The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Meeting Planners

What event professionals should know about the wildly successful business book

Hello, planners! Clever Carly here. 

As event planners, we enjoy a collaborative community. From meetings-specific websites and hashtags to podcasts and industry conferences, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to finding both inspiration and step-by-step guides. And yet it’s not so often that an idea cuts through the clutter to become an enduring cultural touchstone, one worth revisiting well after its moment in the trend spotlight has passed. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is nearing its third decade in print, is just such a landmark. And if you haven’t read it, chances are your colleague over in the next cubicle has a copy you can borrow.

The gist is simple: Successful people all deploy the same learned traits, from staying proactive to working cohesively in a group to continuously learning. And while the seven traits are certainly applicable to your job as written, I’ve tweaked the original formula to be tailor-made for the meetings industry.   

So here, according to Stephen Covey, with a little help from me, are the seven habits of highly successful event planners:

1. They realize preparation for meetings accounts for the bulk of the work.

In his book, Covey stresses that reactivity (versus proactivity) can thwart success. The insight is every bit as true for meeting planners. This might seem obvious (we are planners after all), but do you know how and when will attendees arrive, and have you accounted for their modes of transportation? Is your keynote speaker prepared, and is the technology wired up and ready to go? These would, of course, be solely a sample of the questions you’d need to answer in the weeks and days leading up to your event. The main goal? Stay proactive. Try to account for any obstacles far ahead of time.  

2. They enter an event with a clear-cut goal in mind.

Covey’s second habit, to “begin with the end in mind,” means that every action you take should have a purpose and end-goal. Similarly, if your meeting isn’t positioned to achieve or exceed a set goal, you’ll probably need to go back to square one. 

What particular outcome is your client looking for? If you’re spotlighting a new product, do attendees have a seamless way of purchasing it after the event? If networking is the primary goal, do guests have a way of connecting post-event? Visualize the end-goal and position every action you take during the meeting to achieve it. Of course, you’ll also want to decide whether this is a Decide, Ideate, Network, Celebrate, Educate, Produce or Promote event

3. They know to focus on what really matters.

Before, during and after a meeting, you’ll likely be inundated with requests, complaints, questions and tasks. While it’s tempting to start tackling them in full force (after all, you are an overachiever!), it’s helpful to remember Covey’s advice to “put first things first” when deciding what’s most critical.

Although tiers of importance are highly subjective based on your organization’s immediate needs, it helps to map out what to tackle (and what can wait) ahead of time. If a special ingredient for a secret dish isn’t ready in time, is it more urgent than ensuring all guests are properly checked in? Probably not. And while facing issues such as a missing ingredient is a distraction, it won’t cut from the meat of your presentation.  

4. They’re tech- and social-savvy.

For the fourth habit, Covey explains how a win-win mentality drives success: When you respect others’ wishes, your own success will follow. What do guests wish for? Bigger, better technology, according to a recent survey from the International Association of Conference Centers’ Meeting Room of the Future. So if you want your meeting to be successful, it’s probably a good idea to grant that wish.

As the survey shows, 80 percent of meeting respondents says access to interactive technology is going to become more important in the next five years. What’s more, 92 percent say their dependence on strong Wi-Fi will increase, too. 

What it means for you: People don’t want to just attend your event; they want to interact with it. Whether that means generating unique hashtags or Snapchat filters (as we’ve discussed before), live-streaming noteworthy moments or even setting up digital photo booths, blurring the line between technology and real life with social media will be your best bet. 

Oh, and make sure that broadband connection is strong––really strong. 

5. They’re in tune with their audience’s needs.

Covey’s fifth habit is, seeking first to understand, then to be understood––an idea that keeps us appropriately humble while reminding us to broaden our perspective. There’s no doubt you’re an innovator, a master planner capable of making remarkable things. But just because you have a grand concept for how a meeting can and should go, doesn’t mean your audience or team shares the same vision. Always keep the requests, needs and thoughts of those around you in mind, even if you are steering the ship. 

Which leads us right into the next habit of successful meeting planners …  

6. They’re the ultimate team players.

Speaking of listening to those around you, effective meeting planners know how to work with a team efficiently and respectfully, a habit Covey calls “synergizing.” As he explains, goals achieved as a team far surpass what one could accomplish alone. And with as many moving parts as meeting planners must contend with, we understand that relying on team members—with a positive, supportive spirit—is critical. Though you may have a tendency to overachieve, don’t be afraid to delegate responsibility to others. It brings out the best in everyone.

7. They never stop learning 

Whether it’s reading articles on or attending an annual event-planning conference, highly successful meeting planners never stop learning (or sharpening the saw, as Covey would say). 

Be sure to check back in another two weeks for more helpful tips and insight, and follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. 

Always your effective guide, 

Clever Carly