Psst! Hey, you! Yes, you, the meeting planner with the red eyes and 87 e-mail messages to return. Pull up a chair, and let me talk to you about the facts of meeting life.

Remember waking up the morning after your last convention with a headache the size of Texas? That was not because of something you drank but because of something you forgot to do.

You left town without verifying the hotel room pickup. You expected the hotel to send an invoice for all the catered events, the staff housing, and the AV equipment. And they did. But when it arrived, you were fuzzy on the details and argued over the costs.

A Better Way

There's a better way. It's called a post-convention meeting. Sit down with the hotel staff, the convention center personnel, the CVB, and the vendors as soon as your meeting closes. Check the room pickup. Verify catered-event numbers. Examine the folios and the AV charges. Bring your checkbook or credit card, and pay all the bills before you leave town.

Within 30 days of your meeting's end, the city in which you met sends the statistical data about your event to an organization known as the IACVB, or the International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus. This means the numbers about your meeting pass through several sets of hands before being printed for the rest of the meeting world to see, and mistakes do occur.

A Big Warning

But there's good news. You can deal directly with the IACVB and check the numbers. Here's why. While preparing this article with Kathy Rivera, director of CINET field operations with IACVB, I checked my IACVB meeting history. Guess what I found. Yep, several mistakes.

Three of the four previous conventions listed no food and beverage events; we average 15 or more every year. Now that's scary. What's worse, those same three years showed no exhibits. Big problem, since we always — and I mean always — have exhibits. The report indicated we used six simultaneous meeting rooms — we average 20 to 30 simultaneous meeting rooms annually.

This makes a difference because the next city where we're going reads the IACVB report — and believes it. If our track record on catered events, exhibits, and meeting space is skewed, the value of my meeting for that city is affected and dramatically reduces my negotiating leverage.

And remember, hotels don't always talk to each other or to the CVB on every detail. That makes it your business to get all the data about your group at post-convention meetings, to verify it with the CVB, and then to re-verify it on the IACVB report.

Smiles Everywhere

I've saved the best for last. Everybody else in the hospitality industry is just as eager as you are to get the facts right about your meeting. Want to see big smiles on the faces of your hotel CSM and sales staff? Schedule a post-convention meeting every year. They'll gladly help fill in the blanks after the delegates leave.

Jack Williams, CMP, National Association of Free Will Baptists, Antioch, Tenn., was the recipient of RCMA's President's Award at RCMA's 2001 Conference and Exposition in Milwaukee.