MJMeetings Plans “Destination Celebration” Event In Kansas City!

NAMI_logoLast Thursday, April 16, 2015, was North American Meetings Industry Day (NAMID) – an initiative by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition to raise awareness about the incredible value that meetings, travel and events bring to the U.S. economy.

I was fortunate to be the professional planner for the Greater Kansas City area’s NAMID event titled, “Destination Celebration” which brought together representatives from over 40 destinations across North America and nearly 100 meeting professionals from around the region.

KC Dest PlannersAttendees networked and engaged with the destination representatives to learn about their cities meeting offerings and network together for best practice sharing.

Working closely with co-chairs David Kinney, Director of Midwest Sales for the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau and Lisa Lopez, Director of Sales for NYC & Co, we set out to create an event that not only allowed for a great business exchange and rich networking, but also one that was fun.

We began with a goal to have 20 destination representatives and roughly 50 meeting professionals and, in just two months, grew it to double that size!

KC Dest HostsWe selected a wonderful venue, Studio Dan Meiners, in downtown Kansas City which offered a unique and eye-catching space.

We then filled it with excellent food by delish! catering, springy floral by Dan Meiners and fun enhancements like a photo booth from Photos Booths & More where attendees held up a blackboard proclaiming what “Meetings Mean” to them.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate the first annual NAMID. We already have plans in the works to make this an annual event in Kansas City each year and are excited to build on the success we had with this year’s event.

Thank you to everyone who attended and all the destinations who participated!

Oh, and you can see even more great pictures from the event here: Destination Celebration – April 2015 – Kansas City

Career Advice: 3 Tips For Young People Interested In Meeting Planning

Missy Johnson, CMPMany young people think that meeting planning as a profession sounds interesting and fun. It is, but like any professional role, it also takes time, dedication and perseverance to get where you want to be.

I often get asked by young professionals and new graduates, “How did you get started in the industry and how can I get started?”

Here’s what I tell them:

Intern While You’re Still On Your Parents’ “Payroll”

Most would agree that an internship while you’re in college is a great idea for any young student. But here’s the inside scoop for the hospitality industry – an internship (paid or unpaid) in virtually ANY segment of our industry is key to getting you a paying job after school.

Many internships are available from hotels and resorts and this is a great place to start because they all teach the most important thing about working in this business:

How to be hospitable and honor service to others.

Additionally, an internship from a convention and visitors bureau, transportation vendor or meeting planning organization can also be very valuable.

Getting StartedGet Involved Early. Stay Active.

Getting involved early in an industry organization like PCMA, MPIASAE or ISES. Organizations like these foster relationship building and peer networking while providing excellent education for best practice sharing.

If you get involved early and stay active, you will grow a network of like-minded professionals that will cultivate years of positive rewards for you as a professional and as a person.

But the key is – you have to get involved to reap the rewards. Volunteer on a committee, commit to meeting at least three new people at every event, and take part in as many educational and networking opportunities as possible. The magic won’t happen if you just pay your membership dues and don’t get involved.

Be Social

I’m the first to admit that I was slow to adopt many of the social platforms available to me, but now that I’m more active, I’m definitely seeing the benefits.

Social media tools like LinkedIn and Twitter are wonderful ways to meet and stay connected to people and organizations that will help you grow and learn. People by nature are social creatures but we are also very busy and time-starved. Proactively using the tools available to you allow you to feel connected  to those in your network even when if you haven’t seen each other in person for awhile.

Was this article helpful? What other suggestions do you have for people interested in working in our industry?

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ROI! ROI! ROI! (Yes, Let’s Talk About ROI.)

Missy Johnson, CMP

Every C-level executive is always looking for more ROI from everyone in their organizations and on every project they undertake.

The good news is that your organization’s meetings and events are ripe for demonstrating smart ROI.

S0 how do you provide ROI without sacrificing the experience you want for your attendees? Work with an experienced meeting professional to help you take advantage of ROI opportunities such as:

Volume = Savings

Think about how buying in bulk helps you save money at Costco and other warehouse retailers. Bundling your purchasing of meeting and event space works exactly the same way.

Meeting and event venues will give you more of a discount on room rental, guest room rates, food and beverage and audio-visual services when you purchase in volume. Think about booking multiple years at a time or, for a repeat event, book multiple hotels within the same chain to leverage savings.

Timing is Key to Deeper Discounts

Experienced meeting professionals know that sometimes it pays to procrastinate. Waiting until the end of a quarter and especially the end of a calendar year can yield significant savings when booking meetings and events.

ROISales professionals are motivated to close business during these times and will almost always give you greater discounts on the things that matter the most to you.

Make your “Hot Buttons” Known

Meeting professionals know that in negotiations you must make it known early on to vendors that you have a certain budget to meet or must gain a complimentary concession in order for them to have an opportunity to win the business. We call them “Hot Buttons.”

Every sales professional in our industry knows to expect a few Hot Buttons. It might be that you want to have free WIFI in all guest rooms, you must have a discount on food & beverage, or that you need to have three complimentary suite upgrades for your VIPs.

Whatever your “Hot Buttons” are, make them known early and don’t back down on their importance to your overall meeting’s success.

Measure and Track Savings for ROI Reporting

After all the negotiations are complete, it’s important to measure and track all of the savings. Every executive responds to statistics and percentages. Accurate reporting of negotiated savings is an excellent way to measure the success of a meeting professional and understand the value they bring to your organization.

Say it with me…ROI! ROI! ROI!

Smart Business: Hire A Meeting Professional With A CMP

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

When looking for a contractor to handle your kitchen remodel, you’ll look for one that’s licensed and bonded, right?

If you need tax advice, doesn’t a CPA always stand out among other professionals?

Of course. But why?

Because people, in business and in life, place value on the education and standards that come along with a credential, license or designation.

We know that the person who pursues such a designation values what they do as much as how they do it. And we appreciate the efforts they put forth in obtaining that extra education.

Many industries provide it’s professionals with certified designations. The meeting, convention, exhibition and events industry is no different.

One of the most prestigious and globally recognized designations in this industry is the CMP – Certified Meeting Professional, as awarded by the Convention Industry Council (CIC).

What is a CMP?

According to the CIC website, the CMP designation was formed in 1985 to:

-Enhance the knowledge and performance of meeting professionals,

-Promote the status and credibility of the meeting profession, and

-Advance uniform standards of practice.

CMP Certificate - Missy JohnsonFirst, a meeting professional must meet very specific criteria to qualify to sit for a rigorous examination – professional work experience, education and membership/volunteerism within a professional industry related organization.

Second, a meeting professional must study for the exam using several recommended tools – the CMP International Standards (written and updated by current CMP’s), the Convention Industry Council Manual, the Professional Meetings Management Book and the APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange) Glossary.

Finally, after application approval and a study period for the exam is complete, a meeting professional is ready to take the CMP examination. Once passed and awarded the designation, a CMP is required to maintain and update their credentialing every 5 years.

Why is it important to work with a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)?

When you work with a CMP, you’re working with someone who has a comprehensive knowledge of the meetings management industry, understands and honors industry standards, practices and ethics, and values continuing education in their field.

With over 10,000 CMP’s in over 55 countries, it’s not hard to see why so many meeting professionals have made this designation a priority in their professional development.

A Certified Meeting Professional is someone who holds a specific recognition among their peers for knowledge, skill and experience while also adding credibility and commitment to their profession.

The bottom line? It’s just smart business to have a CMP on your side when planning your most important face-to-face meetings and events.

3 Critical Lessons I Learned From My Audio Visual Partner

Missy Johnson, CMPThis business isn’t easy. To pull off large scale meetings and events, meeting professionals must have trusted partners. We have the vision and mission in mind, but we simply can’t execute alone.

One of the largest and most important elements of a successful meeting is the audio-visual production.

Over 10 years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting a young, like-minded, energetic Audio Visual (AV) sales professional while I was still learning the nuances of meeting planning.

Since then, Travis Salsig, Senior Sales Manager-Global Sales for PSAV, and I have created the production for countless meetings and events and have formed an invaluable partnership and friendship. And now I want to share the three critical lessons I learned from working with him:

Partnership = ROI.

The most important lesson I learned from working with Travis is that it’s important to form a lasting partnership for audio-visual services with someone. Tremendous value comes from repetition with one vendor and volume purchasing can save thousands and thousands of dollars over time.

Travis Salsig

Travis Salsig

Having one key partner understand all the ins-and-outs of your meeting, and then taking that knowledge to learn from, enhance and build upon after each meeting, is an invaluable asset.

The more work we did together, the more money I saved my organizations. The ROI just kept coming and coming.

Understand The Power Of Trust.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know much about the technical aspects of audio visual elements or how they work. But I don’t have to.

Over the years, Travis taught me to trust him (and earned that trust with consistently excellent execution and the highest level of service) and his team’s expertise.

As a meeting professional, I learned to talk to Travis about my vision of what I wanted the production to look and feel like, and then his team would translate that into action.

There is literally no way I could’ve known exactly what pieces of equipment I should order to make those productions come to life, but I trusted Travis to know and to help me learn along the way.

Knowledge Is Power.

In trusting Travis and his team to do their job of crafting all the necessary production elements, I learned that I needed some knowledge of what was necessary to execute our AV vision….and why we needed to spend the money to make it work.

So, and especially in the early days of working together, I would ask Travis to walk me through his estimate and help me understand what each piece of equipment did, how the labor technicians fit into the picture, how it all contributed to the overall aspects of the production, and why he thought we should use it.

I needed to understand what we were buying, and why, and be able to explain the basics of it to my leadership team. Having that knowledge not only helped me understand the AV world better, but it also helped our partnership and friendship grow.

Final Thoughts

Going forward, spend time looking around your meetings and events to evaluate your partnership and understand if they are truly benefiting you and your organization. If not, it may be time to find someone who is willing to invest the time to help you.

It worked for me. Thank you, Travis.

Four Lessons I Learned In My First Year In Business

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

You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve stepped well outside your comfort zone? You might have a slight headache, your stomach is tight, and you feel anxious all over.

Yep, we’ve all been there one time or another but this is sort of how I’ve felt more-or-less for the better part of the last year. It’s starting to subside but only because the first year of my business is officially under my belt now and I’m starting to relax…a little.

Starting my own business wasn’t something I saw myself doing…at least not at this point in my life…yet here I am. It’s been equal parts challenging, rewarding, frustrating and exhilarating. But most of the time it’s been REALLY FUN!

For any of you that have ever thought about starting your own business, I wanted to share some of my experiences. With that in mind, here are the four biggest lessons I learned from my first year in business: Read more

Meeting Planning 101: Focus On These 5 Fundamentals

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

Have you ever observed a co-worker or colleague who seems to always be stretching into territory they don’t need to be in?

Maybe you’ve even seen this in yourself…that desire to always do more than what’s required even when it’s not your area of expertise.

As meeting and event professionals, we often make things harder on ourselves by trying to be everything, to everyone, all the time.

When I find myself feeling stressed or anxious about a project, I make a list of to-do’s and then prioritize them. The simple act of writing things down and getting them out of my head always helps relieve the pressure.

Once my list is complete, I almost always realize that the stress is really coming from tasks that I put on myself that have little-to-no urgency. Or even worse, the tasks aren’t things that are relevant to my job or critical to the overall project goals.

Skip the anxiety and stress by focusing on these five fundamentals of meeting and event planning:

1. Get Comfortable With Contracts.

I read and/or negotiate at least one contract every day. The amount of time meeting professionals spend touching contracts for venues, hotels, caterers, production partners, etc. makes it imperative to have comfort negotiating and understanding these legal documents.

Brush up on your knowledge by asking your in-house counsel to explain what you don’t understand or ask a colleague who is savvy to educate you.

To Do List2. Know Your Audience.

If you don’t know your audience inside and out, then how do you expect your meeting and event partners to react and adapt to their needs during the event?

It’s our job to understand that a room full of male-dominated-affluent-Baby-Boomers is going to expect an entirely different experience than a mostly-female-multilingual-Millennial audience.

Meeting professionals need to champion their audience and communicate their wants, needs and expectations to all partners involved.

3. Partner With Vendors Who Share Your Passion.

A meeting vendor who understands your passion (and shares a similar passion relative to their product or service) will take your meeting or event to another level.

Sometimes its hard to identify as you work with prospective vendors. I’ve learned that I just know it when I see it. You can’t fake passion.

4. Work On Adaptive Communication Styles.

As meeting professionals we must wear many hats. We need to be able to effectively communicate with our CEO’s as well as we do with hotel banquet or bell staff.

Understanding that the way you deliver your messages to different groups will help you (and them) be much more effective.

5. Trust Your Gut.

When it comes down to saving a few bucks to work with a less experienced vendor or spending a little more to get a trusted pro on your side, money shouldn’t always be the driver.

Learning to trust your instincts with any tough decision will also help you consistently take the ethical high road.

In the end, focusing on fundamental meeting and event planning strategies will drive you and your projects in the right direction while also relieving stress and anxiety where you don’t need it…in the middle of your meeting planning projects!

Missy Johnson, CMP, Principal of MJMeetings, LLC Awarded Distinguished Meeting Professional of the Year From PCMA Heartland Chapter

Meeting Professional of the Year AwardKansas City – February 6, 2015 – The Heartland Chapter of PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association, recently selected Missy Johnson, CMP, Principal of MJMeetings, LLC (www.mjmeetings.com) as the Distinguished Meeting Professional of the Year.

This award is presented annually to a member of the PCMA Heartland Chapter who is a full-time meeting professional/planner and recognizes their involvement, commitment and achievement in a given year. Recipients are role models and exemplify professional excellence.

One of the nominating members said: “Missy has had quite a year. In spite of starting her own business, she still took time to support and dedicate her time to our chapter. She assisted with the nominations committee this year. She assisted with the Past Presidents Reception. And she has facilitated programs. She is awesome and amazing! Missy is a very active Past President and is a good role model for our up and coming leaders.”

Deborah Sexton and Missy Johnson

Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of PCMA and Missy Johnson, CMP, Principal of MJMeetings, LLC

Missy’s career in the hospitality industry began in 1995 at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center hotel in Kansas City. In 2000, Missy moved to ‘the other side’ of the industry and pursued a career in meeting planning.

She has worked in that capacity (as a Meeting Planner, Senior Meeting Planner, and Meeting Manager) over the years at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP), and Lockton Companies. In November 2013, Missy launched MJMeetings, LLC, which provides turnkey A-Z meeting logistics for corporate and association clients.

MJMeetings, LLC is a full-service meeting and event planning company located in Greater Kansas City.  Their focus is on making clients business objectives come to life through flawlessly planned and executed face-to-face live events. MJMeetings, LLC provides turnkey A-Z meeting logistics, from site research all the way to final bill review. They handle various meeting types, with corporate and association meetings ranging from 50 people to several thousand, as their primary focus. For further information, visit www.mjmeetings.com or contact (913) 645-6649.

MJMeetings, LLC Launches New Blog!

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

Welcome to the very first blog for MJMeetings, LLC!

(Full disclosure here: My husband and business partner, Mic, works for Blue Gurus in Kansas City, and they build websites, do LinkedIn training, and help companies execute their weekly blog strategy.)

So while I had my doubts on whether I could ever become a “blogger” in the truest sense of the word, Mic encouraged me to share my expertise after nearly 20 years in the meeting and event planning industry.

Going forward, I will provide insights into various industry topics and issues and hope to start a dialogue around some of the challenges that meeting and event planners face today. Additionally, I welcome suggestions from you, the readers, on topics you’d like me to consider for future blog posts.

Here are just a few of the topics I plan to write about in the weeks and months ahead:

What Is A Meeting/Event Planner And Why Your Business Should Care

Why Asking A Lot Of Questions Is Critical As A Meeting Professional

PCMA Case Study: The Value Of Professional Membership

Ten Things I Wish All Production Companies Knew

And many more!

Thank you for joining me on this journey! I hope this blog serves as a source of information and education while providing insight and demystifying the role of a professional meeting and event planner.

Have other topics you’d like me to consider? Share them in the Comments section below or email me at missy@mjmeetings.com.