This post is authored by guest blogger Kelly Van Dyke, CMP. Kelly is a convention service manager at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your venue CSM should be your number one go-to person, your number one collaborator, your biggest fan, maybe even your best friend (even if only for a short period of time). This person wants a successful conference just as much as you do. His or her primary role is to assist you in planning a conference within your means. Likewise, he or she is charged with maintaining the venue’s profitability, as well as delivering a pleasant and memorable experience for your attendees. Ultimately, the key to a successful relationship with your CSM is communication. Following are a couple of tried and true tips guaranteed to help you communicate more effectively with your convention services manager.
First, share information – and share it early and often. Tell your CSM everything you can about your organization, its conference and all the quirks that come with it. Don’t hold back. Include historical figures, past experiences and even those elements of your conference that remain a work in progress. In return, your CSM will offer ideas and suggestions to be sure your conference runs as smoothly as possible (given both the strengths and the limitations of the property). Likewise, if you are not experienced in a particular area, be sure to speak up. For example, I once worked with a planner who had very little experience in exhibition services. Ultimately, in an effort to break even, he was seeking new ways to lower event costs. When we started discussing exhibitor needs, including power and Internet access, I recommended these services be offered to exhibitors as add-ons. In turn, this saved his organization more than $4,200 per day. In the end, he looked like the hero. By sharing with me his goals, objectives and concerns, we were able to identify and implement a thoughtful solution.
Just remember that CSMs work equally hard for you as they do for their own company. Case in point: We ask a million questions in advance of your event to avoid those awkward onsite moments (if you’ve never before experienced one, consider yourself lucky). For example, if you have plans to place 300 stick-on footprints throughout the hotel as directional signage, your CSM would need the proper approval (in advance of your arrival) to do so. Although it’s a great idea – especially in light of the sheer number of blank stares I see on the faces of lost people each day as I walk the floors of my property – there are many considerations that must be factored into this type of way-finding strategy. For starters, there’s the venue’s approval process. This type of signage may or may not be permitted by your property’s management team. Can you imagine what a bummer it would be if you began strategically placing these footprints onsite and midway through the installation your CSM asked you to remove them? Or, better yet, if someone removed them all for you without your knowledge? That’s why communication with your CSM prior to your function is the single most important resource you can leverage as a planner.
Through thick and thin, your CSM should be a trusted friend and advisor. This person is your liaison to the venue staff, a key factor in the success of your conference and, ultimately, the person you’re most likely to work with on future events. The more they know the better. And, over time, the better you get to know one another, the more your CSM can anticipate your needs and requests. Share with them your plans, your expectations, your dreams and your wonders; they will breathe life into your vision the best way they know how. (Editor’s note: And if they don’t, kindly address this concern with your sales manager or the venue’s general manager.)
So, my question to you is this: What other recommendations do you have for enhancing the CSM/planner relationship? What’s worked well for you in the past? What “best practices” have you picked up and implemented over the years? Consider sharing with us an example of CSM/planner collaboration at its best.