Career and Job Search Guide

Meeting and Convention Planner

People working in the same industries or sharing similar interests attend conventions and meetings. Meeting planners are responsible for promoting a convention, arranging speakers, ensuring the appropriate audio-visual technology is available for attendees, and determining locations and building to meet in.

Before planning a convention, planners must find out the group's purpose for sponsoring the convention as well as the message they want to convey. Since organizations usually hold conventions to improve themselves, planners are responsible for organizing conventions around sponsoring organizations' goals. Often, convention planners will conduct surveys to determine what motivates those attending. After they have gathered enough information, planners select speakers and other performers to entertain convention attendees.

Convention planners are also responsible to schedule the building where the convention will take place, whether it is a hotel or convention center, by submitting proposals to various venues with convention information and requests for equipment and amenities. Representatives from these venues respond to these requests with prices and availability of resources and space. Planners examine these responses and decide upon the site or contact an organizations' management for a decision.

After a location is decided upon, planners coordinate services to prepare the facility for a convention. They ensure video and telecommunication equipment, support services, and the convention staff will be available in time for the convention.

Convention planners are also responsible for meeting logistics. This can include coordinating convention details and making preparations for staff and equipment to be available during a convention. Many planners reserve hotels for attendees and make transportation arrangements for them. Planners ensure rooms are equipped with the necessary amenities and have enough seats for attendees. Planners are also responsible to ensure all fire and labor laws are followed.

Convention planners also have financial responsibilities. They are sometimes responsible to coordinate payments and contracts with venue representatives and vendors. These very complex contracts are sometimes prepared a year before an event. Some contracts contain penalty provisions if space is not utilized by attendees, so it is vital planners are aware of how many people will attend a convention. Some planners are responsible for allocating money in a budget after their client provides them with funds, and certain convention planners are responsible to make sure conventions do not go over budget.

Determining whether a convention met its objective is a very important duty of convention planners. Planners set measurable individual goals after being notified of the sponsoring organization's goals. Planners usually determine whether they met their goals by preparing surveys. When planners have publicity goals, they can determine whether this goal was met if the press covers the event. Many measure convention goals by determining whether the convention benefits outweighed the costs. If a company sponsored a convention to improve employee morale, planners could measure whether the convention benefited the company by measuring worker turnover after the convention.

Meeting and convention planners must have the ability to establish relationships since they are constantly meeting new people. They must have effective communication skills to determine their clients' goals and communicate specific directions to convention staff members, venue representatives, and vendors. If changes occur, they must be able to communicate with others so the changes are made.

Planner responsibilities usually vary depending on their clients. Planners specializing in association conventions conduct massive marketing campaigns to attract members of various associations. Those specializing in corporate conventions often do not advertise since most employees must attend these conventions, but they usually have less time to prepare events. Those arranging conventions for government agencies must be familiar with policies for arranging lodging and getting access to equipment for government workers.

Convention service managers, individuals who manage venues where conventions are held, work with convention planners to prepare venues for meetings. In some cases, they make recommendations for different options to be made available to conventions goers such as food, lodging, or entertainment options to ensure convention attendees have an enjoyable experience.

Meeting planners preparing conventions for smaller companies have more responsibilities than other planners, often planning every detail of a convention. Since they have so many responsibilities, they must be able to multi-task.

Convention planners preparing events for large companies often specialize in one aspect of a convention. For example, some specialize as convention coordinators, taking responsibility for convention logistics, and other planners specialize in coordinating training exercises to educate convention attendees. Large companies sponsoring meetings with many attendees usually hire multiple planners that each specialize in separate convention details.

Work environment. Convention and meeting planners have fast paced jobs, and depending on one's perspective, it can either be invigorating or stressful. They coordinate multiple tasks at once, must meet deadlines, and manage several staff members with different responsibilities. Planners spend most the day in their offices, but at the time of the convention, they are usually found at the venue conducting their work. Most planners travel extensively, attending conventions and visiting potential convention venues. Planners working for companies located regionally usually travel to venues in the same region while those working for international companies often travel abroad.

Many planners work more than 40 hours during weeks conventions are held and fewer hours after conventions are completed. Many start work early in the morning and end late in the evening during days meetings are held. Convention and meeting planners occasionally work during weekends.

Convention planners do not have physically strenuous jobs, but they are often required to stand for extended periods of time and lift heavy loads. Meeting and convention planners associate with members of the public and people from various backgrounds. Many get to travel all over the world and meet famous people and enjoy autonomy while performing their duties.