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What role does the Design/Planning Team play in the Meeting Planning Process?

In a previous blog post, I defined an Overall Plan (or Meeting Action Plan) as the working document that identifies and/or defines the key components or elements of a meeting or special event from which all things flow throughout the Planning Process.

The Overall Plan begins to take shape when a program sponsor or host determines a need to inform, modify, resolve, update or implement some sort of change in delivery, process or procedure. It may be that the CEO wants to gather senior leadership together to lay out a new strategic plan, or to work through the details of the merging of a key business function, or a means of recognizing individuals or groups for a job well done and/or exceeding financial goals. This is where the Design/Planning Team comes into play.

When I first heard the term “Design Team,” I was new to the meeting planning business, but the phrase stayed with me throughout my career. The Design Team by my definition is charged with defining the goals and objectives, key messaging, information flow, tone of delivery, and the communication plan that best helps convey the meeting purpose – and detailed out in the Overall (or Meeting Action) Plan. Team members acting at the request of a CEO, might include the division head, key direct reports, meeting content specialists, communications, marketing and/or HR staff.

The Design Team may or may not all be on-site during the meeting. If they are, they are not there in an administrative role; rather, they are there to present, host, provide checks and balances as to how things are going and/or to make adjustments in the programming as needed.

The Planning Team is responsible for the planning and executing of the Overall (or Meeting Action) Plan. Team members might include some or all of the Design Team, plus the meeting planner, graphic designer, audio-visual and IT support and corporate security. External support might also include a Destination Management Company (DMC) and production support. The Planning Team in most cases would be/should be on-site for the duration – but may hinge on budget and significance of the meeting.

Depending on a company’s organizational structure, the functions of the Design and Planning Teams may be one and the same or divided as noted above. As planner’s roles have become more strategic, and especially if they are dedicated to a single business unit, they may be more often than not included in the design phase. If your organization does not have a dedicated meeting planning group, the planning function may rest with an administrative professional.

Throughout my career, I was not assigned to a single business unit; therefore, was not always included in the design phase. When writing my book, “The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings,” I combined the tasks of the two teams into one when laying out the Overall Plan and the Meeting Time Line.

In either situation, I believe it is important to the professional growth of meeting planners and/or administrative professionals to take the initiative to present the team leader with a draft copy of the Overall Plan for review and approval – especially if the Design Team on its own does not do this. By doing so, the planner/administrative professional LEARNS to LISTEN to what is being said, better understands what needs to be accomplished, and will be in a better position to recommend meeting venues, meeting space, room and equipment sets, speakers and entertainment that best fit program objectives. The planner /administrative professional will also LEARN more about the function of the business unit hosting the meeting, and will hopefully gain the trust of the team and perhaps be invited take on a more prominent role in the future.

To LEARN more about me or the meeting planning process, follow me at

Mary Jo Wiseman, CMP | Author | The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings

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