Let's Get Healthy with Todd Whitthorne and Gail's Tips for Healthy Meetings

Gail Davis, 10 January 2009

Todd’s message is truly life changing. One member of our team was in Todd’s audience over a year ago, and for her, his message clicked. She quietly started implementing his suggestions for her and her family. Recently, she went for an annual visit with her doctor and had lost 47 pounds. I was giving Todd some major “props” and he humbly said, “She was ready to hear it.”

His words made me think: As we look at the new year and a sickly economy, what information can I offer from my 30 years in event planning that might be of value to those who are ready to hear it?

So here it is. How to have a healthy meeting in challenging times:

1. Leverage site selection research. When you are researching sites for your upcoming events don’t limit your research for just the upcoming year. Gather information on multiple sites and, when you present options to the decision maker, try to make decisions for the next five years. It will create breathing room for you and improve your planning.

It is also a far more effective use of travel dollars. I implemented this idea years ago when I ran the corporate incentive department at EDS. I did my homework, presented my research and options to our Chairman, and walked out of a meeting with a five-year destination plan.

2. Look for local resources. Going to Hawaii? Ask your bureau partner to give you strong recommendations on speakers who reside in Hawaii. The travel savings will be substantial.

3. Partner. Look around and leverage your relationships. If you want to bring in a speaker with a large price tag, consider asking a local university if they have an interest in joining together to make an offer for two presentations and leverage each other’s dates. Go a step further and consider having a joint event if your organization or association has multiple chapters or branches.

4. Consider travel buyouts. That allows you to know your travel expenses in advance and prevents any unnecessary surprises.

5. Expect more. Let your vendors know your expectations. Talk about ways they can bring value to your organization. For example, we offer many of our clients ideas on the best venues or ways to advertise their events based on the speaker they select. Use your vendor’s years of expertise to your advantage.

6. Leverage relationships. Ask past attendees to tell you what they really value at the events. Ask fellow event planners what worked for them in the past. Utilize your connections on various social networking sites to help you make the best decisions.

7. Be open to the suggestions of your partners. I have clients who come to me thinking they need a celebrity name, but they don’t have the budget.