4 Lessons from a Crazy, Hectic Start to 2018

Missy JPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

You might have noticed that I haven’t been able to send a blog post out over the last couple of months.

I promised all the way back at the end of 2016 to be better about making it a priority, so I take full responsibility for letting the blog ball drop, as it were.

But I have a REALLY good excuse. (sort of)

I’ve been very busy with client work during the first half of 2018.

While I’m focused so much on executing high-quality meetings and events for my clients, the cold hard truth is that writing blog posts gets repeatedly pushed down my ever-growing To Do List.

It’s not just that I’m busy. I’ve found that when I’m “in the weeds” with work my mind isn’t very ‘creative’ or ‘open’ to thinking about blog topics or coming up with ideas that might resonate with my audience.

But I’ve learned some lessons…and gotten some much-needed reminders…so far in 2018:

  1. Find some “balance” amid the chaos.
    Despite having some very stressful days and working long hours in my home office, I find it helpful to have some downtime on the weekends where I really don’t do anything but catch up on sleep or TV shows. I also make ‘self-care’ a priority and make time for yoga at least once a week and some morning walks when Mother Nature cooperates. Oh, and I’ve been religious about getting a deep tissue massage every 6 weeks. It makes a HUGE difference in how I feel.
  2. staggerEveryone needs a “Mic Johnson”.
    During all the late nights and hectic days quarantined in my office, my partner in life and work, Mic, is there to pick up my slack. He takes care of all the little things – laundry, dog care, car care, home care – and, some of the big things – bookkeeping for home and business, managing our personal/life calendars and navigating my daily moods. He does all of this while also ‘cheerleading me on’ through the stressful days because he knows it takes a lot out of me.
  3. Remember that tone is important.
    When I get busy, I tend to get even more direct in my communications. Sometimes my emails or texts can seem curt or even rude if I’m not careful. In the last couple of busy months, I’ve been humbled a few times by people in my life. They’ve let me know that I might need to slow down a little and pay attention to my tone to ensure I’m sending the message that I really want to send. This was an important reminder to me and one I need to be mindful of at all times, but especially when I’m busy.
  4. Remind yourself that you can’t control everything. 
    As a self-diagnosed ‘control freak’, I try to control everything and everyone during the busy times. Boy, I’ll tell you, it’s exhausting. Reminding myself once in a while to focus on the things I really can control (and letting the rest go) is a good exercise and one that I need to continue to work on.

Can you relate to my observations in your own stressful and busy work? What tips do you have to share that might help all of us control-freaks?

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your support of MJMeetings. Please keep us in mind if you know of national associations, nonprofits and businesses who could use some help elevating their meetings and events. 

There’s No Better Time to Say THANK YOU

Melissa Whitaker and Missy Johnson

Melissa Whitaker and Missy Johnson

With the holidays upon us and as I wrap-up my fourth year in business, there’s no better time to say “Thank You” to my clients and business partners.

I’m so very fortunate to have both wonderful clients and partners in business and I truly appreciate your business, loyalty and friendship.

THANK YOU, Clients (you know who you are).
I appreciate that you have many choices and that you choose to work with me and MJMeetings. I will never take that for granted. I appreciate our partnership and how we treat each other fairly and with respect. That’s the best way to do business. I appreciate each of your meetings and events and love partnering with you to make them better, year after year.

THANK YOU, Vendor Partners (you know who you are).
I appreciate our professional working relationships. I work hard to ensure I’m being a good and fair partner with you. I appreciate your hard work on behalf of my clients to ensure their meetings and events are booked in the perfect venue, making use of the best-suited technologies, and more.

THANK YOU, Family and Friends (you know who you are).
I appreciate your support and cheerleading my efforts as an entrepreneur. I appreciate your interest in my work and my clients’ missions and the love you share with me as I continue to travel down this road as a small business owner.

THANK YOU, Melissa Whitaker.
My first Lieutenant and extra right-hand. You’re always there to help when I need you and are a trusted resource. You’re happy to help with project work or assist on-site to execute an event. I appreciate your expertise and I trust your every move.

THANK YOU, Mic Johnson.
You’re more than just a business partner. You tackle everything from marketing, business development and bookkeeping with ease. You’re more than just my spouse – you serve as a sounding board, motivator and business acumen educator. I appreciate every little (and big) thing you do to ensure that MJMeetings is a successful enterprise. I couldn’t do this business without your love and support.

More than any other time of year, now is the best time to step back, reflect and share appreciation. I’m so lucky and GRATEFUL to be able to do what I love every day. The icing on the cake is that I get to do it working for myself, at home in a business I built with my spouse. What a wonderful life indeed!

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Why I’m Proud to Be a Woman-Owned Business

Missy JPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

I recently saw a headline that read “Growth of Women Owned Businesses Boom.”

The headline caught my attention, so I clicked to read more. The article was in the online daily newsletter I receive from BizWomen, which is a collection of news stories from various Business Journals around the country.

The article went on to say that the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. is growing 2.5 times faster than the national average and has more than DOUBLED in the last twenty years, according to a recent study from American Express.

Interesting and encouraging facts, I thought. I wondered why this growth is happening at such a rapid pace? Then I remembered what motivated me to start my own business nearly 5 years ago.

There were many reasons, but one of the primary factors was that I was motivated by a very negative experience where I worked for a corporation whose culture was dominated by egotistical, entitled and wealthy men who had no appreciation for, or understanding of, my profession. And they treated me accordingly. I was belittled, dismissed and discouraged. I also endured some pretty ugly verbal swearing that has no place in any professional company culture.

The article also made me think more about the culture shock we’ve all experienced within the last few months that has become our new norm…one where sexual harassment against women in the workplace seems to have no discrimination by industry, race or social class. The stories by brave women across our country continue to dominate our news headlines and, with each story told, everyone in our society suffers.

So why has there been so much growth in women-owned businesses? It’s simple really – the impressive growth over the last twenty years is a resounding statement by women who want to take control of their lives and income without negative interference or influence.

Women have taken a big step forward over the last twenty years by experiencing growth in business ownership. I’m really proud to be a part of it.

State of the Meetings Industry: Q and A with Missy J

Missy JPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

I’ve had several questions rolling around in my head lately covering a wide range of topics related to the state of our industry.

I wanted to write them down to get them out of my head and it turned into a blog post! I hope you enjoy my thoughts…and I’d love to hear from you if you have something to add.

Q: What are the most timely and relevant issues facing meeting planners today? What is most concerning?

A: Meeting Planners are faced with many critical issues with each event.

But today’s hot topics center around meeting design and strategy to match organizational missions, shorter planning windows, budget constraints, travel restrictions and understanding and integrating emerging technologies.

Sounds like a lot to deal with, right? It is and that’s the main reason that the role of meeting planner is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful professions around.

Q: How much longer before we swing away from this deep seller’s market? How will meeting budgets continue to keep pace?

A: According to many things I’ve read in the trade publications lately, the meetings industry is projected for a continuation of the seller’s market at least through 2018 which will further pressure planner’s budgets.

Continued growth in many segments drives a healthy market leading to increased employment, overall favorable and growing business conditions and increased attendance at both live and virtual events. Good news in many ways but it also adds near-term challenges for planners with no real end in sight.

Q: What are some of the biggest areas of change that the meetings industry will face in the next year?

A: When the global economy is doing well, market conditions are more favorable for our industry. This results in infrastructure investments and budget increases making live events more significant.

On the other hand, when economic development is lagging, meeting planners must prove resilient and find creative ways to conduct business in the face of challenges like smaller budgets, shorter lead times and market demand. If our economy changes drastically one way or the other, meeting planners will need to adapt quickly and understand how these changes affect the big picture of meetings and events.

questionTechnology is another issue that’s transforming our industry. Planners have to be experts at all the new technologies that can enhance or alter live-streaming, audience engagement and behind-the-scenes logistics.

Now, planners have to carve out time to fully understand the opportunities within their events that technology can enhance, learn all of the best options available to address it and then implement the tech while keeping risk mitigation in mind too.

Q: Are we doing enough to promote our industry and support those of us who work within it, especially in the face of a dived political landscape and national policies that impact our industry?

A: A few years ago, our industry organizations banded together to form and support the Meetings Mean Business coalition to be a united voice about the value of meetings, conventions, exhibitions, trade shows and other travel related face-to-face events.

Each year the coalition works to advocate for our industry through congressional lobbying efforts to educate our political leaders on the value of our industry.

They also organize industry professionals around the globe who rally each year around the Global Meetings Industry Day – a campaign that raises awareness about the value of face-to-face events in all communities around the world.

All these efforts aside, our industry is still facing enormous challenges and is attacked almost daily by divisive and challenging travel bans and the tragic increase in terror attacks where small and large groups of people gather together. We need to work as a community of professionals to ensure our meetings and events can continue to happen in the face of these challenges.

Thanks for taking the time to read and share this post! Questions about your next event? Just email or call me at missy@mjmeetings.com at 913.645.6649 to get the conversation started.

This Was the Hardest Event I’ve Ever Had to Plan

Missy JohnsonPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

I recently planned a surprise birthday party for my husband, Mic Johnson, and it was the hardest event I’ve ever had to plan.

You may be wondering…“With over 20 years of experience planning meetings, events, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and galas – why was this one so hard?

The answer: Because my emotions were all tied up in it! Planning the party involved a deep emotional connection and that’s rarely present when I produce meetings or events for clients or other organizations.

Mic Surprise Party (3)My emotions…FEAR of him finding out about the party before the surprise, JOY at knowing how happy having all of his loved ones in the same room would make him feel, GRATITUDE for family and friends who made the effort to attend…were all tied up in this event in a way that I don’t typically experience when planning for a client or organization.

Additionally, I made two mistakes when planning this event that I NEVER would’ve made if I was planning a client event:

First, I booked a venue without specifying the exact event times and I got burned….bad. The venue ended up double-booking the space and I got bumped out with just TWO WEEKS to find a new location. (A HUGE THANK YOU to the new Parkway Social Kitchen on the Plaza for coming through in the clutch!)

Second, I allowed my emotions about the event to take over my normal ability to be ‘cool under pressure’. My friends and family noticed how I seemed more stressed than they’ve ever seen me before.

Because I was so emotionally invested in the event, I didn’t have my head on straight and made some rookie mistakes. That’s what love will do to you, I guess. 🙂

What did I learn through this experience?

I learned that when it comes to planning personal events where you have an emotional investment…weddings, milestone birthday parties, major anniversaries…it might be best to hire a professional to assist who doesn’t have those same emotional ties. I was planning with blinders on because I couldn’t help my emotions from taking center stage.

Mic Surprise Party (6)You might think that, of all people, I would’ve been able to realize this lesson beforehand because it’s one that I share with my clients…but sometimes you just need to learn the hard way! I’ll never make that same mistake again.

Did Mic enjoy the party? YES! He loved it!

Was he surprised? YES! He had no idea!

Was the event a success? It was, but boy am I glad it’s over! (I told Mic this would be the last surprise birthday party I’d ever plan for him because I couldn’t take the stress! ha, ha)

As always, thanks for reading the MJMeetings blog. If you have questions or ideas for other topics, please don’t hesitate to email me at missy@mjmeetings.com.

What You Need to Know About Emergency Disaster Preparedness (EDP)

Missy JohnsonPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

Emergency Disaster Preparedness (EDP) is not a fun topic, I know. But, with all the bad news lately it’s been on my mind. In addition, it’s a critical part of meeting and event production.

If you aren’t spending adequate time (in some cases up to 25% of your overall planning hours) on EDP, then you’re playing the odds.

Threats to an event’s success are all around us – disruptions that range from weather events (hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes) – to cyberattacks – to terrorism.

Meetings and events are a soft, easy target for disrupters, bad actors and even radical rebels. So what should you be thinking about before something awful happens? Here are some of my big picture thoughts…

1. Start with Communication

With any disaster, your first step is to communicate to your vendors, attendees, board, sponsors and other stakeholders. When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to be thinking about is “Who should be sending this email or making this phone call?”

Within your organization, you should have a communication tree pre-built so that it’s easy to identify the right staff person at the right time for the right situation.

Ensure you involve marketing, PR or the communications rep to help you craft the appropriate responses when communication is vital.

2. Solid Contracts are Just the Beginning

Contractual and legal protections for your meeting or event are just the tip of the iceberg. You want to be legally prepared for an emergency. If you have solid contracts,  you will be.

However, if your meeting or event is very large in scale or financial gain, you’ll want to think about taking formal and proper planning measures such as risk evaluation, contingency planning and most important, strong vendor partner relationships.

In one survey of planners who had been through meeting EDP planning, they listed vendor trust as the most needed resource for disruption planning.

A vendor partner’s cooperative behavior, creativity, resources and financial capabilities were viewed as strong indicators of building that trust.

3. SOP’s to Keep It Simple

Having standard operating procedures (SOP’s), organizational policies and procedures and crisis management manuals at your fingertips will ease the pain of dealing with an event disaster.

Many people, including key staff and leaders, may be in a state of shock following an emergency and yet swift action is required by event planners to make decisions about what happens next.

If you have all of your SOP’s ready and handy so that all you have to do is follow the steps that are already laid out, taking action is simplified and requires less critical thinking at a time when you or others might not have the state of mind to handle it.

What other things have helped you with EDP and how did it help? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Need help with planning your next meeting or event, give me a call at 913-645-6649 or send an email to missy@mjmeetings.com.

On Their Own (PCMA Convene – September 2017)

I was honored to be one of five independent meeting planners interviewed in a roundtable discussion about being my own boss, industry trends, and more. Take a look at what all of us had to say. http://bit.ly/2wVhJQK

PCMA Convene

Why I’m Just Like a Professional Quarterback

Missy JohnsonPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

I’m a big sports fan. Many of you already know about my love of the Kansas City Royals, but I’m also an avid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas City Chiefs.

Most people today enjoy watching sports either live or on TV, so it’s probably no surprise that I often use a sports analogy to explain to those outside the meetings industry what I do and how I do it.

I’m a professional quarterback.

Yep, that’s exactly how I see myself. As a meeting planner, I need to have all of the same traits as a good quarterback – strong communication skills, ability to delegate tasks effectively, ability to inspire teammates, passion to work a plan of attack, desire to keep moving forward until the touchdown is achieved – and I could keep going.

I see myself as the quarterback of a group of people who are trying to achieve a single goal. To accomplish that, there are several skills the quarterback needs to possess to get into the end zone time and time again. Here are just a few:

Talent and Passion

footballAll the best QB’s have enormous talent born out of years and years of practice.

They all have a burning passion for the game that shows itself through commitment, heart and grit for a game they love.

I DO THE SAME THING.

I have a talent for meeting planning that began over 20 years ago and I’ve had the same commitment to becoming better at it every day since.

My passion for this industry and my job is also evident in what I bring to the table and to my clients every day…it’s called enthusiasm.

Plan the Work / Work the Plan / Execute Effectively

Great QB’s begin with a game plan that has been carefully crafted based on study of the opponent and strengths of their team.

After the plan is developed, the team works through the plan by practicing to ensure they know their assignments for game day. Then, the QB inspires other teammates to execute their part of the plan to achieve the goal.

I DO THE SAME THING.

It’s my job to develop a great plan for my clients…timelines, budgets and planning templates are created and then followed up on throughout the planning process. The effective execution of the plan is easily done when a great plan in put in place. And when the game is on the line, that’s when you want a veteran meeting planner leading your team down the field.

Leadership and Communication

A quarterback is a leader because they have to be able to inspire others to action, communicate effectively with teammates and coaches, and bring their talent and passion to the field every day to create and execute an effective game plan. That’s a tall order but that’s what leaders do.

I DO THE SAME THING.

I must inspire those around me to fulfill their responsibilities and communicate effectively with every type and status of person in our society. I must lead a team of people to make every event successful and memorable.

If you’re looking for a professional quarterback for your next meeting or event, you can reach me at 913-645-6649 or missy@mjmeetings.com.

Have You Lost Respect for Your RSVP?

Missy JohnsonPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

I’m bothered by a current and growing trend in our society. It seems that the public is numb to the meaning of the RSVP for parties, events or invitations to just about any occasion.

RSVP is a widely known acronym for Répondez s’il vous plait, which is a French language phrase for “Reply if you please”.

Any event organizer knows the frustrations that come with not knowing an exact count of invited guests. The event venue fee is sometimes tied to your total guest count and food and beverage guarantees are traditionally paid per person. If party favors or gifts are included in the event, having an accurate RSVP count is very important.

Of course it’s reasonable to expect that any party or event will have some expected guests that no-show or provide last minute cancellations in the final days before the event.

Depending on your event’s size, a typical amount is 10-20% of your expected guest list and any rational event planner understands that some guests become ill, have family emergencies or have unexpected work demands that come up after an RSVP is given. So for the sake of argument, let’s take this small group out of the equation.

RSVPIn recent years, I’ve observed people across all industries and professions have less and less respect for what an RSVP means and, more importantly, how it reflects on them personally and professionally.

In my experience, no-show’s and day-of-event cancellations have risen sharply to 20-35% of total guest count across all different types of events/parties.

I’m just going to put this out there…I think it’s rude to no-show and I think it reflects poorly on your character, especially if you’re a repeat offender. (Those who no-show often make a habit of it.)

Far too many people have become LAZY and if they just don’t feel like going to an event that they themselves have paid nothing for and spent no time planning, they just don’t go without giving any thought at all about the ramifications of their failed RSVP.

Event organizers and host sponsors of events plan and pay for events based on your attendance at the event. If you don’t attend, the costs are great…and the overall event ROI (return on investment) is diminished.

To me, this seems like common sense as an event organizer…but also as a human being.

I have too much respect for my RSVP to no-show. What about you?

What do you think? What’s your experience been? Leave a comment below or email me at missy@mjmeetings.com to share your thoughts on the state of the RSVP in our culture.

Why Are Relationships So Important In The Hospitality Industry?

Missy JohnsonPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

“In the hospitality industry, relationships are paramount.” 

I remember a seasoned industry employee sharing this sentiment with me when I first started in this business over twenty years ago, and it’s proven to be true time and time again in my career.

Many people work in industries where relationship building is important to their jobs, but why are relationships so important in the hospitality industry? The reasons are many, but here are my top three:

1.Colleagues who work together often become friends.
I’ve made so many friends in this industry over my career who started as work colleagues and representatives of industry suppliers. These relationships are some of my most valued in business and in life. When two people work together to solve problems and do business together, it deepens the meaning of the relationship and strengthens it over time so that each encounter is more important than the last.

2.It’s much better to negotiate a deal with someone you know well than vs. a perfect stranger.
Contract negotiations can often be tough and contentious with both parties standing up for what they think is fair. Doing this exercise with someone you have an existing relationship with allows for more open and honest communication…and generally a more fair contract that both sides feel good about.

relationships3.Great relationships in this industry lead to great career opportunities.
I’ve been the recipient of several great opportunities over my career because of existing relationships that had been nurtured for years.

Having a reputation for being a hard worker with high character and an excellent work ethic will take you to wonderful places if you also have relationships to help open doors for you along the way.

In my 20+ year career in the hospitality industry, I’ve found that the most valuable thing I’ve taken with me from one opportunity to the next…and from one organization to another…are the relationships I’ve built along the way.

I’ve remained close with work colleagues, industry suppliers and other meeting professionals who have added lasting value and meaning to what I do each day. These relationships carry more and more meaning with each passing year because they fulfill and deepen my life both at work and at play.

I’d love to hear stories about how relationships have impacted your life. Share a story in the Comments section below.

Interested in learning how I can save both time and money on your meetings and events? I’d love to chat. You can reach me at 913-645-6649 or missy@mjmeetings.com.