Every time you meet someone, you are an ambassador for your company. Meetings and events puts planners front and center and in a business that’s built on relationships, business etiquette and good old-fashioned manners play an important role. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
You’re never fully dressed without a smile.
Don’t contribute to a toxic workplace. The simple act of smiling has proven benefits: It lowers your blood pressure, reduces stress, releases endorphins, boosts your immune system and makes you seem more attractive, younger, confident and successful. No wonder smiling is contagious. Try smiling while recording your outgoing voice message or speaking on the phone; it improves your articulation and adds a pleasant note to what you’re saying.
Of course you’re an expert multi-tasker; you’re a meeting planner. But make sure the people you are speaking with know you care about what they are saying. Turn off phones and Blackberries during meetings. When you’re speaking with someone on the phone, don’t distract them with the sound of you catching up on e-mails, eating lunch or driving at the same time. Give them your full attention.
Don’t depend on digital media to get your message across.
According to a study released by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there’s a 50 percent chance that each e-mail you send will be misinterpreted. Do yourself, your vendors and clients a favor and call if you have important matters to discuss.
Time is money.
Don’t make people wait for you. If an appointment or a phone call is important to you, your company and your client, be on time. Similarly, respect your attendees’ time and make sure programs start on time.
Honesty is the best policy.
Know your budget and your event specifications before contacting a vendor or sending out an RFP. Don’t contact vendors you know your budget can’t accommodate. Don’t string people along if your group cannot use their services. Be honest about how the facility or vendor can improve and earn your business; you may need to use them next time.
Playing hardball is a bad way to make friends.
Negotiations are an art form, and honey will get you farther than vinegar. You don’t want to use a vendor that undercuts safety or service to deliver a lowball figure, so make sure that the price you agree on is what your client needs, and what the provider needs to do their best work.
Don’t be greedy.
When you are the guest on a site visit, a FAM tour or another event, you are there to network, to research and to do business. Don’t expect gifts just for showing up, don’t demand extra gift bags to take home to friends, and don’t overindulge in alcohol. Conduct yourself with respect for yourself, your peers and your hosts.
Do unto others …
Return phone calls. Don’t take out your bad mood on other people. Treat everyone you know with respect. Don’t expect to get something for nothing. Let people know when they’ve done a good job. Be supportive. Don’t get stuck obsessing about a problem: Work to find solutions with your partners. Send thank-you notes. Tip for good service. Keep in touch with people you like working with; in this industry you never know where they’re going to end up.
Planner’s Corner: Peggy Montgomery
Peggy Montgomery is the president of MTI Event Management & Marketing, a full-service corporate event and meetings production, marketing and management company. During her 20 years of service in the meetings and hospitality industry, she also has worked on the vendor side of the industry as a national sales manager for convention, downtown and resort hotel properties; a director of conference services for a convention center hotel; and as an executive director for a convention and visitors bureau. Plan Your Meetings spoke with her about the role etiquette plays in the industry.
What are some of your biggest etiquette pet peeves?
A venue personnel who is not prepared for our meeting or site inspection. Some other examples are not offering something to drink during the meeting; not offering to pay for parking; not sticking to the plan that was outlined prior to the meeting; communicating information to the client that was discussed prior to the meeting as inappropriate.
Has etiquette ever cost someone your business?
Yes. In several instances where the venue personnel were either not prepared for the meeting, thus looking unorganized or unprofessional, or where the venue personnel did not exhibit the personality that is interpreted as wanting a partnership in the negotiation.
Why is etiquette important?
When venue personnel exhibit a professional personality, are upfront and honest about their offer, and treat you with respect and a positive attitude towards the potential partnership, then I am much more interested in doing business with that person or venue.
What should planners and suppliers keep in mind during the negotiation process?
Show some humility and respect. [Create an] open and honest communication and understanding towards achieving a win/win partnership.