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Do you Need a Meeting Planner?
 

Whether your business is hosting a one-day meeting in your office or a national convention at a major conference center facility, the importance of selecting a skilled meeting planner to organize the event cannot be overstated.

The success of your event and its impact on your professional reputation hinges on the quality of the meeting planner you've chosen. Meeting planners are responsible for coordinating the hundreds of details that can go into preparing for any given event, from booking the appropriate conference facilities to orchestrating the event's daily schedule.

Whether you hire an independent meeting planner or contract one through a conference facility, your planner should have the expertise required to take the event to the next level. Gone are the days when "the ability to envision and somewhat meander through logistics of a company meeting or event was acceptable," says Evelyn Laxgang, the International Chairwoman of the Board of Meeting Professionals International, in the Los Angeles Business Journal. "[T]he significance and value of a successful meeting planner has risen dramatically within the organizational structure. Today's planner possesses exceptional visionary and procedural skills, patience, and the drive and fortitude to execute strategic, effective meetings."

The Meeting Planner's Role

Let's role-play for a moment. You're an executive at a company that has scheduled talks with a group of investors. Today is the day of your big meeting. Mere hours are left before the event starts. Would you rather spend the remaining time:
A. Preparing yourself to present the day's opening remarks, or
B. Showing the caterer where to set up the refreshments while making sure the welcome gifts for your group's VIPs have arrived

If you picked option B, you should consider a career as a meeting planner. Of course, if you're happy with your current profession, option A seems like the smarter choice. The meeting planner is someone who can focus entirely on the logistics of the event, thereby freeing you to focus on the business at hand.

Event planning involves managing a broad range of responsibilities. A meeting planner is often in charge of managing the selection of a conference facility, organizing equipment, arranging a speaker, selecting a catering service, and so on. An experienced meeting planner knows how to bring all the elements together to create an effective meeting scenario that runs smoothly and makes a good impression.

How to Find a Meeting Planner

Meeting planners can be hired independently or can be arranged through the site that's hosting your event. Many conference facilities provide meeting planners as part of an inclusive event package. A prime example of a meeting site equipped to set you up with a qualified conference planner is Q Center, the premier Illinois conference facility and meetings site.

Q Center offers meeting packages that include a conference planner, who works with you from pre- through post-meeting. The Q Center facility also makes available professional support from Q Center's on-site technology team and offers a hotline that will respond to any last-minute needs.

During the corporate event planning phase, your organization's meeting planner works closely with a Q Center professional conference planning manager. This arrangement ensures that conference planning is consistent, from concept to completion. The conference facility's mission is to clear the obstacles to productivity so you and your group can focus on your goal. Q Center's meeting planners will do whatever it takes to make a meeting an unqualified success.

There are a number of benefits associated with contracting a meeting planner through a professional conference facility. In many cases, these meeting planners have worked with the facility before. They know the building, the staff, and are aware of the available resources, which leaves them better equipped to respond to your needs. When your conference facility recommends a planner, you are more likely to get an experienced professional rather than someone who works part-time. Facility planners are able to focus their time on your meeting, working on the event from start to finish.

If you prefer to hire an independent meeting planner, the website of the International Special Events Society (http://www.ises.com) features an online tool that enables you to search for event planners by region and specialty. In fact, many businesses are relying more on Internet research than word-of-mouth to help them find a good meeting planner.

To select the right planner, you'll want to look at other events the person has worked on, check references, and consider how their professional skill set meets your needs. Ask whether the person holds any certifications, such as the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation, Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP) or the Certification in Meetings Management (CMM). While not absolute guarantees of quality, certifications show that the person has a certain amount of industry experience and has made an investment to learn the trade.

Here are some tips for choosing a winning meeting planner:
• Check references from other businesses that have used the planner for similar events. This applies even if the meeting planner is recommended by your conference facility.
• Look for someone who specializes in the type of event you're hosting. You don't want someone who plans family functions to organize your important corporate event.
• Consider whether this is the planner's career, or merely a part-time job. This can be a sign of experience and dedication.
• Send the planner a written description of what you'd like your event to be. Then ask for a written proposal outlining the planner's responsibilities and the budget before moving forward.

The time it takes to select a professional who is a match for your business' needs is minor in comparison to the time and effort you'll save later on. Hiring an experienced meeting planner can help to streamline your meeting process and make a lasting, positive impression on business associates. Once you have a top quality meeting planner on your team, you'll wonder how you ever managed without.

R.L. Fielding Bio
R.L. Fielding has been a freelance writer for 10 years, offering her expertise and skills to a variety of major organizations in the education, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing industries. She lives in New Jersey with her dog and two cats and enjoys rock climbing and ornamental gardening.

R. L. Fielding
June 26, 2006

About Q Center
This article was provided by Q Center, which is dedicated to providing premier learning and conference facilities equipped for total productivity and supported by a quality-focused team. Q Center has the facilities and technology to create virtually unlimited meeting scenarios. More than ordinary conference facilities, Q Center is a conference complex. Located in the western suburbs of Chicago, Q Center is conveniently accessible to both of Chicago's major airports and to the many organizations with headquarters and major offices in Chicago. Visit http://www.qcenter.com for more information.

Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/strategic-planning-articles/do-you-need-a-meeting-planner-37878.html

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