Meetings Canada


Let’s Stop Oversimplifying

Les Selby.

It seems that we professionals share a common challenge – how do we properly portray what we do and describe the value that we bring to our clients and companies?

The fact that we are depicted as “meeting or incentive planners;” “event professionals;” “experiential marketers;” “third-party planners;” “hoteliers;” “event suppliers;” “audiovisual professionals;” etc., shows how challenging it is to define what we do.

Even if we accept that the position titles are probably more a reflection of our corporate cultures than an indication of how we see ourselves, it almost can be depressing to hear how some professionals try to describe their responsibilities in a five-second sound bite.

Have you ever heard a cardiologist describe his role as a ‘heart doctor’?

Never – they are immensely proud of their profession and the sacrifices they have made to gain the skills necessary to diagnose and treat diseases of the heart and cardiovascular system, and they will usually refer to their lifesaving expertise and the patients they have assisted.

Okay – I know we don’t perform open-heart surgery, but the impact we have on the success of our organizations is often immense but undervalued.

I think the trend to simplify what we do in one sentence, as if we were sending it out on Twitter, can really undervalue the work we perform for our companies and/or clients.

Each of us touches vast numbers of attendees and helps define the relationship they have with the event sponsor.

Our events educate and motivate participants, encourage the face-to-face exchange of ideas, build corporate culture and reward top achievers.

We generate employee and client loyalty, help propel new products and services into the marketplace, create unique participant experiences, and differentiate the event sponsor from other companies in the minds of the consumer.

Our events produce sales leads, generate revenue, gain publicity in ways that static marketing seldom does, and reinforce social media campaigns.

We are masters of project management, sourcing, contract negotiation, event logistics, print and digital communication, virtual media and program budgets.

We create motivating team experiences, supply rooming and transportation lists, master complex breakout schedules, organize content, deal with temperamental speakers and entertainers, shepherd executives and VIPs, and create lasting impressions that are the envy of advertising executives.

With that (incomplete) list of skills, let’s stop oversimplifying our role by saying we’re event planners or suppliers.

Let’s make sure we at least say that we create experiences that propel the success of our organizations or clients.


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4 Comments » for Let’s Stop Oversimplifying
  1. Les, I love this because it is true that what we do is so undervalued and it is something that once a wedding or birthday party has been planned, the bug is caught and everyone thinks they can and want to do this “glamorous” job. The reality is that it takes strong leadership, strong teamwork, an ability to see through all the (committee) clutter and clearly focus on objectives, and then do a thousand tasks to achieve these, to do all the great things you have noted above. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing people learn, connect, engage and even cry when they share great group experiences and know how special they are – and nothing more frustrating than someone drilling that all down to “so you plan parties”. Thank you for this thoughtful look at what true (fill in title here) professionals do and take great pride in on a daily basis!

  2. Les, let me ask you? Is this really what classic planners ‘think’ they do? Or is it more aligned with what, a few, classic planners would like to do?

    Additionally, I believe an aligned event portfolio drives the outcomes you described which has very little to do with classic planners.

    I also believe (some) classic planners contribute to co-create environments that enable the cross-pollination of knowledge and ideas. While they play a very small role they are not consulted on what to do to create the outcomes you describe.

    If classic planners are interested in learning a new role, it will involve more than just changing their titles. They must first face reality and that is they are not doing what they claim they are doing…ouch! And the reason I know this to be true is because the common perception held by most CEOs (our Agency interacts with) about classic planners’ roles is that they are part of the travel and hospitality department reporting to procurement. My goodness the meeting and event community confirms this with strategic meeting management.

    Most of what you describe, in your blog, is strategy related. In this situation there is no reason for CEOs to consider including classic planners in strategy discussions.

    The only way to change CEOs’ perception is for, folks who are interested in a new role, to take some very scary and bold steps, which I address in The Provocateur column out next week.

  3. Les Selby says:

    Thanks Tahira and Susan for your comments. By the very nature of the work we provide, I think all event planners contribute to the relationship their companies have with their clients, business partners and/or employees. As many planners are not very articulate about their contributions, management and clients may not value us or our work properly.

    I agree with Susan that most of us should be better at designing and operating our events to provide support to existing business strategy. However, even if some planners execute events rather than strategically design them, by knowing their profession and executing logistics well the planners can still contribute signifiicantly to the success of their organizations. And when they do their jobs well, they need to be able to describe the net results of their events more effectively.

    • Respectfully Les, I believe clients fully understand the value classic planners make. Sadly, it’s just not the same value classic planners claim and think they are making. And that’s the speed bump planners can’t get over.

      If planners want to increase their value they have to start thinking about their company’s business and the challenges/opportunities CEOs are facing. And when they understand this, then they can speak to why an aligned, measured and designed (content not environment) event portfolio can drive the CEOs desired outputs.

      If you notice, at this stage, there is no mention of designing the event environment and executing event logistics. This is the how and what of planning events. It is also a by-product (an important one). However it does not answer the why question for CEOs. And that is why use events, to drive business performance and profit. Or as a leadership intervention tool, to help CEOs lead in times of extreme complexity.

      For classic planner to show real value their focus has to shift from delivering inputs to driving outputs. And this is how you get CEOs’ attention and a seat at the table.

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