Meeting challenges, trends and solutions

Independent planner Q & A with:

  • Angela Zaltsman, CMP, A to Z Event Management
  • Mary Mulligan, CMP, Mary Mulligan Event Management
  • Heather Baker, Amaryllis Events

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an independent meeting and event planner in Canada?

Angela Zaltsman: Budgets and a shorter turn-around time for meeting and events are my challenges. Budgets dictate the limits within which an event will be produced, forcing creativity with respect to how a planner delivers and solves problems. Short lead time can affect scheduling for smaller independent meeting planners, whereas corporate planners have a larger staff upon which to rely. On the flip side, independent planners have the ability to take on only what they can properly handle and can execute well.

Mary Mulligan: One of the challenges is working in isolation. You don’t have someone close by to brainstorm with as you would in a corporate office. As an independent planner, you need to have colleagues that you can trust and are able to brainstorm with, without feeling that they are competitors. As an independent, you always have to market yourself versus a corporation that is well known with more resources.

Heather Baker: The biggest challenge I face is working on my sales and marketing while coordinating and executing the logistics of multiple events. As I have no employees, most of my time is spent working “in the business” and not “on the business.” Corporate planners have only one client with no need to search for other business and usually have much larger budgets in which to produce events.

What unique planning solutions or strategies does your company offer?

Angela Zaltsman: The key to my planning strategy is to manage the client’s expectations. I focus on maintaining open channels of communication through face-to-face meetings, by asking lots of questions and by always checking the client’s “temperature.” I find clients appreciate my direct and no-nonsense approach.

Mary Mulligan: I enjoy working on unique events in unique venues. For many years, I have done bodybuilding trade shows. They have their own culture and are totally different than handling corporate meetings or social events.

Heather Baker: Style, sophistication and signature details are my focus for finding unique solutions and experiences for my clients. For example, a client turning 60 owned a Jag so we held his birthday party in the Jag dealership. A corporate client wanted to combine a customer appreciation event with their staff Christmas party so we held their event is a former Chinese theatre with catering by Roaming Dragon food truck.

What current trends do you think will continue to have a major impact on the industry and why?

Angela Zaltsman: The two trends that come to mind are technology and marketing for events. Social media is ever-changing and growing fast. I find that as soon as I have mastered the potential uses of one social media outlet, another one pops up. Social media will likely continue to have a major impact on event marketing. I also believe that menu planning and ensuring that menus include a variety of ethnic food choices and healthy options will continue to trend.

Mary Mulligan: I think that technology will continue to impact our industry making it easier for us to work from anywhere in the world and at our own time. People are also much more health-conscious and this is making us rethink our menus for events.

Heather Baker: Technology is the biggest trend for events with a variety of innovative tools available, such as tablets and smart phones for registration and program updates. New technologies in sound and lighting transform event décor and branding. With food and beverage, more locally produced food and wine, food stations as opposed to buffets and the use of food trucks as caterers for event.

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