Even the best planners need a little help

I consider myself lucky to have worked in a career I truly believe in, one that adds value to an organization by drawing upon our key strengths and knowledge of the hospitality industry to successfully plan and execute meetings and events.  


I want to share what I learned in my career as a corporate meeting and event planner to help you be all you can be in this challenging, ever-changing marketplace in which we have the privilege to work.  This is why I wrote “The Meeting Planning Process:  A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings,” a  go-to guide for meeting planners, administrative and/or other professionals at all levels,


I firmly believe it is not just one person who makes a meeting or event happen, but rather a well led TEAM of dedicated, enthusiastic, talented individuals who come together to do what they do best to help organizations exceed program objectives and make them SHINE.   You can do this!


I also believe there is a right way and a wrong way to go about planning a meeting (or any project for that matter) and that it is the PROCESS or system we use to get us started that can either keep us on track or send us off the rails. 


The planning and executing of a meeting can be very daunting for someone who has never planned a meeting before or for someone who plans only an occasional meeting or two;  BUT, it will be far less daunting if you begin the process with a PLAN – one  that:


  • Establishes goals and objectives and key messages.

  • Defines the target audience.

  • Identifies key action items and the multitude of tasks in sequential order that must be accomplished. 

  • Includes a time line for completing tasks and the person or people responsible. 


The process for me didn’t come overnight; rather it evolved.  It took time; it took practice; it took patience.  And, it took making mistakes along the way which in turn accorded me valuable learning opportunities and numerous chances for do overs.  If you take the time to think things through right from the get go, you’ll be off to a good start.  


My book should give you the structure and tools necessary to keep you and your team focused, on task, and on time.  It should make your jobs just a little easier, a little more FUN, and make you and your organization SHINE

Mary Jo (MJ) Wiseman, CMP

As a meeting planner, I encountered countless stressful situations, snafus and challenges. However, nothing can compare to what happened one Tuesday morning in September 2001.


"Nine-eleven" brought about one of the most profound experiences I had as a meeting planner.  I, along with many others, I suspect, had to rethink, reassess or redo some aspect of their normal tasks in light of the tragedy that unfolded that fateful day.

 While on route to San Antonio, TX to advance company-sponsored events and client meetings, I found myself (among thousands of others) stranded in Dallas early that morning awaiting a connecting flight when I learned the airport was being locked down to any further air traffic due to the indescribable cataclysm unfolding in New York City and elsewhere.  It was my faith and my ability to focus on the present that helped keep me on track as I worked through the next steps. 

After calls to family to let them know where I was and that I was safe, I realized very quickly a couple of things: 

  1. I needed to leave the airport ASAP; and

  2. I needed to find a place to stay—a home base to think and work from—because in all likelihood I would not be going on to San Antonio, nor would I be going back to Minnesota any time soon. 


I knew from past experience that when events around me seemed to be spinning out of control, I needed to not just react, but to step back as soon as possible and reassess the situation.  So, my next call was to corporate travel to book a hotel room from where I would await word on the status of the conference (it was later postponed), begin to reconstruct my own plan and eventually chart my journey back home. 

It wasn’t until I was settled at the hotel a few hours later that I actually became aware of the significance of what had happened that morning.

I remained in Dallas for the next two days considering options for my return to Minnesota.  It sounded like airport traffic was going to open up on Saturday but I wasn't sure if I wanted to wait; and, if I waited and planes started to fly again, would I actually be able to get a seat. 

Renting a car and driving was also an option.  However, I wasn't sure cars would be available considering the incredible amount of people left stranded due to airport closures.  On top of that I had never driven long distances on my own, hadn't yet heard of GPS, and wasn't all that good with maps.  My only saving grace was that Minnesota was a straight shot up I-35 from Dallas, and that I had God and a very special Guardian Angel on my side.  With that, I decided to take a giant leap of faith and go for it.

I listened to public radio all the way back home for company and to stay up on current events.  I wasn't in the mood for music; I simply wanted to hear people's voices.  I kept in constant contact with my parents, my son and my co-workers along the way (when I wasn't driving, of course).  I will always remember the first words I heard from my son when I called him from the airport to let him know what had happened:  "Thank goodness, you're on the ground."  And, the joy and relief I heard in my parent's voices each time we connected.  

I will never forget what happened that day and have been back to Manhattan numerous time since -- a number of times on the anniversary of 9/11.  On those anniversary occasions, I was always struck by how mesmerized I became as I sat and watched the remembrance services on the TV from my hotel room and how blessed I was to be safe and secure.  And, I will never forget the many that did not make it home or the sacrifices of the police, fire and first responders.  

Keeping Calm in a Crisis
A personal story told by the author.
September 11, 2001



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