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“The best planners are those that remember that the event is never about them. It is always about the guests or attendees.”


CVBs and also create new relationships. I analyze the location history for five clients and based on that and attendee satisfac- tion with a brand or location I work to develop a plan for future event host cities or venues. I make recommendations to execu- tives and boards of directors and present a short slate of cities and proceed with the RFP process and evaluation followed by a site visit prior to signing a contract. Then the planning begins. We then market the event, plan the logistics, work with vendors, and manage registration and a host of other event aspects. We also manage all onsite logistics with the client’s team of assigned staff. Finally we wrap up with evaluation of the host city, venue and conference content.


MM: There are obviously many actions in your process. What do you see as the biggest challenge and what solutions


have you created?


KKR: Prompt and effective communication with hotel staff is a challenge because in recent years hotel staff sizes have dwin- dled, putting a lot on their sales and service teams. To resolve or minimize communication issues I try to maximize my effort with sending as many needs and questions in one email communica- tion and send this email on the same day each week.


MM: Anything else?


KKR: Yes. I ask the sales person or customer service manager how they like to communicate and when to agree on method and timing. I also like to address due dates and timelines early on to be proactive in getting them information to save a few emails and phone calls. Finally, I always create a detailed event resume to help the hotel staff understand the group and their needs.


MM: What are the key factors in achieving total customer satisfaction for you?


KKR: There are three. Personalized service including, hand written notes, addressing people by name and helping members


achieve professional and personal goals. Genuine service where I learn about those that I serve, even on a personal level so I can connect with them and help them reach their goals, while build- ing loyalty and trust. And, responsive service, where I get back to people promptly and solve their issues or problems effectively.


MM: What added value services or extra things have you done to get groups completely satisfied with your planning?


KKR: My quote to live by is from Thomas Jefferson, “Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain


cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” I use this quote by WWW.MIDWESTMEETINGS.COM


thinking on my feet at all times while remaining calm and pro- viding creative solutions. Doing so has instantly converted cus- tomers to fans.


MM: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from your customer group?


KKR: That I should always learn as much as I teach. MM: How has the industry changed in the past three years?


KKR: I am happy to report that professionals with a degree in meeting planning are being recognized as professionals, which is positive for the industry and those graduating from those pro- grams. And, budgets are tighter. I think that is a good thing be- cause it makes all focus on what the meeting is about rather than how big the ice sculpture is. Anyone can plan a great event with a limitless budget, but a real planner shines when there is little to no budget.


MM: What do you see as the future of meetings and what trends are emerging?


KKR: Most planners I know are positive about the future of meetings. A webinar or social media will never replace the need


to be around like-minded individuals. Open source style meet- ings are very compelling because allowing attendees to drive content, format and flow gives them ownership, which is power- ful and keeps them coming back. Our organization is looking at all avenues that provide education, peer-to-peer networking and meaningful relationships.


MM: What advice would you give to those new to the pro- fession?


KKR: I would say work hard. In this industry the planner is never the star. Instead, the planner is the person who gets it done, and the harder one works the more one gets noticed. The best planners are those that remember that the event is never about them. It is always about the guests or attendees. In ad- dition to working hard, negotiation skills are imperative. Every contract is a dance and if you do not know the steps, you will lose. Also, become a professional networker by creating mean- ingful relationships with industry leaders. Lastly, wear comfort- able shoes. That speaks for itself.


If you would like to recommend an outstanding industry profes- sional for future issues, send an email containing that person’s name, title, employer and reason why they should be featured to editor@ midwestmeetings.com


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