It’s baffling why anyone would think planning events is an easy, fun or frivolous task. We’ve worked with hundreds of meeting planners over several decades in the hospitality industry. And we can honestly say that meeting planners are some of the most skilled, hardest working and meticulous people on the planet.
So, it’s natural that we roll our eyes when we hear clichés about meeting planning and have the instant urge to set things straight.
Here are the worst event-planning myths and misconceptions.
Myth 1: Planning a meeting is simple
Reality: Meeting planning is anything but straightforward or simple. Planning an event is a complex web of overlapping priorities and deadlines: Budgets to manage, clients to please, vendors to select, logistics to map out, marketing assets to create, staff to oversee, contracts to negotiate, attendees to attract — one detail after another.
On any given day, a meeting planner might be mapping out attendee arrivals, examining legal issues and applying for permits, negotiating separate contracts with multiple vendors, securing event sponsors, organizing attendee lists, creating event materials, working on a blog post to market the event, and researching possible off-site activities.
The event planner’s to-do list is seemingly endless, even after the meeting has concluded.
Myth 2: Anyone (even a volunteer) can plan an event
Reality: There’s a reason why many meeting planners hold event management degrees, have several years of experience, and even pursue more qualifications, like becoming a certified meeting professional (CMP).
The amount of work it takes to plan an event or meeting is massive, complicated and never-ending. It takes an incredibly skilled person to balance all the roles embodied in a single meeting planner, including creative director, money manager, and director of logistics and to execute those roles seamlessly.
Yet, many nonprofit organizations and associations believe they can save money by turning to volunteers to plan their events. It doesn’t take long to see where things can go wrong.
While they mean well, volunteer meeting planners aren’t dedicated to this one responsibility. Oftentimes, they still have a day job, so event-related tasks never take top priority. Skipping deadlines becomes the norm, as volunteers will often “get to it when they get to it.” Plus, an event run by volunteers can actually go over budget!
Only those experienced at planning meetings or events know the ins and outs of local vendor relationships, have negotiated contracts in place, and know where to cut corners and where it’s necessary to invest.
Myth 3: You only need meeting planners for large events
Reality: It’s easy to believe that meeting planners are only required for large corporate conferences or an annual three-day executive retreat. But even smaller events require a dedicated manager to oversee meeting content, speakers, logistics, venue, food, travel details, marketing materials, follow-up and more.
Only someone well-versed in event planning could take an event concept on paper and create a real-life experience that fulfills the meeting’s goals. Plus, professional meeting planners stay abreast of all the latest trends in event tech, décor, and food and beverage that can simplify the meeting process and elevate even the smallest of events.
Myth 4: Meeting planners basically do the same thing every year
Reality: This is why so many companies and associations assume they can turn to volunteers to simply copy and re-create last year’s event. That ignores one aspect of event planning that only a professional will understand — innovation.
Meeting planners always try to top their last event with the latest technology, décor, food and activities that boost the event’s ROI. They like to push the envelope and keep attendees on their toes, and they know exactly which trends can achieve specific goals. For instance, a corporate meeting that brings global employees together will require a completely different format than an association’s educational event.
So, while smart event planners set up systems and event templates to streamline their process, they always raise their own bar with fresh takes on events.
Myth 5: Technology will eventually replace event planners
Reality: While technology has simplified and streamlined the entire event management life cycle, event tech is only as good as the people who use it. Tech solutions assist in the tedious minutiae, such as hotel sourcing, registration and ticketing, event reporting, and audience engagement.
An event leader, however, still needs to learn how each tech solution works, integrate it into existing meetings, and manage the tech to achieve each event’s goals. Planning professionals will continue to be both the brains and brawn of an event, with or without technology.