Save Time and Increase Accountability: 8 Wise Action Steps for Meeting Planning Professionals when Working with Destination Management Companies
As a Meeting Professional you need to save more time and reduce the number of tasks -- especially when given less lead time to prepare for a meeting. Recent research from Meeting Planners International Foundation ("MPI") identifies "shorter lead times" as the most often mentioned trend affecting the meeting and event industry for the past 6 months. According to MPI, many meeting professionals predict this trend will last very long and become a way of conducting business since this practice may lower buyers' risk. Have your blood pressure and stress levels gone up as a result of the new trend? You may consider working more hours, rapid hiring and training of a full-time worker or freelancer, or purchasing new software or upgrading existing software to step up to the task of executing meetings under shorter time frames.
Aside from those options, working with a Destination Management Company
("DMC") may prove to be the best alternative to save time, eliminate tasks and increase accountability. Primarily DMCs are called to take the leadership role in moving attendees back and forth, mainly on the ground. Further, true DMCs offer a wide range of support services to assure excellent execution of meetings.
Destination Management Companies are best structured to handle and adapt to new opportunities with shorter lead times, since they specialize in handling the support logistics to assist meeting professionals. The following are key action steps you as a Meeting Planner can implement with a DMC that will increase client satisfaction levels and provide more accountability -- even when time is running short as you prepare for you next meeting.
1. Set expectations with the DMC by writing a list of key items you believe could be challenging. Incorporate these expectations early in the RFP and contract process. Have a general sense of budget limits and be open to lifting limits if the scope of services increases.
2. Work with the DMC to make sure the proper infrastructure is in place. Make sure all parties, equipment and vehicles, whether onsite or offsite involved have the proper technology and insurances to accomplish their given role and responsibilities.
3. Assure there are management procedures and roles in place to handle changes with the DMC. Given the shorter lead time for planning the meeting, get on the same page with the DMC regarding how to handle changes and additional services that will likely arise. You should decide on a single point of contact -- or in the case of larger size meetings, a designated transportation staff -- that will receive critical updates from the DMC.
4. Use the DMC to stay current on local and macro-level factors. The DMC will stay up to date about new regulatory rules at the airport(s), hotel and/or meeting venue. The DMC will also stay current on weather conditions, current traffic patterns and parking restrictions that could affect smooth execution.
5. Include the DMC in the site inspection process. This is important particularly when there will be multiple venue transfers during the meeting and when you will require a great deal of support staff from the DMC. You and the DMC will be able to adjust to changes faster and be the on same page. Also the DMC may have suggestions and ideas to make the process smoother.
6. Be sure to schedule transportation and hotel/venue Precon meetings before any guests arrive. This is an important step to ensure a successful meeting. The Meeting Planner and DMC staff will review the AD Manifest in its entirety for accuracy, as well as confirm all onsite procedures and roles. The finalized manifest, roles and responsibilities should then be conveyed to the hotel/venue at its Precon. This allows for all parties to operate on the same page.
7. Delegate most of the management of the arrival and departure manifest (A schedule of the details that go into arrival, departures, and off sitetransfers) to the DMC. A day before the first arrival there should be a complete detailed master manifest organized by times of attendees' arrivals and departures. The DMC will provide the very important service of flight tracking the arrivals and will provide updates on early arrivals, delays, cancelled flights and lost luggage. They will also meet and greet the attendees at the airport. Make sure to identify any VIPs on the manifest so the DMC can pay special attention to their travel arrangements and convey possible problems to you ahead of time.
8. Have the DMC provide detailed quotes and invoicing to increase accountability and save time. Since DMCs are specialized, they can provide detailed, customized quotes and invoices that will be compatible with your accounting system and your financial measures. This will increase accountability and save time when working on projected estimated budgets,
determining project ROI and final reconciliations.
We have discussed the major challenges at hand "shorter lead" times to prepare for meetings and explored the alternatives. You can see how DMCs will continue to play a critical role in making your meeting or event successful. You can also specifically see how these wise action steps of setting expectations, knowing the infrastructure, roles, procedures and marketing conditions, delegating site inspections and manifest management and asking for detailed invoicing provides tremendous benefits. Executing these wise action steps with a DMC will help you save a great deal of time, reduce stress levels and provide a great increase in accountability for your particular project.
Kevin Jean-Charles is the President of Front Row, a destination management brand of Global Equity Partners Inc. Front Row continues to save meeting professionals time and reduce their stress levels by providing experienced DMC services. Click here to send your request for proposal, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to see other articles written by this author.