A little over a week ago, I posted a conversation I had with my mentor, a true meeting planner pioneer, now retired. Hoping to acquire more insight into what makes a successful planner, I asked her what were the qualities she thought made her successful. Toward the end of the luncheon we were discussing attention to detail as one of the skills she thought all great planners must possess. Then we went on…
ME: Is there any other inborn skill you think makes a successful planner?
SALLY: “Well, I’d have to say…a sense of adventure. I think the planners that set themselves apart from the rest are the ones who are willing to try new things. Great planners are not just ‘making arrangements’, if you know what I mean. They’re creative…always looking to inject new life into an event. They get excited about the event they’re planning, and their excitement is infectious.”
ME: You know, that’s true. The best planner on my team is always excited about some new technology, or a new venue she has found, or some exotic florist that no one else seems to know about. And somehow or other, we’re always more excited about her events than we are about our own. You’re right. She’s infectious.
SALLY: “I was never satisfied with the status quo. It used to annoy my parents. ‘What’s wrong with that new dress you just bought?’ they would say. ‘It’s perfectly good to wear to another occasion.’ They didn’t understand me. I always seemed to look past what is. In my career, I was always searching for a new way to present a product or a better way to make people feel more comfortable at social events. Every time I wrapped an event, I wondered what I was going to do different the next year. And I think my clients knew this about me. That’s why so many of them stayed with me over the years.”
ME: So, Sally, if I wanted to sum up what you think makes a planner stand out above all the rest what would I say? Would I say…they really care about every client in a personal way…they build great teams…they have a fanatical attention to detail…they hate the status quo…they are creative…would that be fair to say?
SALLY: “That about covers it, I guess. Oh…one other thing. They are usually good communicators. Back in my day we called it being ‘outgoing’…same thing. If a planner can’t communicate eagerly with clients, vendors, attendees, and presenters, they’re probably not going to be very good at pulling people together. And that’s what planners do…pull people together.”
I had arranged this luncheon in an offhand manner. I thought it might be nice to take Sally out to lunch to thank her for acting as my mentor all those early years. But as I drove back to the office I realized that she was still my mentor. Casually, over lunch, Sally had given me the short course in what it takes to be a great meeting planner and the qualities one should look for when hiring a meeting planner. If you haven’t read part one, go back in Recent News and take a look. You won’t be wasting your time.