by choice. They like the flexibility it provides as well as the constant variety of people, places and things.
“One week I worked five days straight in four different convention hotels plus the convention center for five completely different clients” says Nancy Reilly-Masino, a temp professional currently based in New Jersey with experience in both the planning and supplier sides of the industry.
Temp work in this industry isn’t for everyone, so make sure you understand some basic ground rules before seeking work under contract. Most importantly understand that you are normally hired to assist and facilitate the primary planner who is still the decision maker. This is sometimes a hard pill to swallow for industry veterans who, many times, see elements of the events they can improve upon. If you do find yourself in that position take Nancy’s advice and “Bite your tongue! Remember you’re there to carry out a game plan that was already solidified back in the client’s office. If they want your advice they’ll ask for it; otherwise, smile and do the job you were hired for to the best of your ability.”
Whether you’re an employed planner who needs professional project assistance or an unemployed planner seeking temporary work, there are resources for both sides. Another compelling reason to remain an active networker within this industry!