FICP Profile

Todd Zint, CMP, CMM, vice president, chapters, for FICP, is vice president, meetings and event marketing, NFP Insurance Services Inc., Austin, Texas.

Q: What is your advice on dealing with perception issues surrounding industry meetings?

A: The true test of any meeting agenda is: Will it stand up to the “60 Minutes” test? Would you feel comfortable having CBS's news program attend your meeting and report on it?

If you haven't reviewed the TARP recommendations [the guidelines for companies receiving funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program], read them thoroughly and compare them to your procedures. The recommendations provide clear and concise best practices that drive a compliant meeting, and they are a good reference for any company. Additionally, if the meeting doesn't have enough meeting content per day to satisfy the IRS requirements, make sure you work with your tax department to understand the 1099/W-2 rules and administration.

What do you foresee for the industry?

The remainder of 2009 seems grim. The next few quarters will require cost-cutting. Instead of canceling meetings, I'm identifying opportunities to minimize costs without jeopardizing the reason for meeting. Simple solutions include reducing attendance numbers; matching contracted attrition; F&B controls; and ongoing negotiations with hotels, vendors, and suppliers.

I believe the industry will see an increase in meetings next year. I have recently contracted five large meetings for 2010, including two incentives. But smaller meetings are continually being scrutinized as to their business purpose because of costs and time out of the office for staff.

Will incentive meetings remain viable in the future?

The recent controversy in the news over incentive travel is a travesty. Incentive payouts — cash compensation, merchandise, or incentive trips — have always been an acceptable business practice in all industries to stimulate performance and increase sales. Companies seem to be favoring domestic locations for their 2010 incentives, but those taking advantage of the strength of the dollar overseas — plus the deals offered — will find incredible value and service compared to a few years ago.

How have your CMP and CMM been important to your career?

I earned the Certified Meeting Professional designation in 1998 after seven years of meeting planning. It helped me gain key industry, educational, and performance best practices. After receiving the CMP, I was promoted to manager of meetings and events with Equitable Distributors (currently AXA Distributors). I saw that the Certified Meeting Management designation was the next steppingstone to transition from a logistical mind-set to that of a strategic thinker. In 2002, I received my CMM and I used the CMM business plan project to realign my department. That year I was promoted to director of meeting planning.

What's the role of strategic meetings management?

It's the core of any efficiently run meeting planning department. The components that make up the SMMP model provide the tools, quality assurance, risk management, and transparency to satisfy all C-level groups.

How can planners best prove their value to the C-suite?

By planning efficient meetings and successfully delivering the means to meet the objectives, by establishing themselves as a leader, event project manager, and the “go-to person” for all meeting logistics.

What has membership in FICP meant to you?

FICP membership has been a career lifeline for me, providing access to meeting planning peers and hospitality partners. My closest friends — personal and professional — are in the association and have helped me through job transitions and provided references. Now, by volunteering as a board member, I have the opportunity to give back to an association that has given me so much.