Small Meetings, Not Small ThinkingFebruary 1, 2017

February 1, 2017

Small Meetings, Not Small Thinking

Boisner,Bonnie-Aimia-1-110x140Bonnie Boisner is the Vice President Event Management at Aimia Channel and Employee Loyalty US. Boisner designs, plans and executes client events that engage, inspire and educate attendees. She can be reached at

Gaccetta,Tina-Aimia-1-110x140Tina Gaccetta is the Vice President Sales and Marketing at Aimia Channel and Employee Loyalty US. Known for her creativity and innovation, Gaccetta designs event and engagement solutions that build stronger relationships with channel partners, employees and consumers. She can be reached at

For seasoned event planners, we know smaller meetings require the same attention to detail as a larger event, just with a slightly different twist. While the landscape of small events continues to change, here is proven advice that makes planning small events successful.

Down and Dirty Advice for Planning Small Meetings

Think Economically

Don’t start from scratch every time. Create a template or process that can be easily replicated for each meeting to follow. One of our clients is a large automotive tire company that provides multiple training sessions for customers. The events are used to present the tires to sellers and resellers in the format of a driving school. In one year, 40 different groups were sent to various events all over the country. To simplify the planning and financial burden on the client, we followed the same process for each of the 40 events, from buying, logistics and customer service support.

Use Your ‘A’ Team

The fastest way to achieve consistency for small events is familiarity. If you can use the same vendors, hoteliers and/or destination management companies, do it. Keep a list of contacts and vendors for each of the cities in which you are planning events. Safeguard your list and update it regularly. These are essential, yet often overlooked, members of your team.

Communication Is Key

Proactively building an effective communication process onsite is critical to communicate logistics or attendee changes. Communication with the client’s trip leader must be frequent and consistent. Daily status updates should be requested to ensure the program is operating smoothly and no action is necessary by the planner.

Executive meetings require even more of a high-touch approach. Understand their expectations — both before and during the meeting — and adjust your communication plan accordingly. Know the medium in which your onsite contact and vendors want to be reached. Do they like in-the-moment text messages or prefer a phone call? These details matter for ease and efficiency.

“The fastest way to achieve consistency for small events is familiarity.”

One of our automotive clients experienced a situation in which a significant number of their small meeting participants’ departure flights needed to be rebooked at the last minute. Organizing this change required communication among air services, the meeting planner and the trip leader, who then had to communicate via email and face-to-face with all affected participants. It was an initial panic, but advanced planning led to positive results.

Bring All Logistic Vendors to the Party

For events that do not require an onsite third-party planner, planning a small meeting is like operating a drone. Planners need to be acutely aware of the buttons they are pressing because often they will not be able to fix the problem onsite after it has been made. Planners must work closely with all the logistic vendors and onsite clients to make sure the meeting is operating successfully.

Be Aware of Security Risks

Whether it is a meeting for 20 or more, shortcuts lead to mistakes. Ensuring that digital, financial and onsite security is consistent for every event is a must. Crisis plans need to be communicated well in advance of the event, and holding briefings onsite for the travel staff is necessary. By leveraging smart processes, planners can prepare for secure meetings while maintaining efficiency.

We plan hundreds of pharmaceutical meetings each year. While security is important for all of our clients, pharma companies have their own set of compliance rules to follow. In order to pick up any meeting materials, attendees must produce their IDs first, and materials must be picked up in person — not by someone else. Also, all meeting attendees are required to wear their name badge while attending the meeting. Security personnel also patrol the hallways overnight to monitor AV equipment and the integrity of the meeting rooms.

There’s no reason for meeting and event professionals to think small when planning a small meeting. The success of any event, whether large or small, depends on seamless coordination among all parties and communication before, during and after the event.

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