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A Misguided Assumption?

This week I discovered the answer to life’s burning question can be as close as your next lunch.

Okay, so I wasn’t asking what reality is, whether God exists, or which candidate will carry Florida. I just wanted to know whether corporate meeting planners hire independent meeting planners.


You’re disappointed, I can tell. But I’m not taking on God in this post.


Humor me for a moment. Tell me you find it the least bit interesting that the very morning an independent meeting planner says she doesn’t want to waste time networking with corporate meeting planners because their companies don't hire independents, a noteworthy corporate planner says at a luncheon that her company hires independent meeting planners. I thought it was a nice coincidence. If you disagree or are not amused, the Internet has about 56 million bloggers so you do have choices.


Speaking at MPI’s Westfield Chapter meeting in Stamford, CT, industry icon Margaret Moynihan of Deloitte Touche made the statement. She said there was a time when she managed a department chock full of professional planners and she couldn’t have imagined ever having the need to use independents.


Yet she watched the industry change. She saw slowdowns, cutbacks, layoffs without replacements. Others got ill. They were out for extended periods. Some left the company on their own. Some left the industry. “I found the best way to fill the void was to bring in some independent planners,” she said.


This is not an isolated example. You see it every day. Job sites are looking for planners to fill short- and long-term voids. And there’s nothing like showcasing your ability in a temporary assignment as the perfect audition for a longer stream of work. In the changing makeup of corporate America in general and the meeting planning role in particular, outsourced functionality is the norm rather than the exception (strike me with lightning for even thinking about saying “new normal”).


But before you dash off in search of Margaret’s contact information, understand that she always turns to planners she has cultivated through good old-fashioned blocking and tackling – namely, networking throughout the industry and building relationships with people she can trust. It sounds so simple that it has to be true.


The problem for many third-party planners is that while they are great at creating events, they are not so great at networking or selling themselves. But selling comes with the territory. Put together a mission statement. Know in a flash why you are unique. Better off going after a niche rather than being all things to all people. But above all, be ready to answer the question: Why you?


If you don’t know the answer, perhaps it’s as close as your next dinner.

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