As meeting planners, we spend our days diligently combing through every detail of our events, ensuring that everything is in perfect poised position for a flawless program. Once it’s time to finally make the magic happen, you may need to bring along a team of skilled partners to help operate the program.
How to Manage Meeting Staff
for Onsite Success
It may be possible for you to operate a small meeting entirely on your own, but for large programs, no matter how skilled you are, you can’t do it alone. It's impossible to be in multiple places at once, so you need a reliable team to help you pull all that hard work together. To do that, you need to select the right people and provide them with the right tools and information to get the job done.
So, where to start? Here are some valuable key points to consider in organizing your meeting staff for onsite success.
Assign Roles & Responsibilities
As the meeting planner, you will act as the “meeting lead” while onsite. In instances where you won't be present, you should assign one of the onsite staff members to this role. It's important to understand the roles and responsibilities of the meeting lead prior to assigning tasks to other onsite team members.
Meeting Lead’s key responsibilities:
- Manage all aspects of the meeting during operation
- Become familiar with the venue’s emergency and evacuation procedures and communicate this information to the onsite staff
- Act as the main point of contact for all logistics vendors
- Serve as the role model for behavior for the onsite staff
- Manage the onsite staff and their daily schedules
- Educate the onsite staff on role responsibilities and service expectations
You'll also need to determine how many staff members will be needed onsite. The ratio of staff to attendees varies greatly based on attendee types and meeting complexity. The industry benchmark is one staff member for every 75 attendees, often with a minimum of two staff total in case one has an emergency.
Once you have your staff in place, you should assign them to specific tasks. This should be done in advance of the meeting and decisions should be made based on the skill sets and strengths of the staff members.
Common onsite job responsibilities:
- Food & Beverage – manage all aspects of food & beverage including reconfirming menus, checking food for accuracy, managing dietary restrictions, ensuring timeliness of food delivery, replenishment and cleanup.
- Meetings & Breakouts – ensure rooms are set-up properly (including AV, tables, lighting, etc.) and ready in advance of posted session times. Place directional signage as needed. Place meeting materials at tables, ensure room temperature is appropriate and sweep rooms of any meeting materials at the conclusion of the meeting.
- Registration/Hospitality Desk – meet and greet attendees, provide them with any meeting materials, act as an information desk for the meeting, keep track of attendees that have checked in.
- Shipping/Receiving – ship and receive meeting related materials. Take inventory on items received and ensure they are provided to the appropriate team members and/or sites. Follow up on any missing shipments or items.
- Sleeping Rooms Management – manage all aspects of the sleeping room block including cross-checking lists, providing updates to the hotel and receiving reports from the hotel daily.
- Transportation – oversee ground transportation (arrivals and departures) with the ground transportation company. Receive alerts as VIPs are on their way, provide updates to the ground transportation company on any flight changes and cross-check all lists for accuracy.
Once you have identified the various roles and responsibilities for your team members, be sure to communicate this with them ahead of time so they will know which elements of the meeting they are responsible for.
Establish a Dress Code
An event may have a specific dress code, which is important for your staff to know in advance. For example, the meeting might have an evening event where attendees are asked to wear a specific color and dress elegantly or casually. As the meeting planner, you may also have your own standards of dress that you want to share with the team. This includes your expectations for how they will dress onsite (black suit with white shirt or business casual for example) so that they can arrive prepared.
As with any team, communication is key. If team members are provided with the tools and information they need, then the program should run smoothly. It is up to the meeting lead to ensure team members are doing their part. The meeting lead should act as a “floater” at the meeting, periodically checking on the team to ensure they are successfully doing their jobs and providing them with on-the-spot support. If someone isn’t meeting your standards, address it with them privately right away to allow them to course correct, and make sure they know how and when to escalate issues to you.
Here are two additional ways you can ensure fluid communication within your onsite meeting team:
Plan a Pre-Meeting Call
Depending on the size of the meeting and complexity, you may elect to schedule a call with the onsite staff prior to arriving onsite in order to provide an overview of the program as well as any client-specific nuances that are relevant. It’s also an opportunity to ask if anyone has questions on what they have been tasked with managing.
Schedule Daily Debriefs
It’s a good idea to hold a full team debrief at least once per day onsite. Timing will depend on when you can gather all the staff together. If you have a large meeting and the team is working in shifts, it may be best to find a time during the day to make this happen. For smaller programs when staff are covering the whole day, either the morning or the end of the day may work best. You can use the time to discuss the successes and challenges of the day as well as to prepare and review the activities for the following day.
On the last day of the meeting, it’s a best practice to meet as a group and discuss the program overall. Be honest about what went well and what did not. Write this information down and keep it handy. If you are asked to execute a similar meeting in the future, these notes will be invaluable, and if there were service issues that require an onsite post-con with the hotel, collecting this information is paramount to ensuring that you can make the case to the hotel about the issues and hopefully negotiate some redress or discounts from it.