Becoming a Meeting Planner

Becoming a meeting planner can be both exciting and glamorous and extremely stressful. I should know because that's how I started in business. Yes, you get to stay at some of the nicest hotels (usually free) and yes, you receive nice gifts from vendors who wine and dine you. But you also have to deal with scheduling errors and overbookings and last minute weather. And you are usually working on several meetings at once so all of this can be multiplied. But it can be very rewarding both personally and financially.

The amount of traveling required as a meeting planner can be extensive. It is what drove me to quit. But if you are organized, detail-oriented, don't mind the travel, and work well with all types of people, becoming a meeting planner may be just the job for you.

What does a meeting planner do? That will depend in large part on your clients' needs. I've done everything from contract negotiation for the meeting facilities to helping with publicity, to manning a registration table! A list of some of your potential responsibilities includes:

- Select the meeting site and negotiate the contract - Plan the program - Arrange transportation for speakers and/or attendees - Registration - Exhibits - Food and beverage arrangements - Select speakers - Assist with publicity - Meeting materials and supplies

I have planned everything from corporate retreats for 25 people, to weddings for 200 to association annual meetings for up to 1000+ people.

Getting started can be challenging. Corporations and large associations will want to do business with someone with a proven track record. How do you get started? I started by planning small events such as weddings for friends and fundraisers for local non-profits. My business grew through recommendations from satisfied clients. Another way to become a meeting planner is by working for an already established meeting management company such as ConferenceDirect or HelmsBriscoe.

If you do decide to start out on your own, be sure you have enough funding to put together a truly professional looking promotional package. This is no time to look like an amateur. And since most events are planned at least 12-18 months in advance, and you don't get paid until they are actually held, don't expect much income for your first year in business.

Posh hotels, fancy restaurants, exotic locations, interesting people. Scheduling errors, nasty weather, flight delays, contract disputes. Becoming a meeting planner can involve all of these. But if you have what it takes, it is FUN!

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