When people comment that “meeting planning is a cake job,” I often laugh and think to myself, “you have no clue what my job fully entails!” I must confess that there are some serious perks (and much deserved, as far as I’m concerned) to being a meeting planner. One of those perks is the opportunity to attend familiarization trips (fam trips). A fam allows the meeting planner to take off the planner hat and be a guest. Yes it is still very much work, but it’s entirely different from our day-to-day demands. It may be a break from planning, but it’s important to remember that you are still working, and you’ve been invited for a reason.
I was recently on a fam, and at several points during the trip we were delayed by tardy attendees. As planners, we live and die by agendas, so I was a bit baffled by the repeated tardiness. We know better than anyone about all the time and effort that goes into planning a meeting. Fams are no exception. The CVB and hosted partners put a lot of effort into these events. I think one should remember how we want our attendees to behave, and then act accordingly.
With that, here are a few tips to remember while on your trip:
- Be on time – remember that there is an agenda for a reason. Plus, you hold up the entire group when you are late.
- Don’t be rude – If there is something that is bothering you, or a venue you are not interested in, keep it to yourself. Other attendees may enjoy the venue, and may not want to hear your negative comments. Most CVBs ask you to fill out a survey at the end of your trip; this is the appropriate time for constructive feedback.
- Pack appropriately – The host often sends you a “packing list” along with an itinerary and weather conditions. Additionally, if traveling to another country, ask if there are any cultural differences that should influence your decisions on what to pack.
- Don’t complain – No one likes a constant complainer! I have heard people complain about everything from “all the walking” to “not enough breaks” to “I don’t like the food.” Again, look over the agenda. Some things should not be a surprise to you (i.e. walking, limited breaks). Negative comments are not appreciated by the host(s) or fellow attendees.
- Be professional – Remember you are still representing your company, your clients, and in some cases, your country. Behave accordingly. These trips are for educational purposes and not for “Girls Gone Wild” auditions.
- Be honest – If you have no prospects for the destination, it will save everyone time and money if you politely decline the invitation altogether. But if, after attending, you feel the destination is not a good fit, be honest. Your host(s) may be able offer solutions you hadn’t thought of. Let them know if you have a group already interested, or if you work with groups that could fit there. But don’t lead them on.
- Say thank you! – Be sure to send “thank you” notes to everyone that hosted you on your trip. Handwritten would be the best, most thoughtful way. But email is expedient and appreciated, too.
Enjoy being the guest for a change. But by all means, do so with integrity and respect to your host(s)!