Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

Rethinking labels: Including everyone in our events ecosystem

Aug 30, 2021, 11:42 AM by Blair Potter
The two-label planner/supplier system has conditioned us to quickly judge the usefulness of an interaction.

At our town hall during the World Education Congress this June in Las Vegas, someone asked this great question: “Are the terms ‘meeting planner’ and ‘supplier’ outdated? Are we seeing more mixed roles and responsibilities at companies and do we as an industry need to market MPI differently as a result?”

For as long as I can remember, most of our industry associations have put members in two basic categories: planner or supplier. The obvious benefit is that vendors and suppliers can quickly identify potential buyers and clients. At MPI, we set goals for the ratios of planners for membership and event attendance, and we valuate their potential buying power for our supplier sponsors.

I’ve been a sales professional for a DMO, a DMC and an events agency, so I understand the importance of this information. However, I think it’s time to rethink this black-and-white categorization.

With curiosity and genuine connection, we can better understand what we all need from our community and how to bring value together.

First, I agree with the town hall participant that we are seeing more combination roles at companies. An intermediary agency like a DMC or an events company buys products and services and can book hotel rooms, but they also sell their services to the corporate or association client. Their staff could find relevance in training on sales techniques, as well as the latest event design strategies. Especially for younger professionals, forcing them into a two-category path could limit their understanding and potential in the industry, discouraging them from jumping over the divide and therefore remaining either a planner or supplier. Having a variety of roles on both sides would increase their industry knowledge and insight.

Additionally, the planner label limits the complexity of the function to a tactical role. As I commented in the February issue about salaries, the meeting and event planner is doing multi-faceted project management, with functions such as producer, designer, content developer and marketer. The term planner makes the position hard to translate to other sectors. Also, as the planner elevates to director and above, she may not feel adequately represented by a simple planner category, possibly wanting more executive interaction and training.

Maybe most important, the two-label system has conditioned us to quickly judge the usefulness of an interaction and we may miss out on valuable connections as a result. Shannon Jones, our Chapter & Membership Advisory Council chair and a corporate event manager, agrees: “I believe even more that the supplier-to-supplier relationship is severely undervalued. Suppliers need each other as partnering and referral sources, and many times the opportunity for business comes stronger from your fellow suppliers.”

So let’s think bigger. Let’s include everyone in our events ecosystem and not determine their value based on a label. With curiosity and genuine connection, we can better understand what we all need from our community and how to bring value together.

Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA
MPI Senior Vice President, Experience
agregg@mpi.org
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