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Need a Meeting Planning Stress-Buster? Tap Into an Event Service Prof

November 22, 2021
Photo of a busy convention.

Tina Lynn Mercardo knows how to reduce stress on the job. 

As a meeting planner for NAFA Fleet Management Association, she makes sure to leverage the expertise of an event service professional, or CSM (convention service manager), from the planning stages all the way to the event. 

“I was less stressed every step of the way,” said Mercardo, about teaming up with a few event service professionals for a recent national conference in late August. 

Event service professionals, who work at a hotel venue, convention center or CVB/DMO, may work quietly behind the scenes, but they can dramatically impact the outcome of an event. This has created a symbiotic relationship between meeting planners and service professionals.  

Know a service professional who helped deliver a successful event in 2021? Nominate them for the ESPA Awards: Nominate an Event Service Professional Today

Tips for Working With an Event Service Professional 

When initiating their relationship with an event service planner for a meeting, planners should start with the big picture. 

“I often start my conversations with CSMs talking about our goals for the event—not the details of the event,” Mercardo said. “By giving them the big picture, we can tap into their experience at the venue to find the best ways to accomplish our goal.”  

There are several important reasons why meeting planners leverage event service pros—often referred to as CSMs or convention service managers—to stack the odds in their favor when it comes to producing a memorable event. 

[Related: Why Convention Service Managers Deserve Our Respect]

New Rules, New Norm 

In terms of event planning, event service professionals have always served as an invaluable resource for meeting planners, but COVID-19 has heightened the value they provide due to evolving guidelines in each individual state and locale. 

“Events still have all the same logistical challenges, but now we add the COVID protocols and challenges,” Mercardo said. “Having a person act as liaison with our team, venue services and even city health departments is invaluable.  

The CSM makes sure you are always in the know on protocol changes, so you know your plans are always in compliance, even when those last-minute, onsite changes pop up.”  

Best Practices Lead to Best Outcomes 

A typical meeting planner may work on an annual conference and a dozen regional meetings throughout the year. But for an event service professional, that is a slow month. 

Service managers work on a wide range of events in terms of size, industry and objectives. In effect, they are event consultants with a deep breadth of knowledge when it comes to what works and what is next (i.e., Plan B). 

“The CSM is an extension of my staff,” said Diane Haggerty, director of events, exhibits and advertising at the Metal Powder Industries Federation. “Without the CSM, we wouldn’t be able to host successful and meaningful meetings. 

“I utilize their knowledge of the property or city throughout the planning of the conference,” she added. “It enables me to set up my meeting for success by working closely with the CSM.  The CSM can provide room set-up suggestions, customize menus and provide recommendations on current COVID protocols.” 

Solving Problems Save The Day 

During a recent conference in Pittsburgh, the city’s first large-scale event in about two years, VisitPITTSBURGH Director of Convention Services Kristen Turner helped secure PCR self-collection kits and distributed them to guests, which included international guests faced with added restrictions back in their country. An overnight FedEx store, however, allowed the international guests to receive their quick results, ensuring an on-time departure home. 

“Most recently, event service professionals have been the go-to experts on a destination’s health and safety protocols with a direct link to their city’s health departments,” Turner said. “This is a tremendous lift off the event organizer’s workload as many are planning events in multiple destinations at the same time.” 

Everything Begins With Relationships 

In addition to knowing the lay of the land, event service professionals have valuable relationships in and around every destination. In fact, they have working relationships with hundreds of small to large businesses ready to provide added service and convenience to an event. 

“CSMs become our ‘planner on the ground,’” Mercardo said. “From helping us arrange pre-event site visits to making sure we have final reports post show, they make it easy to work with a city by being the liaison to the dozens of people who are working on the show. They know their building, and they have the experience of having done lots of events in it. They can tell quickly if something you have ordered or set up will not work and can easily offer suggestions to make sure your plan stays on track.” 

In the world of business events, behind every subsequent booking is an event service professional. Like other meeting planners, Haggerty wants a service pro who is a true partner in the process, which includes problem-solving, effective communication skills and a firm understanding of the event.  

“I wouldn’t even have to think twice about returning,” she added about the value of working with a top-flight CSM.

Listen Next: ESPA Leader Julie Brakenbury Details the Role of Event Service Profs in the Recovery

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About the author
Lynn McCullough

Lynn McCullough is executive director of Event Service Professionals Association, which is dedicated to advancing the professional development of event service managers to deliver event excellence and build the bottom lines of hotels, venues and CVBs. In addition to overseeing the association’s operations and events, she works closely with the ESPA Board of Directors and headquarters team to ensure ESPA members receive exceptional member service and tools for success through education, networking and member benefit programs.