No Lie – Be the Honest Conference Planner

Good Headline Huh…. No, I don’t mean that they are crooks, bad people or liars. I mean they are not honest with event stakeholders and themselves.

They will let someone on a committee choose a property that does not work for a program because the chair really likes the pool. They won’t speak up when they know a speaker is going to be a snooze fest. They allow the same program to be repeated time and time again even though they know that it is the reason that the attendance is declining, it really isn’t the economy.

Event planners (me included) need to sit back once in awhile and reflect on what it means to be an event professional, the fact that our opinions do matter and that we have to be honest with everyone involved with a program, good or bad.

Last week I was with a client who really needed to make a property work, they were trying to make it work and were going to accept the faults with the property so that they could have the venue done and get the invites out. They were running out of time. The program would not have worked at this venue and I almost bought in. I almost helped sell the destination even though I knew it was not the perfect fit (nothing wrong with the program or the venue, they were just not a fit for each other).

As we sat at lunch, inventing ways that we could fit all of the program components into a venue that was too small, I finally listened to the alarm bells in my head and spoke up. I leaned forward and simply said “Guys, this is not gonna work. It is going to be like putting a square peg in a round hole and it is going to hurt us in the end”. Do you want to know what happened? Glances went around the table and someone said “I was thinking the same thing”.

Now, being a good meeting pro, I was asked where I thought it would work. I had done my homework before the site and threw out a couple of properties that would work and the client said “let’s look at those and hold the decision for a few more days”. We ended up choosing one of my recommendations even though it was 400 miles from the original destination.

The moral is.. Meeting and Event Professionals, listen to the alarm bells and be honest with the people involved with the planning process. You are an expert. By not being honest with yourself and speaking up, you may actually doing the program more harm than good and in the end that can come back to bite you.

You may be the junior person on the team and afraid to speak up, don’t be, use your judgment and be honest. One of the best recommendations that I ever received for a program came from an intern on her second day with us.

As we were bouncing around ideas, I looked right at her and said “what do you think”, to her credit, she answered honestly and I pondered her idea, looked at my second and said “Make it happen”.

As a meeting pro, people look to us to make their programs the best that they can be, sometimes it means telling people what they don’t want to hear.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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