tpagroup_shot_1In the past 20 years, our industry has changed greatly. When I look back I realize that what I use to do was simply plan a meeting, today we produce world class events. The most profound change has been in adapting to technology and becoming a much more strategic partner with with our clients.

Changes in Technology: Now if you are of a certain age you probably dread the feared, “death by PowerPoint”. Those of us who have been around for few more years, remember twisting arms to get our presenters to use 35mm slides instead of an overhead projector, think dull, clunky, and pretty much every word typed on an overhead. Now, we are equally twisting arms to move away from PPT presentations and encouraging presenters to be more interactive, more spontaneous, to be available on multiple platforms, quickly adaptable, and to have their content curated especially for the participants.

Registration procedures have also significantly changed. Initially everything was processed by either cash or checks – no credit cards. On-site registration was a very long and laborious process. I remember huge long lines of attendees lining up to pay their fees. It was a struggle to provide personalized, professional service whilst moving hundreds of people through the queues. I had to hire a whole team of people to handle a conference size of around 300 whereas now, thanks to technology we can get by with two or three since everything is done by credit card and on-line registration systems.

We would hand out hefty 3-ring binders containing the presentation materials try to get one of those in your carry on luggage to take home! The binders were so heavy that at one point we hired a company to be on-site to provide shipping services for anyone who wanted to have them shipped home instead of paying excess baggage charges on the plane! Whereas now we provide a mobile app. – all the information you need is available at your fingertips.

I think the biggest change in the industry is the purpose of hiring a meeting planner. 20 years ago organizations hired me to take care of the logistics, the million details they didn’t want to have to worry about. Today, we still do that, but we do so much more. We partner with our clients to help them ensure that they are achieving their goals, that they see a return on their investment and that the meetings are part of their overall strategic plan.

With technology we don’t need to have as many face to face planning meetings, and so the cost and travel time have been drastically cut. We need to ensure that the purpose of the meeting, the goals, the “WHY have a meeting” is being met.

Yes, we can help our clients with the million little details, we can take the logistics off their plate, we can work with our partners to ensure they have a smooth, drama free event, but we do so much more. We help ensure that their meeting has a purpose, and that it exceeds their expectations, and at the end of the day everyone is on board with the WHY!

I am so grateful for all the people who have helped me achieve my WHY.

Over the next few weeks, my team and I, at To Plan Ahead, will be celebrating why we do what we do. We’ll be looking back, and looking forward to the future.

We have some great lessons to share, and some fond memories. So we hope you’ll join us as we celebrate 20 years of creating order out of chaos!

To Plan Ahead is a meeting and conference planning company located in beautiful Western North Carolina, we plan meetings in Asheville, NC and around the world.