college, but her first good job opportunity came up in customer
service. Once inside Medtronic, she found a spot in sales training as
an assistant planner.
“When I first started, we had very healthy meeting budgets.
When the economy started to decline, we were expected to produce the same level of meetings with the same levels of service
and quality with significantly smaller budgets. The economy is
back, but budgets have only increased slightly and my suppliers
are demanding a lot more.
It is no longer a buyer’s market where I was able to negotiate
rates to fit my smaller budgets. I was able to get New York City for
$450 and my internal clients don’t always understand why the cost
One of the tools that can help is strategic meetings management. A
lot of companies have used SMM now and again, but we have amped
up the program and are holding both travelers and attendees to it. Being able to press your buying power across the entire corporation, not
just meetings, has helped us negotiate and leverage our entire spend.”
CEO, CORPORATE PLANNERS UNLIMITED
Sherry Parks came to meeting planning from the hospitality side. Her
family was in the hotel business and she had no interest in joining
the family empire. She took her inside knowledge of hospitality to
help corporations plan events, then opened her own independent
“We used to say that what attendees really want is bed, food and
beverage. In today’s world, there’s a fourth must-have: good Inter-
net. If my attendees have solid, speedy Internet, they’re pretty much
happy, the client is pretty much happy and [so am I].
Technology has become part of the planning process. I do my
own speed and bandwidth measurements during site visits. Upload
and download speeds are critically important, just as important as
sufficient capacity for all the devices attendees are likely to bring.
And don’t forget about backup. Attendees bring two, three, five, and
they all expect all of them to be at top speed all the time. Almost
all hotels will say they can do it, but a lot of them don’t have the
technology or the support staff to make it happen.
As a planner, you have to plan how to manage all the data and
information that are part of every event. You have to plan how to
acquire it, how to use it, how to store it and how to get rid of it
at the appropriate time. You have to be sure no one has access to
attendee names, personal information, credit cards.”
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