How to Build a Successful Event & Meeting Planner Career

Ann Marie Howle, Principal of More Than a Meeting ~ Corporate Meetings & Events

My current position is partner/principal with More Than a Meeting.  My primary focus includes marketing, operations, procurement and daily management.  My career in the Meeting and Event industry officially began in the wine industry over 17 years ago; however, it was my upbringing that influenced my skills, emotional intelligence and creative abilities.  Through practical experience, attention to detail, and anticipation of needs and creative solutions, I learned to produce results for all types social interaction/networking.  My professional road was paved with opportunities to create, influence, support, manage and execute all types of functions that required me to use many of the talents I was given.  Starting my career in the world of wine, I was given the opportunity to create events for educational and marketing purposes.  We produced consumer and customer opportunities and forged our brand identity worldwide through special event marketing. 

The World of Corporate Events

The next juncture in my career path brought me to a global presence in the corporate event world.  I have been fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with many clients and partners on their events, trade shows and meeting projects around the world and each with a unique approach.  I have also worked on development teams for new technology products which offer advanced solutions for planners and clients.  I feel like the step I took with More Than a Meeting is a natural progression in my career path and will afford me the opportunity  to continue my passion for this industry as a highly influential and visible partner.  This will also give me a unique opportunity to support and mentor the next generation of event industry experts.

Event Planning Certification Programs

My career in the event industry began and evolved before the  many certification and degree programs offered today even existed.  Most of my credentials came from practical experience, along with industry sponsored seminars and workshops.  I combined these avenues with network memberships around my areas of expertise.  I found my education in training/certification in leadership programs, including Empower U & Rapport International to be extremely helpful as well.

Today, I spend just about one third of my time engaged in online training and education.  I am actively involved in focus groups, attending webinars, continuing education courses and social networking.  I am committed to growing my understanding of the virtual world we live in.  I feel that by paying close attention to Social Media, Marketing and Social Networking, as it relates to ROI Trends and metrics for corporations, I can not only enhance my years of experience, but also  facilitate the next generation of campaigns with the most current trends and thinking.  I think having access to online education at my fingertips will contribute to my knowledge to help others grow.

How the Recession has Affected Corporate Meetings

I have seen many changes on spend for face-to-face corporate meetings in the past year due to the global economic crisis we are all currently experiencing.  I am encouraged that most adjustments to budgets have been based more around perception issue costs versus guest experience and value.  The challenge is to do more with less, which for most companies, aligns all areas of business development today.  I do see budgets being cut and scrutinized.  The great thing about this challenge is that companies are engaging partners such as MTAM to offer creative solutions, without compromising the integrity of the desired event results. There is clearly proven value in clients and vendors sharing best practices, out of the box thinking and being more creative and less competitive. 

As an industry, we are faced with some unfortunate press as well during this down turn.  This press has led to very public discussions on many new levels of business and government, which, in turn, has opened up new support for many individuals in the hospitality industry.  With this challenge also comes an opportunity.  For the hospitality industry experts that understand the client, share a common goal and have the experience to deliver the results, the opportunities should prove abundant.  These discussions continue to offer a clearer understanding of the overall benefit and impact in today's business world that our industry supports.

The value of spending money on relationship building, face to face interaction, education, training and social networking is recognized and supported by today's business leaders.  We as an industry are moving into a new level and opportunity phase.  Raising the bar of results-- utilizing more limited resources is--I believe, a key metrics for success.

Corporate Meetings & Events: Budget 101

Common sense, common sense, common sense! Always have your client experience, defined objectives and long term goals at the forefront of every decision or suggestion you make.   A professional meeting planner, manager or agency will respect their clients' investment (money, time, resources) for an event as if the investment was their own.  Communication and creativity is the key to staying on track.  Offering options along with your experience to help guide your client to make the right choice for their event needs is also crucial.   Clients trust and work with us because we do this everyday.  As an industry professional, we need to always be on top of best practices, pricing for services, market trends, technology advancements and venue logistics.  

Tip of the day from Ann MarieListen to your clients.  Deliver what they want and what you have committed to.  Deliver on time and on budget.  I know it sounds simple, but the truth is ... it's challenging!  It takes dedication, knowledge, and experience.  

How to be a Successful Meeting Planner

To be  a successful meeting planner, you need to possess these traits: honesty, integrity, and a keen ability to listen AND understand!  An individual that is positive and open-minded will do well in this industry.  Furthermore, it is absolutely essential to be detail oriented, a strong communicator, very creative and passionate about what you do.  If you possess those qualities, you will do well in this fast paced industry. 

Another thing that's important to keep in mind is that meeting / event planners will need to be mavericks at times.  They need to be secure and confident; the need to be strong enough to go out and blaze new trails of creativity while staying within their clients' boundaries.  A planner is a leader and mentor who will then execute what needs to be done through management of services, venues, vendors and staff.  Kindness and gratitude give the best planners an edge.  With so many moving parts that potentially impact so many others, this might be the greatest attribute required.  Be a visionary--who by listening to a client's needs can create, build, communicate and deliver, down to the last detail, a successful experience.   Finally, a great meeting planner closes an event only after sharing results data with their client.  A satisfied client will not soon forget the quality of the product you brought them. 

What I love about Meeting & Event Planning

What do I love about meeting and event planning? I love experiencing life, which balances well with a career in meeting planning. This industry, and the many areas you can focus on in your career, always offers new, creative and challenging opportunities.  I personally love to create and execute the guest experience start to finish.  I like the thrill of facilitating the important details for all who touch the event--for attendees, vendors, clients, staff and the community where the meeting or event being held.

The difficulties typically arise in two main areas:

First: lack of preparation on the planner's part and attention to detail. 

Second: the "unknown until it happens" and your ability to deal with it.  When facing both the practical applications and opportunities of any event, you will draw from all areas of your career and life experience.  Yes, you will learn some things the hard way. The trick is to remember them, to share them and to prepare solutions for the future.

How can Online Education Help You Succeed in Event Planning?

I think online degrees and learning opportunities are wonderful. I do believe, like anything else in life, you must invest the time and find what is going to be  most valuable to your career path.  Look at the online degree programs that have a proven track record that can offer you educational resources, skills, and the training you desire.  In this industry, like many others, internships, positions related to the industry and on the job experience are needed to balance your career choice.  As I mentioned earlier, I will absolutely continue my personal growth and development in the events industry through extended online education.

The excitement and passion I have for this wonderful industry continues to manifest itself everyday in my life.  In challenging business and economic times, MORE is done with less resources and MORE is expected of talented professionals.   It is appropriate  that More Than a Meeting is being launched in this business environment; it has been our philosophy all along.  This is the water we swim in.  It doesn't take talent or imagination to spend large amounts of money on a corporate event.  To execute an event with purpose, passion & precision - that's MORE.   It is MORE of what we excel at:

~ MORE than event management

~ MORE than a typical meeting experience

~ MORE than just listening but understating

~ MORE than exceeding your goals

Connect with Ann Marie on LinkedIn.