The success of your meeting often comes down to the quality of your relationship with the convention services manager. Here are strategies for building a strong relationship with the CSM.
Get to know each other before launching into business. Knowing each other's outside interests can be valuable when you're both trying to diffuse a potentially stressful situation.
Share experiences, ask about other interests, share latest developments, and ask if there's anything else you should know. If you need to shift your meeting by one day, for example, share that information as soon as possible.
Explain questions of understanding. Share vital information to ensure the event's success, and ask the convention services manager to do the same. For example, if your group all shows up for breakfast at the same time, let the CSM know so that the staff can prepare.
Understand the CSM's communication style.
Go over the meeting timeline.
Set dates for future meetings.
Set clear expectations of performance.
Assess the ability of the CSM and facility to meet those expectations. Does the person you're dealing with comprehend the complexity of your meeting? If not, share your concerns with a third party (typically the facility manager), who can help to find a solution.
Understand fiscal restraints. Negotiate hard, but understand that the facility needs to make money in order to survive.
Prioritize wants and needs.
Set target dates and meet deadlines.
Live up to commitments. Hold each other accountable.
Compare notes often. If you have specific needs, then put that information on paper and share that information so that your requests make it into the banquet event orders and rooming info. Review the BEOs and make necessary changes.
At least six weeks before the event, hold a meeting with all vendors in attendance. Go through every page of your meeting book and discuss responsibilities.
Hold a meeting two days prior to the event. Include the CSM and the CVB representative. Discuss highlights and deal with any lingering questions. This meeting is critical to ensuring a seamless event.
Avoid saying “but I thought you ….” The biggest mistake that planners make is not being specific enough in explaining their needs. Be as specific as possible to ensure that your needs are understood. Vague language leads to disputes and misunderstandings.
Write everything down. Realize that if your needs are not written down, then those needs do not exist for the CSM. If you have last-minute needs, let the CMS know.
Establish clear lines of communication. Determine who will be on duty at the convention center for each day, and meet with that person the day before. Let the convention center know whom to contact from your organization. If more than one meeting planner from your organization has authority, determine the areas of responsibility for each planner. Let the CSM know who is responsible for what areas.
Be flexible. This happens more easily when you know and like the CSM.
Be calm when things go wrong. Know that things will go wrong. It's easier to solve a problem when you keep your cool.
Communicate regarding your schedules and when you can meet.
Be there for each other.
Double-check vital details. If something is critical, don't take it for granted that the CSM knows what you need.
This article was adapted from a tutorial given at a past RCMA by Jeffrey Hess, director of event management, Renaissance Grand and Suites Hotels, St. Louis, and Carol Werchan, executive administrator, conventions and meetings, International Lutheran Laymen's League, St. Louis.