“Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. What's a mistake from which you've learned a valuable lesson?”

Thomas C. Keown

Coordinator of Church Programs Training Center Lifeway Christian Resources of Southern Baptist Convention Nashville, Tenn.

“I have to constantly remind myself not to assume that people always have all the information they need. In the past, I've sent registration materials to attendees of our conferences assuming that they will open the package, read it, and digest all the information. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. It's important to keep in mind that this is only one piece of mail that crosses their desk. Assuming that they are going to open it and read it is assuming too much. You need to send people more than one piece of information to communicate your message.”

Bill Willms

Assistant to the Bishop Southern California West Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Glendale, Calif.

“A few times I've had a conversation with a staff member or somebody about the specifics of a project or an event we are planning, and I've realized later that we had two different ideas of what the conversation was about. What I learned was to put everything in writing or to personally recap the conversation with the individual so that there is no confusion and we're both on the same page. That way, nothing falls through the cracks.”

Houston Brown

Convention Manager Church of Jesus Christ Washington, D.C.

“Preparation and attention to detail are key. We get so busy with things, sometimes we forget to make sure specific details are written into a vendor contract, and then we get charged some unexpected fees when the event is over. For instance, a couple of years ago I was negotiating with a hotel for a block of rooms and some meeting space. Generally, there is a sliding scale between the number of rooms you actually fill and the meeting space. So if you fill 80 percent of the rooms, the meeting space will be free, and if you fill anything less, a sliding scale will be used to determine the amount that is owed for the meeting room. We happened to fill 75 percent of the rooms, so I was expecting to pay a small fee for the meeting room based on the sliding scale. Instead, I was charged 100 percent of the price of the meeting room, which ended up being about $2,800. Since then, I make sure I read every word of every contract from beginning to end so there are no surprises.”

Tipu F. Ahmad

Director of Conventions and Marketing Islamic Soc. of N. America Plainfield, Ind.

“The mistake that I have made a few times is not making sure to put details that I had discussed with a sales manager of a hotel on paper. When planning a conference, the sales manager and I may have made verbal agreements about rates and/or details of the conference, but when I get the final bill, there is differing information. You can't count on the sales manager to relay the information to the people who do the billing.”

Naomi Lauture

Associate Director, Meetings and Special Events American Bible Society New York, N.Y.

“I learned a valuable lesson when I missed the cutoff date for securing a block of rooms at a hotel where we were having an event. Unfortunately, many hotels won't call you to remind you that you need to give them a final count of rooms to hold. It may be in the contract, but if you're not paying close attention to it, the hotel might release the rooms, making them available to the general public.

“Another date you need to be aware of is the date to verify the number of people attending your event banquet. Usually, 72 hours before the event you need to call and give a final head count. If you forget to do this, the hotel may charge you for the number of people you estimated months ago. So if you guessed 100 and only 50 attend, you're going to lose a lot of money. Basically, you need to pay very close attention to all the dates in your contract.”