We meeting planners are expected to be many things: proven leaders and consultants on industry trends, knowledgeable about world and economic conditions, even experts on meeting contract law.

Management often looks to us for advice on whether airport security is really secure, for example, before sending out the entire sales force. And executives have begun to look to us to scrutinize content and ensure that it meets their objectives for the meeting.

Fulfilling all those expectations takes more than mere knowledge. I have summed up a few of my techniques that you can use to demonstrate your skill in these areas — and your value in these uncertain times.

  1. Communicate with members of senior management on a regular basis — Under pressure, the immediate knee-jerk reaction is to cancel or postpone meetings, in spite of the penalties and fees. It's your job to address the two real problems — fear and security — and to keep management apprised of how you're doing that. If security is a concern, initiate a discussion of the various ways to provide a safe environment. Play out different scenarios and come up with contingency plans, or consult with a security expert.

  2. Keep meeting content fresh — Or, take that thought a step further and volunteer to lead a brainstorming session on what suggested content changes would sound like or look like. This strategy will position you as a consulting resource with your finger on the pulse of your industry.

  3. Develop new strategies for routine events — For example, recommend a multi-city product launch at several smaller venues instead of a single location. This can provide a greater sense of security and, possibly, eliminate some cancellations. It will also demonstrate your flexibility and your ability to adjust to change.

  4. Stay on top of new technology — Become the expert on the alternatives face-to-face meetings. Provide a cost analysis of videoconferencing versus cancellation fees, for example.

  5. Be proactive about changes within your meeting department — Rather than wait and see if people will lose their jobs because of the sluggish economy, initiate a conversation with senior management about budget adjustments and possible consolidation. You will be viewed as a leader who is able to adjust quickly to changing market conditions.

Michele Wierzgac, CMM, is president & CEO of Michele & Company (www.micheleandco.com), Oak Lawn, Ill., a meeting planning and consulting firm. You can contact her by e-mail at michele@micheleandco.com.