You've worked for many months or event years determining your client's objectives, choosing the event theme, selecting a venue, fine-tuning the agenda, planning the menu, and formulating a logistics plan. Now your meeting, event or conference is just a few days away. The pre-conference meeting (pre-con) is one of the important final steps for ensuring event success. It's an opportunity to step through the event before it takes place.
Who Should Attend
The short answer is, "it depends." For certain, be sure to have representatives from:
- the DMC
- the company handling the arrival and departure transfers
- the caterers - if some of the catering has been outsourced
- the team building consulting firm (if applicable)
- audio-visual supplier
- outside dinner venues - if outside venues are going to be used
- recreational service providers
- the resort, hotel or main venue
Most venues have their own procedures so work within that framework. Some venues have a meeting concierge who attends the pre-con on behalf of all departments. Specific departments are conferenced in if required. Other resorts prefer to have representatives from:
- Meeting and Events/Banquets
- Front desk/Reception
- Food and beverage
- Nursing/Medical - essential if babies, small children or guests with special medical needs will be attending.
- Nursery and Children's program, if applicable
What to Prepare
Be sure to prepare a full agenda with logistics for all parties and ensure that it is distributed at least a week prior to the pre-con. Structure it to follow the flow of the event from the time the guests arrive at the destination until departure. Be sure to include any questions or outstanding items. Include any documents that will be distributed to the guests.
Running the Meeting
I have found that pre-cons work best when they are co-chaired with the meeting concierge or meeting manager chairing the part of the agenda that focuses on the resort's logistics and the event planner chairing the rest of the meeting.
Begin with the goals and objectives of the meeting and a full re-cap of the event itinerary so that all key players get a feel for the event flow. By doing this, often pre-con attendees can spot potential glitches and come up with ideas to support event objectives and streamline logistics. For example, once they have a full understanding of the meeting, the banquets department often comes up with ideas for enhancements to decor and set-up. Provide an opportunity for questions before drilling down and covering specific aspect of the meeting or conference.
Next, focus on specific aspects of the meeting and the group's stay at the hotel. In this way, participants don't have to stick around for the duration of the agenda. (With everyone's busy schedule, this will be appreciated.) Cover
- timing for room inspections
- arrival and departure logistics
- transition and transfers to off-site meetings and events
- housekeeping including room drops, VIP amenities, and turn down service if required
- check-in procedures (group check-in is recommended)
- the orientation
- luggage transfers
- emergency procedures
At that point the transportation, the front-desk, housekeeping can be released while you discuss other aspects of the meeting including
- accounting - including what gets charged to the master and what goes on guest accounts
- food and beverage including allergies and special meal requirements
- timing of breaks
- meeting room floorplan, audio-visual requirements and timing for meeting room set-up
- detailed meeting and event agenda
- recreational activities
- gala or special event
A thorough and well executed pre-con goes a long way towards increasing the chances for success of any meeting, conference or corporate event.
For more tips for working with venues and other suppliers, also read Food for Thought: How to Get Things Done On-site, The Planner's View: The ABCs of Delivering a Post-Con that Promotes Partnership.
Photo Credits: Corporate Event Planning, Executive Oasis International