For many small to medium size businesses holding a full- or multi-day conference, a gap exists between the client and the typical meeting planner. That gap is content.
A meeting planner coordinating a business’ meeting, conference, or event will coordinate all of the space, logistics, and meals. Space includes meeting and hotel rooms. Logistics includes a/v, transportation, and special needs. Meals can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and/or some combination.
The responsibility for planning the content or agenda remains the domain of the client.
The meeting planner is aware of the agenda and certainly needs to be involved to the extent that all the necessary staging, lights, sound, and video are handled properly. But the agenda and list of speakers/entertainers is rarely the meeting planners decision. Those choices are made by the client and given to the meeting planner with the understanding that all the necessary details will be worked out.
If the meeting planner does have direct communication with any of the speakers/entertainers beforehand, the conversation is limited to needs such as microphones, special stage requirements, movement/camera angles, and so forth.
What is not discussed is the speaker/entertainers main message and how that fits in with the overall theme of the event. The meeting planner presumes that the client has that covered.
The client understands event content is their responsibility and will not delegate that responsibility to the meeting planner. Note: Again this is for small to medium size companies that do not have a dedicated in-house team of meeting and event planners.
The individual ultimately responsible for the event is most likely the CEO, VP of Sales or Marketing, or the Executive Assistant. Or more likely – a combination of all these people.
The CEO, for example, may select the opening keynote speaker and/or an entertainment act.
The VPs will choose members of their staff along with key vendors for various speaking slots, breakout sessions, etc.
The Executive Assistant will assemble the list with input from all of the others and create an agenda that will then be approved by all the principals.
The agenda is literally designed by committee and consensus.
Since all these principals have full-time day jobs within the company, this approach is efficient and mostly effective.
I say mostly effective because this system of creating the agenda can also create the content gap.
A content gap exists when all of the speakers and entertainers do not have a single point of contact. Some were selected by the CEO, some by this VP, some by that VP, and some by others. While one person may be responsible for communicating logistics via email with the speakers/entertainers, it’s unlikely that a single person has communicated with every individual performer about the overall message/theme of the event. Each performer received an invitation from their single contact who is a member of the committee.
The content gap exists when multiple people are in charge … hence, no one’s in charge.
So what occurs at the event when the agenda is created by committee?
In the best case scenario, most of the content will work. the majority of the speakers will align their individual message with the conference’s overall theme. A few awkward transitions will occur as one speaker’s message is inconsistent with the preceding speaker’s message – or is awkwardly redundant. And it’s highly likely that one or two speakers will completely miss the mark – but that’s not the end of the world. It gives attendees reason to ask, What was that person talking about? … “Why were they invited?”
In the worst case scenario, an unacceptable amount of content will be misaligned. Too many speakers present without a clear understanding of the conference’s main purpose. Attendees become confused and loose interest. The expense of organizing and bringing everyone together will be largely wasted. The opportunity to move the organization forward with a unified message will be lost.
So what is the answer?
The solution is a single point person for all event content planning. This person needs to communicate the vision and purpose of the conference or meeting. That one individual needs to speak with each and every speaker/entertainer who participates. They need to get a verbal agreement from each speaker that they understand the purpose and vision. That person can be in-house or an outside hired-expert.
The CEO, or VP, or other team member would be perfect assuming they have the time, skill and passion.
The meeting planner who handles the hotel rooms, meeting rooms, and meals is this scenario is likely not qualified as it’s not what they do.
A gap exists between the client and meeting planner for small to medium size business conferences, meetings, and events. The gap is the content. Meeting planners take care of the logistics. The client organizes the agenda by committee. The content gap often keeps a good conference from being great. The content gap – if significantly large – will render a conference ineffective. And be a lost opportunity.
This post was originally published on SpeakingGump.com on September 20, 2016.
It has been updated and edited to appear here on ChangeByGumption.com
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