• September 2010

The 7 Secrets To Planning The Perfect Meeting

By Roxanne Rukowicz
Behind the Scenes Events

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I found what made my heart sing very early on in my career—by sheer accident.

Right out of college, I got a temp gig working for a local business association. The job was to help plan the annual meeting. I arrived in my smart blue suit and sensible heels and was allotted an empty cubicle. Someone handed me an antiquated registration system: a shoebox full of postmarked RSVP cards.

I sat for hours inputting data and logging checks, registering individual guests into an Excel spreadsheet. Eventually, the fruits of my labor were compiled into a database that would yield alphabetized name badges and registration lists. These lists would, of course, also become the basic elements behind so many aspects of that event. From room sets to catering to the program, the individual names and organizations I came to know so well would drive the scope of the entire production.

I was hooked.

It has been quite a few years since that first event, and I have been fortunate to have learned from some of the best planners and business minds in the business.

In the spirit of education by fellow planner, here are seven tips to guide you to event-planning success.

The lucky seven

1. Think through everything. It may seem elementary, but brainstorming every aspect of the event with your colleagues and client early on in the planning process will help formulate the basic design of the event. It will also help you build a list of items to pay special attention to. From realistic timelines to audio-video needs and contingency plans for inclement weather, spend the time to think through everything and begin to plan from there.

2. Always perform a site visit. Never walk into a meeting or event space uninformed. Ask to see the room your group will be in. Ask where the elevators and bathrooms are and what the cell-phone service is like. Who else will be in the facility on the day of your event? How many parking spaces will be available? Where is your registration table to be set up? The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the unexpected.

3. Make one list. Based on the amount of details a planner must manage to produce a well-run event, it is imperative that all staff members work from one list. The reason is simple: Every additional list or file you create to track details (dietary restrictions, seating assignments, assistant’s phone numbers) requires you to change the original list. Avoid confusion by using my favorite computer program: Microsoft Excel.

4. Be willing to get your hands dirty. A good planner is willing to help where needed. Provided your duties will not be adversely affected, lend a hand to help get a room ready, grab a precariously discarded champagne glass, or re-alphabetize place cards that have been inadvertently shuffled about. These little assists will keep your event on track, running smoothly, and looking sublime. It will also show your team members that you’re willing to work beside them, and that builds respect and makes people want to work even harder on your behalf.

5. Walk. Don’t Run. How you present yourself is absolutely critical to the success of the affair. If you are running around like a crazed person for whatever reason—be it a moment of crisis or an unfathomable time constraint—your guests and client will see, and feel, your stress. Don’t let them see you sweat. Always walk. Never run.

6. It’s all about who you know. The relationships that you keep with your vendors can largely impact the budget and overall flow of your event. Get to know your vendors and work alongside them (instead of demanding they work for you). Building good business relationships is paramount to enjoying positive and reciprocal working relationships. And it also doesn’t hurt when it comes time to ask for the occasional favor.

7. Smile. It’s another perception issue and, thankfully, the easiest of all things to do. If you look like you’re having a good time, your guests will, too. So smile.

About Roxanne Rukowicz

Ranked one of Washington, DC’s top meeting and event planners for 2009 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July 2008 with a single concept: to offer organizations access to an affordable full-service meeting- and event-planning solution.

Roxanne has worked in the Washington, DC, meeting and event industry for over a decade, starting her career at the Greater Washington Board of Trade in 1999. Her experience with this influential regional network of business leaders allowed her hands-on training from the start. What began as a mere temporary work assignment, later progressed into a position as general manager, as she excelled at each advanced meeting and event-planning position she held.

Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with the Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special event coordinator have featured opportunities with A-list celebrity clients and top-ranking government officials.

With a commitment to excellence and a focus on the customer experience, Roxanne Rukowicz and the Behind the Scenes Events team create and produce exemplary meetings and events that drive an organization’s mission and goals.

For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.