The Power of Data for a Meeting Professional

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

Quality data in the hands of an experienced meeting professional is quite powerful. Qualitative data about any particular meeting allows leaders and meeting professionals to make strategic decisions and proactive choices.

Meaningful data can turn a CEO’s head when presented in the right way and with the right tools. Conversely, when you’re planning a meeting or event in the absence of reliable data, things can go very wrong. Here are a few of my favorite and most powerful types of meeting data I use to track from year to year.

Room Block History and Overall Meeting Spend

This tracks meaningful data about the contracted room block and compares it to the actual night-by-night pick-up of the block. This is important because when contracting for the next open year, hotels want to know what your pick-up history has been for the same meeting before they agree to give you hotel room inventory. Additionally, it arms you with useful information about how much room revenue your meeting generated for the hotel and how much you spent on food and beverage.


AV Expense/Budget Comparison Report

Every meeting professional knows that audio-visual elements are a critical part of any meeting budget. This line item can also be one of the most expensive, so tracking the spend while also comparing it to the budget is extremely valuable for negotiations from year to year.

AV Expense Budget

Registration Attendance Report

Tracking your attendee data year over year and again comparing that to your budgeted attendee estimates is just common sense. This data becomes very powerful after you’ve collected several years of data and can start to show trends that you otherwise wouldn’t notice.

Registration Attendance Report

Finally, of course, there’s my favorite data tracking report of all time. I call it the ROI Report because it tracks all the savings that I’ve negotiated throughout the contracting and planning stages of the meeting…thus showing executives the ‘return on investment’ of my expertise. I believe this report is invaluable. So much so, that I wrote an entire blog post about it.

Do you have a favorite data tracking report? How has the power of data tracking helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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

3 Proven Ways to Handle Meeting Emergencies

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

I’ve been thinking about contingencies a lot lately. With the stories in the news about the Zika virus, the wildfires in California and New Mexico, and the random, senseless acts of violence in Orlando, it’s given me pause to think about how I would handle it if I had a meeting or event happening in one of these affected areas.

While I realize I’ll never be perfect at planning for worst-case-scenarios at every meeting and event, I do have a few proven ways to handle meeting emergencies:

1. Clear Communication is Paramount

When delivering bad news to meeting attendees, keep it simple and BE HONEST. Attendees appreciate having the most current and accurate information you can give them. I know as organizers we sometimes choose to shelter our attendees from some of the details. We do this to ensure we don’t alarm them and give them a reason to cancel their attendance. In my experience, this is a bad decision.

Meeting attendees are generally a smart group of educated adults and you need to treat them that way. While you will always have a few cancellations in these situations, most attendees will react as you expect them to and will appreciate honest communication about the situation.

help2. Know the Chain-of-Command for Decision Making

As the planner, it’s very important to know who within the organization can make the tough decisions if an emergency occurs…both before the event and onsite during the event.

I’ve found that it’s not always the most obvious person and knowing who to go to in a crisis to make snap decisions is really important when time is tight. If onsite during an event, you also need to know the chain-of-command for decisions inside your hotel or convention center.

3. Don’t Forget About Your Partners and Vendors

I learned the hard way that communication about fluid situations is just as important to do with your vendors and partners as it is with your attendees. Hotels, convention centers, decorators, a/v partners, exhibitors, invited press, etc…they all need to know your plan in a crisis and they can also often help with communications.

One thing I know for sure…no matter how much planning you do in advance to ensure every single detail is perfect for your meeting or event…it can all change in an instant in the case of a crisis or emergency. Pre-planning for worst-case-scenarios only takes a little time and everyone feels better knowing there’s a plan in place if the unexpected happens. I think we can all agree that’s much better than the alternative.

What contingency situations have you run into and how have you handled them? Please post your comments below. If you have other questions about contingency planning or need help planning your next meeting or event, you can reach me at 913-645-6649 or

You Can’t Afford To Wait: It’s A Seller’s Market In The Hospitality Industry

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

We’re in the midst of a seller’s market in the hospitality industry and have been building toward it for quite a while. The meetings industry is in a period of robust and healthy levels of growth around the world. It’s good news for hoteliers and convention suppliers, but what about for companies, associations and meeting planners?

According to the American Express 2016 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, many corporations are experiencing growth. When that happens, it leads to the hiring of workplace professionals….which leads to training…which leads to (you guessed it)…live meetings. This growth pattern has been gaining momentum in the last few years and is proving to be even stronger in 2016.

So what’s the fallout? It’s causing hotel inventory in many cities to SELL OUT.

The need for speed is present as hotels are increasingly at capacity in key cities. Working quickly and far in advance to secure key properties has become a necessity and is predicted to be even more significant in 2016. While new hotel builds are in progress, supply has not yet caught up to demand in many popular cities”, says Issa Jouaneh, Senior Vice President and General Manager, AmEx Meetings and Events.

The projection of growth isn’t showing signs of slowing down. Most meeting organizers in both corporate and associations are predicting an increase in total number of meetings planned for 2016 and beyond. In addition, they’re also predicting growth in overall size of each meeting from the previous year.

sellers marketAssociations in particular should pay very close attention to these trends for several important reasons:

  • An increase in demand for rooms and space causes rates to go up…and not just for hotel rooms but for convention center space, transportation vendors and food and beverage expenses. Vendors throughout the industry feel the crunch of high demand and raise prices to meet it.
  • With key cities selling out quickly, demand for second and third tier cities goes up. This means that the dates that you’ve always been able to secure in the springtime in Cleveland for your regional symposium might not be available nine months out. In order to secure these dates now, your association will need to think about booking further out. And, when it comes to booking key first-tier cities like San Diego, Chicago or Boston…you’d better get to it quickly and prepare to be flexible with your day-of-week patterns in order to find a fit.
  • Budgets will be impacted. In a seller’s market, hotels and convention centers can charge higher rates and they won’t offer as many discounted and complimentary concessions. Associations will need to budget more for items like WIFI, audio-visual and room upgrades that were free or discounted in the past.

Need to get jump started on booking your next face-to-face event to avoid some of these pitfalls? Give me a call at 913-645-6649 or email me at and I’ll help you better navigate this seller’s market.

I Provide Pain Relief For A Living

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

Being a business owner in my third year of business, one thing I continue to learn is how important the role of educating people is to their (and ultimately my) success.

A large majority of people I talk to don’t know what meeting planners do or the value they provide. Even though my title – Meeting & Event Planner – seems descriptive, most people don’t really know anything about the actual work that goes on behind the title.

Allow me to provide one recent example of what I mean…

Recently I got a phone call from the Executive Director of a small medical association. As the conversation got going, I quickly realized she didn’t really understand all of the ways I could help her and her association.

I began by telling her how I could help her association save money when booking their annual meeting. After a minute or two, I quickly realized she didn’t understand all that goes into booking an annual meeting. She went on to explain that she was fairly new to the organization in her role as Executive Director and that the task of booking and planning the annual meeting had always been done in the past by a committee of volunteers. This is an all-too-common dilemma and unnecessary pain point that many associations experience.

pain reliefSo I began educating…

-I talked to her about all of the reasons why she would want a 20-year professional like me on her side.

-I educated her about industry norms for meeting sourcing and booking.

-I told her about how I could use my experience to not only save her association money but also mitigate risk that the association will have to assume with large hotel contracts.

-I mentioned how my 20-year relationships with hotel sales partners could be leveraged for her association’s benefit and the numerous ways this could help save money and deliver real ROI.

-I let her know how using an experienced meeting planner like myself instead of an ever-changing committee of volunteers can provide stability, strength, savings, strategy and history building for her meeting year after year.

In the end, the Executive Director was fascinated by all of the ways we could work together to alleviate the “pain” and uncertainty that she and the association has experienced for years. This is what I really enjoy about what I do…helping associations and companies have better meeting experiences while relieving them of the stress and uncertainty that goes into planning their events.

If you or someone you know is in need of education about how a meeting professional can help you and your next meeting or event, call or email me at 913-645-6649 or

My Job Is To Make You and Your Company Look Amazing

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

Sometimes when I tell people I’m a professional meeting and event planner, they look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. I see their minds trying to process and visualize what exactly it is I do and why I’m in business.

The next thing often out of their mouths is “Oh, you plan weddings!” No, I don’t plan weddings….but if you’re looking for that, I’d be happy to introduce you to my wonderful friend Beth Chappelow.)

As I enter my 3rd year with MJMeetings, it’s clear to me one of the biggest challenges I face in growing my business is that MANY PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW MY PROFESSION EXISTS!

What makes that fact even more ironic is that my profession is consistently rated as one of the Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs. For 2016, Event Coordinator comes in at #5, just behind military personnel, firefighters, airline pilots, and police officers.

So why do so many decision makers in business not know my profession exists? Simply put, they don’t know what they don’t know. As a result, many businesses make someone in their office do the work (and take on all of the stress that comes with it) of a professional meeting and event planner. Just a few of the problems with that age-old and often misguided approach include:

(a) It’s not their full time job.
(b) They don’t have the training, skills, experience or professional credentials of a meetings professional.
(c) No one in the company knows if they are doing it well or saving money by asking the right questions (I saved a company $250,000 in one year by renegotiating several existing meetings contracts). Additionally, they often have no idea as to whether they’re getting the right kind of ROI for their meetings and events.

How do I explain my profession to people who haven’t ever heard of it before? It’s simple…

My job is to make you and your company look AMAZING at professional face-to-face live experiences.

Set TableBusinesses of all types are involved in live events, meetings (Board, Sales, Annual, etc.) and trade shows. My job is to ensure you and your company have all the tools to make these events match your business objectives, enhance your brand, execute flawlessly so your guests are totally engaged, and make sure you stay on budget.

Here are a few examples of how I help my clients with all or some of these pieces needed for a successful live experience:

  • Creation/Strategic Development of the Idea
  • Budget Development/Tracking
  • Venue/Vendor Research, Negotiation, Selection, Management
  • Invitation Creation/Delivery/Tracking
  • Brand Engagement throughout all elements
  • Logistical Planning of all details
  • Management of event, staff, vendors and attendees on-site
  • Post-event surveys, budget tracking and ROI wrap-up

I handle everything so you can focus on brand messaging, networking with your guests and making sure the big picture of your business objectives are met during the event.

To learn more, call me at 913-645-6649 or email me at

I’ll Book Your Next Meeting For FREE!

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

Did you know that venues will often negotiate complimentary rooms for staff to stay in during your company meeting or conference?

Did you know that audio-visual companies typically offer discounts to groups who use a/v equipment in multiple meeting rooms each day?

When you use an experienced meeting planner to book your organization’s meeting or conference, these are just a few of the benefits you will enjoy. For years I’ve successfully negotiated these kinds of complementary concessions on behalf of my clients.

And it gets even better. What’s the biggest benefit to you and your organization when you use an experienced meeting planner to book your meeting or conference?

You don’t have to pay me to do the work! Yep, that’s right. Instead, the hotel or resort pays me directly. This is very common in our industry and is known as a “sourcing commission”, which is paid to the person who books it by the hotel or resort where the meeting is booked.

FREEThis is a great benefit for businesses, associations, etc. who don’t have the budget to work with a meeting professional on a regular basis but who want to enjoy the benefits that one can provide.

I’m going to say it again. Work with me to book your next meeting or conference and it won’t cost you a dime. Plus, you’ll get all the benefits of a professional contract negotiator on your side.

Not only will I save thousands of dollars that you would’ve spent on your meeting, but I will also help you mitigate the risks involved when entering into a conference contract.

All at no cost to you. Trust me on this one….the benefits of having me do your sourcing will far outweigh you trying to do it yourself!

Want to learn more or ready to get started? Call or email me today at 913-645-6649 or

3 Communication Strategies I Live By

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

Have you ever observed a supervisor or manager communicate poorly with a key vendor or top sponsor? Have you noticed when your coworker can’t quite manage to convey an important message to an internal partner? Or maybe you’ve seen a colleague talk down to a line worker at your annual meeting hotel.

And then you think to yourself…”That could have been handled differently with better results for all involved.”

Superior communication skills are the #1 critical skill a meeting professional can posses.

In this profession we must be communication chameleons – able to quickly adapt and change our communication style and message to fit others in varying settings. We communicate with CEO’s, managers, peers, hotel conference staff and A-V technicians, and more…sometimes all in the same day.

So how do you achieve this? Just like anything else, it takes practice. Here are 3 communication strategies I live by:

3 Communication Tips1. Assume Good Intent

If you enter every interaction assuming that both you and the other party have good intent, and that your actions as a result of your communication will result in a positive outcome, you’ve started in the right place. This is sometimes hard to do, but try it and I think you’ll find that your communications overall will be more positive.

2. Simplify the Message

Working with CXO’s taught me an important lesson…simple messages are more effective. Don’t give more detail or background unless you’re asked or required to provide it. Distilling your message to the most important and strategic points more quickly gets you where you need to go.

3. Follow-up is Critical

After messages have been delivered, I take the responsibility to follow-up on items that were communicated. This is a step of communication that is often missed, yet is so very important. A simple follow-up can be extremely effective and is another way of saying, “I care so much about our conversation that I’m double-checking to ensure we got it right.”

What other communication strategies do you live by? Share it here with me and my readers.

Oh, and if you want to receive my free weekly blog post right in your inbox…subscribe here in just two seconds!

“I Hate Event Planning!”

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

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone new, described what I do for a living to them and get the response, “Oh, I hate event planning. How do you do it?”

What I’ve come to realize is that, for many people, meeting and event planning is like getting a root canal or giving your dog a bath…not fun. I think a lot of people can’t understand how managing multiple tasks and tracking every detail of an event could ever be “fun”.

Listen, I get it…like any profession, there’s plenty in my day-to-day job that isn’t fun. On the flip side, there’s enough challenge in my role that I do enjoy and, thankfully, after 20 years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Here’s what I always tell old friends and new acquaintances who don’t like event planning: “Why don’t you hire me to do it for you?”

Why should you spend time doing something that isn’t your job and that you don’t like doing? Why not have an expert who will not only execute it at a very high level but also very likely save you money at the same time?

My skills at negotiating discounts with vendors often will pay for a part, if not all, of my fee to handle the total execution of the event. Many people don’t even realize that their meeting or event possesses the power to earn discounts and concessions…which is just one of the many reasons why you need an expert on your side. Oh, and never mind the added benefit of me helping mitigate risk by ensuring your vendor contracts are legally sound.

Hate event planning? Enough already. Hire a professional. You’ll be glad you did.

How I Taught An Executive That Her Admin Wasn’t The Answer

Missy Johnson, CMPAuthor: Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

Most chief executives I’ve met think their administrative support staff are invincible. Make no mistake. Many of them are incredibly talented, which makes them great at supporting others in the workplace.

However, through no real fault of their own, they don’t often have the specific skillsets necessary to effectively plan meetings and events.

Recently I had a conversation with a chief executive that shed light on the fact that the skills and technical expertise I possess are VERY different from that of her admin. She seemed entirely unaware (even surprised) that the skills and expertise I bring to successful meeting and event planning weren’t things that her admin could do.

I went on to explain the many things that I could bring to her organization that her admin wouldn’t, such as:

Savings Negotiator

Much of my role is negotiating better deals with hotel venues, caterers, decorators, trade show vendors and more. When you spend as much time as I do negotiating deeper discounts, you learn very quickly what vendors are willing to discount…and what they aren’t. Years of doing this has taught me that I know what to ask for and what to avoid.

ROI Master

With savings comes a return on investment. I’m able to demonstrate the ROI for every single meeting I plan because I know what fixed costs have been reduced due to my relationships with vendors. I’m also able to demonstrate the value of my time to each client with this data-driven report.

Risk Manager

Through my knowledge and experience, I navigate tricky contract clauses and limit risk on behalf of my clients. We have some very industry-specific language in vendor agreements for meetings and events that can proactively limit liability and manage risk.

Big Picture Thinker

Planners by definition are meant to plan ahead for all scenarios and identify blind spots. We’re able to strategically and proactively plan for all possible scenarios while also paying attention to the details. I call it “big picture planning” and it only comes with years of experience planning meetings of all shapes and sizes.

These examples helped the executive see that her admin, while amazing at what she does every single day, doesn’t have these critical skills. She also realized that by allowing me to focus on their meetings it would free up her admin to work on the tasks she was actually hired to do in the first place!

Passion Matters

Missy Johnson, CMPAuthor: Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

We all have a passion for something in our lives. It might be a passion for a sports team, a passion for your faith, a passion for building things, a passion for helping others, and so on.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have a passion for the work we do. It gives us strength, purpose and allows us the freedom to grow and learn. I have a passion for what I do and know it makes a meaningful difference. Here’s why:

Passion Drives Quality

Because I bring passion to my work every day, it helps drive a quality that simply wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have it. Giving 100% on every task is something that separates those who have passion for what they do vs. those who don’t. I hold myself to a very high standard and take great pride in providing quality meeting professional services for my clients.

Passion MattersPassion Brings Expertise

Having passion is what has driven me to become a trusted and respected expert in my field. I’ve spent countless hours earning (and keeping) my Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation.

I’ve spent extra time earning my clients trust by giving expert advice through years of real-world learning on the job. Additionally I work hard to go above and beyond in contract negotiations for my clients in situations where I know liability and risk management are at stake.

Passion = Success

Without a passion for my career and industry, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful, personally or for my clients. My passion helps me win negotiations, manage risk and provide successful meeting outcomes. Working with a passionate, experienced meeting professional isn’t a requirement for businesses…but it is SMART business.

Blog signupThank you for taking the time to read my blog. To receive future weekly blog posts in your inbox, subscribe here in one simple step