Independent Planners Hone Business Skills at IPEC 2022

An expanded educational program readied buyers and suppliers for a swift and sustained recovery.

IPEC-hosted-buyer-appointments
Hosted buyers held one-on-one meetings with suppliers during IPEC 2022, held at Resorts World Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

Northstar Meetings Group held its 10th annual Independent Planner Education Conference last week, with a new emphasis on education. Sessions throughout the program, held March 1-3 at Resorts World Las Vegas, targeted the specific needs of small-business owners and facilitated peer-to-peer learning.

An intensive learning opportunity was offered before the official start of IPEC: The inaugural Business Accelerator Bootcamp, created by Northstar Meetings Group in partnership with the Event Leadership Institute, was held on March 1, prior to IPEC’s opening reception. More than 50 participants paid to attend the half-day program, which covered business strategy, pricing structures, client acquisition and client retention. In total, 185 hosted buyers and suppliers attended IPEC 2022.

Pricing was a hot topic of discussion during the Bootcamp and throughout the event. “It was very interesting to hear about the different pricing models,” noted a planner participant. “It was the first pricing session I've been to for independents that actually broke down into detail the pricing mentality. Very useful!”

Kevin White, a presenter and live-events strategist, emphasized the importance of scheduling personal time.
Kevin White, a presenter and live-events strategist, emphasized the importance of scheduling personal time. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

Don’t Work for Free

The pandemic underscored that a commission-only fee structure can lead to a lot of work — including cancelling and rescheduling events — without pay, noted Bootcamp presenter Kevin White, founder and chief strategist for XPL. He explained a range of pricing models for independent planners to consider, noting the pros and cons of each, and provided methods for calculating what to charge clients. Too often, he said, planners are victims of “scope creep,” taking on extra tasks without additional charges.

White and co-presenter Howard Givner, founder and CEO of the Event Leadership Institute, brought business skills plus decades of meeting planning experience to the Bootcamp program, sharing examples and actionable advice. 

“This seminar was definitely worth my time and money,” said a participant. “I liked that it was broken up between two speakers and was participatory.”

Meeting planner Kristen Thomas participates in a workshop-style education session during IPEC 2022.
Meeting planner Kristen Thomas participates in a workshop-style education session during IPEC 2022. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

Time Management Tip: Do NOT Multitask

Participants of the Business Accelerator Bootcamp were invited to attend the first IPEC session, “Time Management Tips for Business Owners,” also led by Kevin White. Our cellphones are the biggest threat to productivity today, said White. Responding to every message or alert is a deterrent to working efficiently. 

“What percentage of your time do you want to spend working, sleeping and living your life?” he asked. Independent planners often fail to set aside time for family, friends and leisure. Research has shown that the number-one regret that men express at the end of their lives is not spending enough time with their children, said White. “I’m going to learn from humanity and schedule time to spend with my kids.”

Another common trait among planners, said White, is the belief that you must do everything yourself or it won’t get done right. It’s time to retire that attitude. Review your daily tasks. What is unnecessary that can be eliminated? What can be delegated? With a schedule that prioritizes work-life balance, you’ll be more efficient and productive during working hours, he advised.

Throughout the three-day event, illustrator Matt Orley of Big Paper Strategy captured key takeaways, creating fun and informative visual displays of the educational content.

Big Paper Strategy IPEC Sketchbook
Matt Orley of Big Paper Strategy captured IPEC's educational content via live illustrations.

Mentors Meet Mentees

Working lunches were structured for peer-to-peer learning. Pre-event surveys asked participants to select hot topics for group discussion, and to list their mentor-level business skills. For the first day’s lunch, tables were preassigned by chosen areas of interest, including The State of Hotel Commissions and Partnering With Other Independents. 

On day two, seven planners were selected to give 10-minute presentations on their areas of expertise as business owners, including financial management, hotel contract clauses and client retention. 

Keynote presenter Marilyn Sherman earned a standing ovation for her enthusiastic and heartfelt approach to change management.
Keynote presenter Marilyn Sherman earned a standing ovation for her enthusiastic and heartfelt approach to change management. Photo Credit: Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani

Lose the Victim Mindset

Speaker Marilyn Sherman earned a standing ovation for her empowering keynote, “Which V are You? Managing Change Like a Volunteer, Instead of a Victim or a Vacationer.” Her workshop-style presentation demonstrated that most of us react to change as victims; we feel we have no control over something that is “being done to us.” Others just go along for the ride, accepting the inevitable. But a volunteer steps forward to be a part of the change, embracing the new direction and offering assistance.

“Change can be a gain,” Sherman told participants. In business settings, volunteers might say, “What can I do to support you right now?” and conflicts can be eased with phrases such as “Help me understand.” 

Ultimately, said Sherman, the best business skills are “courage, compassion and kindness.”

A Look Ahead to IPEC 2023

Participant feedback was overwhelmingly supportive of the Business Accelerator Bootcamp and the enhanced educational programming during IPEC 2022. Northstar’s planning team already is developing the agenda for IPEC 2023, set for Jan. 24-26 at the Peabody Memphis. Buyers and suppliers can register their interest now in IPEC 2023 or other Northstar Meetings Group events.

All photographs by Ketara Gadahn for Studio Alani