On the Job with Chris Cole
Which step do you find most taxing in your conference planning checklist?
Waiting for information! Contracts, insurance certificates, program agendas, housing assignment lists, menu selections … the list goes on and on. Patience is a virtue! Every request for information seems to generate more questions before answers are forthcoming. It is frequently necessary to become politely insistent when we have to have the information to provide services.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in the profession?
Advance planning with clients is critical. The more you can discuss in advance, the better. However, be prepared and open to onsite changes and adjustments when clients actually experience how the event flows and functions. Keeping the focus on the success of the event creates common ground for making decisions about service changes.
Describe a memorable day on the job.
A conference group booked meeting space early on a Saturday morning. The electronic door locks did not get scheduled for the building to open; a room assignment change didn’t get communicated to catering so coffee was set in an empty room; the desired room setup wasn’t completed correctly so things didn’t look the way the client expected; the client had oversold the event so room capacities were exceeded; and the air conditioning broke! We immediately acted to address deficiencies, including contacting emergency maintenance and moving and resetting rooms as the event schedule permitted. Service recovery included not only apologies to the client, but also debriefing with the student employees onsite. Fortunately, our efforts were recognized with a note of thanks from the client.
What is one project or innovation you’re proud to have helped implement?
Cross-training of Student Center student assistants to provide high-quality service to conference clients. Student employees hired to work in the Student Center are trained and deployed across campus to meet the needs of conference clientele. Whether in a private dining room in a food service facility, an academic classroom or auditorium, or on athletic fields in the summer camp season, our student staff are the frontline contact for our conference guests. The communication and problem-solving skills they utilize every day to support student events are further enhanced when applied to professional events.