By: Kim Gordon
When my fiancé proposed 2 years ago….I knew, from experience, that I needed time to plan a wedding. There was no rush or hurry-up for me…..much to the dismay of my boyfriend. When we discussed the timeframe in which to get married and I suggested two years, he said, “THAT FAR AWAY”?
Finding a venue, food and beverage, invitations, RSVPs and all that goes along with a wedding and a big party is something I do for my profession as well. Thank goodness I have been in the association arena for close to twenty years and have planned all types of meetings, conventions and events. Having this valuable experience and two years to plan this shin-dig has made it a fun, non-stressful experience…..which it should be.
However, planning and execution of a convention or meeting is a little more stressful. For some reason (and I still to this day don’t understand why); attendees wait to respond until the very last minute. I think that is one of the biggest challenges in meeting and event planning. Imagine you’ve been promoting a meeting or convention for 3 months and 30 days out, you have 50 attendees who have registered. So, you plan accordingly. Then, 2 weeks before the event everyone has decided they would get their selves in gear and register. So now you have gone from 50 attendees to 200 attendees right before the meeting. It’s a difficult situation, and not one you have much control over.
I’m actually having the same issue with RSVPs for my wedding. People tell me they are attending or post something on Facebook, but haven’t RSVP’d. Well then! In order for me to plan, I now have to send personal emails to close the loop. Maybe that will kick them into gear. One would think that just out of plain courtesy…… free food and booze for Pete’s sake…… that people would let you know what their plan is.
Luckily, I don’t have a sponsor for the wedding like I would if it were an association’s event. While it does add to your revenue, it can also add to your stress. Companies who sponsor association events and meetings would like a good showing and know who and how many are planning on coming as well (so they can bring enough marketing materials or gifts to the event). I personally feel like the attendees don’t realize what goes on ‘behind the scenes’, so I make sure to let the sponsors know how much they are appreciated.
With all of this going on, a good planner just has to adapt and overcome. It’s that simple. There is no magic formula. If you plan meetings, you can utilize the historical attendee data to come to a realistic number. From that information you do the best you can. I’m so very glad that my experience and day-to-day best practices in meeting planning have prepared me to plan my own wedding and helping friends plan and prepare for their big day.
(My personal wedding planning notebook- no different than my conference planning notebook!)