Getting a seat at the table

Do we feel important enough to be in the room but not powerful enough to sit at the table?

Do we feel important enough to be in the room but not powerful enough to sit at the table?

By Tracy Judge, CMP
Director of Cadence Meetings & Incentives

It's pretty easy to spot another corporate meeting planner in the crowd.

We are resourceful and passionate. We are great communicators with strong people skills. Negotiation? Leave it to us. We work with our stakeholders to assure the best value for their events.  We will give all of our energy to ensure a meaningful experience. We thrive on the adrenaline rush of the last attendee boarding the bus, marking the conclusion of another successful meeting. Why? Because we are fully aware of the important role meetings and events play in the overall success of your organizations.

So why is that so many of us, upon returning to the office, take a back seat and relinquish control? Why do we transition into order takers? Why do we let all the confidence and influence we felt onsite dissipate?

In the book Lean In, author Sheryl Sandberg tells a story about a meeting she held at Facebook with Silicon Valley executives and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.  Accompanying Tim Geithner was his team of four women.  When the attendees were asked to take their seats, the men filled the large conference table while the women sat in chairs on the side of the room.  Sheryl waived the women over to sit at the table but they wouldn’t move.

This brings up an important question: As corporate meeting professionals, are we these four women? Do we feel important enough to be in the room but not powerful enough to sit at the table? Are we guilty of devaluing ourselves and the value we bring to our organizations?

I have cringed listening to corporate meeting planners say, “All I am is a cost to the company. I don’t help to generate revenue.” If we let ourselves believe this, how can we convince others of our worth and the importance of events? In order to change the perception of meeting planners, we need to start by changing our own view.

Based on my experience, below are some suggestions to transform yourself from being an order taker to having a seat at the table:

  1. Define the goals and objectives of your organization and/or stakeholder and align your actions with them.
  2. Conduct a stakeholder analysis in the beginning of the planning process.  Manage each individual stakeholder in a personalized way.
  3. Define how ROI will be measured. This is important. To show your value you first need the ability to clearly measure it.

Start putting these ideas into action to claim your seat. And when you do, I want to hear your ideas and feedback! Start the conversation in the comments section below.