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A career as a conference planner offers you the opportunity to travel to interesting destinations while working on a wide variety of business activities. You can work as an in-house staff member for a corporation, nonprofit organization or a meetings and events company or ply your trade as an independent consultant. Much of the work of a conference planner comes after the event is planned; organization and attention to detail are key traits of successful meetings professionals.
Conference planners help develop meetings, even when the client has detailed ideas. At the initial planning meeting, the planner discusses the client’s goals; these goals might include generating a profit, creating a member recruitment and retention benefit or rewarding active members or key industry professionals with speaking slots. The planning team discusses locations that might attract the most attendees, the best dates, a theme for the meeting, past event history, the agenda and logistical needs.
After the initial meeting, a conference planner creates the first draft of the budget, including detailed income and expense projections. Once the client has approved the budget, the planner moves forward with negotiating and booking the venue as well as vendors and suppliers. Negotiating room rates, catering fees, audio-visual prices and other expenses is a key responsibility of a conference planner. The ability to find the best deals and reduce these costs is a key selling point for many meetings professionals. In some instances, the planner is authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the client; in other cases, the planner prepares them for the client’s review and signature.
Once contracts are in place, the planner manages the many details associated with the conference. This includes marketing, registration, making badges, booking speaker rooms, selling advertising, booths and sponsorships, arranging food and beverage, creating children and spouse activities, and organizing outside events such as golf and tennis tournaments. This work takes considerable monitoring and tracking, with detail work a primary responsibility of conference planner. Forgetting to order badges, for example, can damage the entire meeting.
During the event, the conference planner is often on site, showing up early to meet with the site staff. The planner monitors the seminar room setups, trade show booth area, registration desk and eating areas and logs in all shipments to the venue. The conference planner must be available at all hours to handle any problems that crop up. Experienced planners always have backup plans ready in the event of a problem. If the client is paying for food and beverage by the number of attendees, the planner confirms attendance numbers with the catering manager at each event.
After the event, the planner reviews all that happened during the conference and prepares a post-conference report. The planner reviews and approves all contracts, surveys attendees and compiles the results, and sends invoices for any booths, advertising, sponsorships or registration not already collected. Importantly, the planner meets with the clients to discuss their evaluation of the event.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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