How Concierge Services Aim to Ease Stress Among Planners

In cities like Toronto, meeting planners are getting concierge-like service from host city representatives.

Meeting planners understand Murphy’s Law better than most: If something could go wrong, it will. The snafu-free conference is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

But conference planners are that rare breed that shine in a crisis. They are trained to fix problems big and small as attendees go about their conference lives, none the wiser that something isn’t going precisely—or at all—to plan.

Of course, turning lemons into lemonade is easier with help. That’s why savvy meeting planners are choosing their conference sites at least partially on the strong partnership they can form with the host city, which can help planners make the best decisions about venues, logistics, excursions, local experts and speakers, and much more.

Tuesday Johnson-MacDonald, president of TAP Resources and event manager for the World Indigenous Peoples Conference, likens putting on a conference to the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

“It takes a community of specialists to produce an experience,” she said. “I truly depend on my suppliers and CVB to partner with me, to be engaged and have a keen interest in making this the best experience possible.” She notes that this type of partnership doesn’t always happen, so it’s all the more helpful when it does.

How a City Can Help

Business Events Toronto, charged with attracting meetings of all sizes to the city provides an array of services to meeting planners, including year-prior support, a complimentary attendance-building toolkit, assistance with site selection, and the assignment of a client-services manager who will assist meeting planners every step of the way.

For example, the Toronto team helped Johnson-MacDonald with all kinds of research, which freed up time for other planning duties. After the research is done, “I get a list of resources from the team, allowing me to vet and select,” she said.

In addition, the Business Events Toronto team “has helped us get letters of support from politicians to welcome our delegates,” said Johnson-MacDonald. “They’ve also helped us enhance our profile within the city, referred us to various suppliers and have helped me source unique suppliers.”

Meeting planners also can benefit from getting help with the less glamorous—but no less critical—parts of a conference. Johnson-MacDonald has partnered with Toronto’s speakers bureaus, as well as audio visual, décor and transportation companies. “When I’m in need of specialized support, I’ve also partnered with local event planners through the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners,” she said.

This might help explain why Toronto is the top Canadian domestic business-travel destination and the most popular choice for U.S.-based association meetings outside U.S. borders. “We’re committed to developing meaningful partnerships and innovative attendance-building resources,” said Tara Gordon, vice president for Business Events Toronto.

Nightmare Averted

True partners are there when you need them most. Just before Johnson-MacDonald’s event in Toronto, unprecedented rainfall hammered Toronto Island, the location of the opening ceremonies. She needed a new venue for more than 3,000 international delegates.

The Business Events Toronto team mobilized quickly. “[They] helped us not only identify other venues large enough for our group, but also within the parameters of our programming,” Johnson-MacDonald said. “Their team arranged and accompanied us on the emergency site visits we needed.”

The Business Events Toronto staff members had been participating in her team planning meetings, and this inside knowledge allowed the team to quickly find a new venue and handle many of the logistics of making the switch.

It was critical that the Toronto team was there for Johnson-MacDonald in her time of crisis, but team members have been her partners over the long haul.

“What I truly appreciate about my partnership with Business Events Toronto is they come fully to the table,” Johnson-MacDonald said. “They are aware of what we are working toward and oftentimes they bring insight and knowledge about the city that we might have overlooked or were not aware of.”

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(Handout photo)