As the seasons change, so do the roles and responsibilities of the meeting planner. Consider March, the start of spring. After a long, cold winter, spring symbolizes a new beginning for the meeting planner, who must start the planning cycle by developing the concept for the meeting.
Where does one start? By asking key questions: What is the meeting objective? How will this meeting affect my client and the bottom line? Who are the stakeholders, and how do they define success?
The next season, summer, signifies adulthood. Plants begin to adjust to the environment surrounding them — the heat, cold, or rain — in order to survive and thrive. The planner also faces his or her share of environmental challenges, such as stakeholder changes, budgets, and negotiations.
Fall represents the harvest. In nature, crops have grown and the time to reap the rewards is at hand. Similarly, the planner has put in a lot of hard work and is now prepared to implement the meeting. However, it cannot be done alone. The planner must train the staff, volunteers, and vendors to meet the various on-site challenges. When working with others, it's important to explain responsibilities clearly and to spell out exact instructions in writing.
Most refer to winter as the “dead” season. In nature, things are quiet, as most plants go dormant until spring and many animals go into hibernation. For the meeting planner, winter is similarly quiet as a major meeting has been completed. But this down time gives planners an opportunity to answer the questions that were asked in the spring and to evaluate the responses. Before too long, the weather heats up — the job heats up — and the cycle begins anew.
This article is dedicated to my friend Bill Quinn, who taught me the value of four seasons in one's life and career. Michele C. Wierzgac, MS, CMM, is CEO of Michele & Company, Oak Lawn, Ill., a meeting planning firm. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) MTG-PLNR.