Ensuring Meeting Success for your Organization

Becky Cira
November 29, 2022

What does it take to run a successful meeting for your medical association? While the meeting itself is only a few days in length, the process to plan it out is much more extensive.

The process really starts up to two to three years in advance with sending out a request for proposal to potential hotels and securing a location and contract. Meeting planning is a year-long process at Affinity Strategies, which means you have support year-round in building and promoting a conference attendees won’t want to miss! As soon as the meeting is completed for the year, we work on preparing the next year’s meeting budget, getting AV quotes, working on food and beverage menus and ensuring we have the correct space for the proposed program, which means its really a never-ending process.

With our prior experiences in charity event planning, finance and conference planning, these skills have assisted in the meeting planning process in our collective four years with Affinity. For every meeting, we want to ensure we are meeting educational goals as well as financial goals for the organization.

Some of the most important parts of planning any meeting is making sure you have adequate meeting space to support your program along with a budget to support the clients’ needs. Knowing your audience is a consideration as you want them to get the most out of the meeting. Even for educational meetings there are many different formats/ways the meeting can go from having workshops, discussion groups and general sessions.

Another huge part of an educational meeting is securing industry sponsorship to support the meeting. (See the box for our top 5 tips on planning your most successful educational meeting.) Traveling, meeting the clients and the attendees, watching the events come together are some of the reasons we love our job!

One of the biggest challenges over the past few years has been pivoting to virtual meetings, with a big impact on the speakers and attendees. This involved some extra steps to ensure the meeting went smoothly, including collecting recorded presentations ahead of time and conducting speaker training, as this was new to a lot of people. It also threw a learning curve as we needed to consider different platforms that allowed creative ways for attendees to still network with each other and was attractive to sponsors. We also found that virtual attendees were registering for events closer to the meeting dates than if they would have planned to attend in-person. Looking forward, we are trending more towards offering a live-stream to virtual attendees versus a full hybrid due to cost.

Another challenge is when boards and committees are not fully vested in the process. All boards are a little different. While some fully take over planning the meeting, we can run into issues where we are not getting as much help as needed. Conducting bi-weekly programming calls with the client ensures we are staying on target with deliverables and meeting expectations.

In our time with Affinity, we have also seen a few changes in the industry, in addition to the hybrid meeting model. These include increases in cost to food and beverage and audio/visual pricing due to the pandemic and recession, as well as staffing changes at hotels that affect us with response times in getting contracts and communication onsite.

As you work to plan your organization’s meeting, building in some extra time to plan with your meeting planner will go a long way. A successful meeting takes a year of planning and has millions of moving parts.

by Becky Cira and Skyler Sanderson

Top 5 Tips on Planning a Successful Meeting

  • Creating and sticking to a budget:
    Establish a budget and ensure you are staying within projected numbers for each vendor/service.
  • Finding adequate meeting space:
    Consider the size of past meetings and expected numbers for the next meeting when researching venues.
  • Securing industry sponsorship:
    Keep industry connections with previous sponsors and find ways to connect with new industry relations contacts.
  • Deciding on an in-person vs. virtual meeting:
    Consider what a hybrid or live-stream model would bring to your meeting and weigh out the pros and cons of offering this option to attendees.
  • Effective communication between meeting planner and board:
    Don’t hesitate to reach out to your meeting planner if you have questions. By working together, this ensures all parties are satisfied with the ending result – a successful conference.