Meeting Planning: Its Not What You Know but Who You Know

By Beth Buehler

I’ve planned my fair share of meetings and events as a downtown district manager, community development coordinator, public relations and marketing firm owner and magazine editor over the years. Writing an insightful article is much like developing a successful meeting. It’s all about the sources. Sources are people who can provide meaningful, firsthand knowledge about a particular subject or direct you to individuals in the know.


  1. Go to a DMO – For example, the destination articles that I write depend on me first touching base with the executive director, sales team or public relations director at the local destination marketing organization (DMO), which is typically the convention and visitors bureau, tourism organization or Chamber of Commerce.  The DMO staff helps me zone in on the venues, hotels, outfitters, suppliers and attractions that serve groups and connect me to people who have planned meetings in their towns so I can find out how they used the destination and all it has to offer.
  2. Pick Your Sales Contact’s Brain – When shopping for venues and after signing on the dotted line, utilize your sales contact’s knowledge of the area. They typically can direct you to quality florists, caterers, audiovisual providers, transportation companies, local attractions and more. Plus, they have seen numerous meetings and events take place at their location. Sales contacts are some of my best sources for getting a feel for what makes their destinations tick.
  3. Hire a Local Planner – Meeting planners and destination management companies (DMC) based locally or in the same state can help eliminate the layers of figuring out what properties and suppliers to use and how to integrate the local flavor into a meeting or event. They are experts on the destinations where they live and work and can make a meeting go from boring to blossoming. When I want great examples of cutting-edge meetings and events, I head straight to planners and DMCs.
  4. Partner with Savvy Suppliers – Every person on your meetings team, from the photographer, florist and entertainment company to team-building companies and attraction and hotel representatives are a potential source for great ideas. Go beyond signing the contract and have real conversations and interactions with your suppliers. Some of the best story ideas I run across come up in casual conversations with people in the industry that I am covering.

While “what you know” is always important in planning a top-notch meeting for your organization, plugging into the “who you know” piece can transform your gathering from average to outstanding.