Monday, March 28, 2011

4 Ways to Earn a Seat at the Strategic Event Planning Roundtable

I really enjoy the story of King Arthur, and the Knights of the Roundtable. Watching a movie, or reading a story, based upon this legend, always energizes me. Although this story is based upon folklore, it offers a magical view of leadership and strategy.

According to medieval legend King Arthur was an amazing warrior. Smartly, he surrounded himself with incredibly talented knights. Each of these individuals earned his respect, and a seat at the roundtable, by distinguishing themselves in some noble way.  Much of Arthur’s legendary success, as a leader, and Camelot’s stature, as a powerful Kingdom, was attributed to the combined strategic planning efforts of those seated at the Roundtable.

“As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status.” — Wikipedia, on the concept of Arthur’s roundtable

Have you ever wondered why you find yourself playing a tactical, or reactive role with your (internal or external) customers?  Are you delivering services in response to direction provided by them, when you could have produced more positive results by leading the way?

Timing Is Everything with Business Communications

These are common business challenges, and they can be inhibitors to your level of success, as an influencer.  As the saying goes, “timing is everything” and, if you are finding yourself in this position frequently, then it may be time to consider adjusting your approach towards business communications.

In this world there are people who are knights (leaders), and there are commoners  (followers).  If you wish to attain knighthood, then you must act proactively.  In the meetings and events business there is a planning cycle, as we all know.  You must get in front of that cycle, if you wish to influence the development of the strategic event plan.

Earn a Seat at the Strategic Event Planning Roundtable

So what’s the solution?  How does one get a seat at the “strategic event roundtable”?  How do you play a strategic role in helping customers make the best decisions regarding their event’s direction?  How do you become their “trusted adviser”?  Here are some thoughts.

Ask for the Seat – first and foremost you must ask for the opportunity to participate in the strategic planning process. In this case “ask and ye shall receive” does not necessarily apply.  You must offer some compelling reasons why your participation will yield a valuable benefit to the process.

Earn Their Trust– Do your homework.  Seek to understand all aspects of the organization’s business objectives for their event.  Talk to key members of the planning committee. Visit the event website to search for any clues that will provide you insight.

Act with Nobility– your actions will speak louder than your words.  Provide strategic advice, and assistance, when the opportunity presents itself.  Demonstrate integrity in all that you do!

Evangelize Your Ideas– If you have a unique perspective, or a cutting-edge idea, that will bring value to the planning process, present it enthusiastically, frequently, and with factual information supporting its value.

The average business person does a reasonably good job of responding to customer requests and requirements.  Individuals that nobly distinguish themselves, as strategic partners, will lead their customers along the path of success, leaving everyone else in the dust.  What will you settle for?

Question:  In your business relationships do you see yourself as a knight, or a commoner?  If you are seated at your customer’s roundtable, what propelled you there?  I look forward to your comments.


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Lutz March 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

Mike, great post! We’ve been talking about getting a seat at the table for a long time. I think one of big things that keeps planners from achieving that goal is too much focus on logistics or negotiations vs. a focus on increasing revenue or attendee outcomes.

You can have a much greater impact on the bottom line when you are significantly impacting the top line. Cost savings and avoidance are nice, but are peanuts compared to the changes that result of a great meeting experience.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 30, 2011 at 10:01 am


It’s all about business outcome, and the attendee experience. The whole point of this article is to stress the importance of aligning strategy with objectives.

While the tactical aspects of an event are important, they take a backseat to the business goals of the project. Your point about impacting topline revenue performance in tandem with meeting or exceeding customer expectations is a good one.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion… You rock!



Roger Rickard March 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I agree with Dave that this is a great post.
In my presentations on the value of the meeting (event) professional, I describe three actions that separate the average from the extraordinary professional, and they are:
1. Professional Knowledge and Experience.
2. Understand that you are responsible for driving profit for the organization.
3. Understand that you are responsible for driving organizational strategic objectives.
You have eloquently stated the obvious for me. By the way, I’m a knight.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 31, 2011 at 8:59 am

Sir Roger,

Thank you for your comments and for adding to the conversation.

You summed it up rather nicely and I don’t know that I can add anything to what you said so I’ll leave it at that

thanks again



Paul Salinger March 31, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Totally agree with Roger. We put our event marketing team through a workshop on strategic thinking and communications about 4 years ago and it has made a tremendous difference, not only in their actions, but in the way they are percieved now inside and outside marketing.

The only thing I would add to Roger’s list (and a big focus of our workshop on this) is Understanding Your Customer. Really digging into the concerns, both macro and micro of all internal and external stakeholders as an initial step in the strategic planning of an event is critical to really delivering value and delivering the results Roger lists. This is also another great way of becoming a knight and leading strategic conversations in the event and meeting process.

Nice post, Mike!


Michael M McCurry CMP April 6, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Hi Paul, so sorry for the tardiness in responding to you.

I just came from an internal Experient meeting where we spent a lot of time talking about “Understanding your customer.” I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding your comments.

Thanks for adding to the conversation.



Reinier April 23, 2011 at 4:29 am

Hi Mike, i think we can cross reference, like your work; my field is more sociological; and i was looking at event management people…

Nice blog!



Michael M McCurry CMP April 23, 2011 at 10:11 am


Thanks so much for taking time to comment on this blog. I will check yours out as well.

I appreciate the positive comments.



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