5 Ways to Prepare Your Staff for Your Next Big Meeting

Part of your preparation for any large meeting should be making sure your association's staff has the info they need to support the event either onsite or back in the office. Here are some ways to make that happen.

Seven days. That’s how long it is until I get on a plane and head to Atlanta for ASAE’s 2013 Annual Meeting & Expo. And while the amount of work I need to get done in that timeframe is a bit daunting, there’s one thing I do know: I am prepared as I can be for what to expect onsite, and that’s due to our meetings team making sure myself and the rest of our staff have the information we need to not only navigate the meeting for ourselves but also to serve our members and attendees onsite.

It’s just as important for any other staff member, including those who are holding down the fort back at the office, to have the meeting details they need to keep customer service at the highest level possible.

And while some organizations may think that only their meetings department needs to know how to get around the convention center or how late the registration desk is open or that it’s only exhibitors who need to be educated ahead of time, it’s just as important for any other staff member, including those who are holding down the fort back at the office, to have the details they need to keep customer service at the highest level possible. After all, these big meetings are often large revenue generators for associations.

Here are five ideas on how to best prepare your staff for your next meeting and event. (I fully admit that one or more of these are things we do here at ASAE.)

1. Hold a pep rally. Cheerleaders are optional, but the whole idea behind this is to gather the entire staff in one place at one time and give them the latest update on the meeting and get them excited about it. Some information to include: registration numbers, background on speakers and learning sessions, what’s new or different at this year’s event, and fun things happening on the tradeshow floor. It could also be helpful to give other departments the chance to speak about what they’ll be doing at the meeting, whether that’s running the golf tournament, debuting new publications, or introducing new sponsors/partners. Also, fill the staff in on little extras they can enjoy at the event, whether that’s evening events or other activities.

2.  Brush up on customer-service skills. A quick refresher course never hurts both new and seasoned staff members. It could cover the basics, like the importance of smiling, to the more detailed. Perhaps, if staff are willing, you could have them share customer-service experiences they’ve dealt with at similar meetings in the past. Also, if staffers do have to deal with an angry or unhappy attendee, it’s important that they know who they should pass along complaints to or who else on the team will be taking the lead to handle such situations.

3. Arm staff with information. Here at ASAE we receive our Quick Tips, a journal-sized, spiral-bound notebook that is filled with everything we may need to answer attendee questions or just navigate ourselves around the convention center. Some information included in the book is contact information for staff, a convention center map, our staff shirt schedule, and perhaps most important, where the closest Starbucks is. If associations don’t have the capacity to produce something this elaborate, perhaps a FAQ sheet is a good place to start.

4. Continue the knowledge sharing onsite. For staff who travel to the meeting, arrange for staff tours of the convention center when they arrive and before most members do. That way, by the time most attendees get there your staff is ready and confident about how to direct them from one place to another.

5. Acknowledge the significance of the meeting. This is related to the first idea, but if you really want staff to know how important the meeting is, tell them. For instance, what percentage of your organization’s revenue is made at the event? How much money does your tradeshow bring in? Share with them how much money your meetings have brought to host cities in the past. All of this will hopefully instill a bit of pride in the staff and want to make them work even harder. Hearing this from the head of your meetings team or even your CEO may make it stick more.

How does your association ensure staff is prepared for its upcoming meetings and events? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!