The sign of a great meeting planner (or any leadership role really) is one that doesn’t mind being challenged by their colleagues. Now by that I don’t mean that people should be disrespectful to anyone in a leadership role. Rather, a sign of a great leader is someone that is willing to be challenged with the goal of having the best possible outcome.
Here’s a Story of a Meeting Planner Unwilling to Accept Some Responsibility
I once proposed an off-site event at a museum to a meeting planner. The meeting planner, my client, wanted to host a reception following a day of meetings. It was to get underway at 5 PM in the afternoon. That should’ve been my first flag. The meeting planner in question loved the venue. She was insistent that they would only require heavy hors d’oeuvres (that’s roughly 10 to 12 pieces per person).
Again don’t forget the function was to start at 5 PM.
My client also wanted enough seating for everybody that was attending. So after my site inspection I proposed heavy hors d’oeuvres, which included food stations, but smaller plates and reception style seating (cruiser tables or example). After all, my experience with receptions told me that if you provided seating for everybody, people would expect a full meal. Well, my client insisted on having full-size dinner plates and enough seating for everyone. Flag number two.
So the night of the event came, we had set the venue per my client’s. And as you could expect everybody arrived rather hungry as they had been in meetings all day and it was now dinner hour.
It didn’t take long for the nightmare to hit.
Within about an hour it became very clear to us that there would not be enough food as the guests were filling their plates as if it was a full meal. Trying to be proactive our staff approached the meeting planner and explained the situation.
The Meeting Planner Freaked out!
It was as if amnesia had set in. There was no telling her that part of the problem was the size of the plates and the number of seats. Instead, she accused the caterer of not bringing enough food to the event (when, in fact, the caterer did bring enough for heavy hors d’oeuvres, as ordered). Of course we all try to have the mantra that the customer is always right. And at that particular point of time we were more concerned with the guests getting what their expectations were than pointing fingers. Luckily our caterer had a contact at a nearby restaurant. They made up enough food to save the day in the end. But there was a considerable amount of time that some of the food stations had no food.
As an event planner, I was rather new to my position at the time. And of course we rebated our client as she just would not hear that this was anything to do with her. In her eyes it was entirely our fault. Now I do think I dropped the ball by not expressing (convincingly) at the proposal stage that she simply would not have enough food with the set up and time that the event was happening.
The moral of the story is that sometimes we all have to accept some responsibility for our actions. And the sign of a good leader is someone who can stand up and admit that they may have been wrong. With the overall goal being how do we solve this as a team. There’s plenty of time for pointing fingers after the fact. My advice for any new meeting planners would be to look at all of your suppliers as a team. Your event will be much more successful with an attitude of “we are all in this together”.