Meetings Canada


Industry Insider: 10 things I wish I knew when I started


As a planner who came into the industry 20+ years ago almost by accident, I know that a multitude of people helped me develop without asking for anything in return.   Although I would like to name them all and acknowledge their contributions to my career, M+IT won’t let me write a blog that exceeds several thousand words.

Because so many people generously helped me, I have always felt that I had an obligation to aid others who have less experience.  In that spirit, here are 10 things I wish I knew when I first became a planner.

  1.  Events are a tremendously powerful marketing tool if your strategy is effective.  Think carefully about the objectives before you start planning logistics.
  2. Let your partners and suppliers know all important information about your program when you first start talking to them.  This will help them develop better proposals and save you time.
  3. Try not to limit your options when you start your planning.  If you are open to new ideas (or venues or suppliers), your attendees can benefit from unexpected program elements.
  4. Look for partners rather than just suppliers.  If you share budget limitations and objectives with your suppliers you may be amazed at how much they can contribute to your success.
  5. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.   I once signed a contract with the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel for the wrong dates and realized two days after returning the contract to the venue.  When I called them and explained the situation, they agreed to tear up the contract without charging me any penalty.
  6. Join an association and seek out professional education.  The investment can generate huge results.
  7. If you are uncertain about anything, pick up the phone.  Solving any problem or concern by talking to anyone is usually quicker than relying on email.
  8. Follow up any conversation with suppliers or clients in writing to ensure everyone is in agreement.
  9. Read every contract carefully and do not make assumptions.  All parties in an agreement need to be protected by proper legal documentation.
  10. Have fun most of the time.  Life is too short to do anything every day that you don’t enjoy.

I hope these lessons help someone who reads them.  If you have any other lessons you think would benefit someone, feel free to leave a comment that others can read.

And to all of those professionals who unselfishly helped me along the way – thank you all.  Without you I would still be stumbling around in the dark.

Les Selby, CMM, CMPLes Selby is vice-president, Client Services with Event Spectrum Inc.  He has been a corporate, independent and third-party event professional for over 20 years.  Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting & Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors for seven years and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and he received that chapter’s President Award for 2009. He can be reached at

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2 Comments » for Industry Insider: 10 things I wish I knew when I started
  1. Great hindsight we can all benefit from now.

  2. Sandy Biback says:

    Les we’ve come a long way haven’t we? Our profession is much more sophisticated and yet we still have a long way to go. Great tips

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