Association Meetings and Keeping Your Sanity in an Environment of Extremes
Molly Marsh, Director of Education and Events
On one hand, it’s great that the demand has returned for in-person meetings and events. As association professionals we are ready to bring memberships back together for the community-building that is the vitality of associations and that can only be done when we meet face to face. At the same time, the demand for association meetings is ramping up much more quickly than some sectors of the hospitality industry, leaving meeting organizers stuck between energized attendees with high expectations and venues or destinations still struggling with workforce shortages and supply-chain issues. And still, COVID is unpredictable. Registration patterns and historical data are out the window as attendees, planners, speakers, members, and leadership continue to navigate constant change.
Recently, along with Education and Events Manager and Chair of the Meeting Professionals International Community Advisory Council, Lindsay Plath, I participated in an MPI Association Professionals Chat about association meeting planning in the environment of extremes. The group explored some interesting issues and challenges, and shared great suggestions to keep things moving in this very challenging environment:
- Rely on your CVB and DMO partners! They know their destinations inside and out, and they know what challenges are being faced right now. Sitting down in advance of meetings to talk with them about what is open in the city, what transportation or infrastructure may still be in recovery mode, and other atypical challenges can help educate us as planners about what to expect – and set appropriate expectations with our volunteer leadership and attendees.
- Watch for unexpected changes in contracts or service agreements: things like “service on request” may pop up now, indicating meeting/guest rooms may only be refreshed if requested. If your groups rely on this kind of service with the hotel or venue, clear and up front communication about what your service needs are is likely needed now, when it might have been assumed previously.
- Relational Contracting is the name of the game: it’s always been a relationship business, but especially right now treating negotiation or contracting as a battle is a losing proposition. No matter what, all sides are likely conceding something, so be open, lay your cards on the table, and ask for what you need. All parties will benefit in the end!
Perhaps most importantly, the daily challenges of this work can drain us as meeting professionals and the group spent some time talking about ways to build resilience and take care of wellbeing through the stress. Many folks shared success stories of the pandemic years giving them a chance to find better balance and really practice “unplugging,” so they don’t work 24/7. The last few years also reminded everyone how lucky we are to be in the industry we’re in, traveling and experiencing new and different places. One that I am taking away for sure – I’m going to try and stay an extra day after an upcoming meeting and really soak in being in a new place. We need that energy now more than ever!
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