Tina Squillante, CMP, was short on time but long on inspiration when she decided to almost completely revamp a 2013 conference for the American Society of Transplantation (AST). (You can read about the meeting makeover, completed in one month, here.) The meeting turned out to be a huge success, and three years later, Squillante still receives invitations to talk to groups about how to apply new ideas to meetings.
She didn’t do it alone, Squillante points out, but with the help of her AST team and “dream CSM” Becky Field, CMP, meetings and events manager at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona. Field is who came to Squillante’s mind when Convene asked her to name a behind-the-scenes person who had helped to make her meetings more successful. Our ulterior motive: We are inviting all meeting professionals to submit their own nominations for behind-the-scenes all-stars until June 13; winners will be published in our August Best in Show issue.
Our question — and her experience with Field — inspired Squillante to draw up a list of qualities that make up the dream convention services manager:
1. Is flexible and is willing to try new things. “I brought in a lot of new ideas, and I was doing things in a new way in a very short period of time,” Squillante said. And Field “was very willing and happy to try them. She embraced my ideas and she just pulled it off.”
2. Has the ability to work with and lead team members from multiple departments to collectively make an event spectacular. Field not only got behind Squillante’s vision, she championed it to the entire support staff at the hotel, Squillante said, explaining the objectives in full to a team spanning multiple departments.
3. Anticipates your needs and has solutions at the ready when the unexpected pops up. Squillante was asking for unconventional room sets, which she communicated by way of hand-drawn diagrams to Field. “This wasn’t like following a CAD drawing,” Squillante said. Field not only created her own mock-ups, she prepared her staff to be flexible — and then remained present during the entire set-up to make sure the objectives were carried out.
4. Knows their property inside and out — the people and the space. “When CSMs know their people — this means everyone from the housemen, to technicians, to servers, and directors — and the physical space, including what odd pieces of unused furniture are sitting in a closed-off room,” Squillante said, “and when they also are creative and inventive, the outcome is most often satisfying and meets or exceeds the expectations of the group.”
5. Is able to take an idea or client need and apply the necessary and available resources to make it happen. Squillante brought a vision for the meeting to Field, but she also presented her with some dilemmas. For example: Board members had a tight meeting schedule, so Squillante couldn’t take them and other VIPs for an off-site dinner. Still wanting an event that was a little more special than a dinner in a meeting room, Field arranged for a hotel chef to do a live cooking demonstration with guests in an outdoor area complete with a fire pit and special lighting. Field “took away my stumbling blocks by being very proactive in coming up with creative ways to solve problems.”
Bonus points: The dream convention service manager, Squillante added, also knows just the right moment to appear with a cup of specialty coffee or an end-of-the-day celebratory cocktail.