Reminder: Don’t let people make everything more complicated than it needs to be, whether at work or in general.

One of the highlights from an April 2018 fam trip to Puerto Rico, to join group of event planners that were gauging the meetings readiness of the destination following the massive damage caused by Hurricane Maria in October 2017, was seeing former PCMA CEO Deborah Sexton speak about the industry.

Sexton, who was taking a bit of a sabbatical after leaving PCMA in January 2018, is considering taking up consulting work.

As I was listening to Sexton, and having some history of my own working as a consultant, two things she said really hit home: Consultants at times make things too complicated, and there’s something new to learn and/or research and assess every day.

Let’s look at those two points from Sexton's presentation one by one and explore how they apply to meeting planning. But first, let me elaborate on why the presentation hit close to home.

Keep It Simple: My Background As a Consultant

For a few years, I worked as a consultant and also as a hired and in-house implementer. One thing I loved about being outside of an organization was that I could draw on so many experiences from a wide client base.

And that is a huge advantage to consulting: You see many different scenarios and you can apply that knowledge to benefit others.

But Sexton has a point: Consultants can make things overcomplicated and that can lead to inaction.

If I can’t see the first step and the next five steps look too difficult, I might just stick with the status quo.

“People say they’ll ride it out to retirement and they are 38,” she quipped to the group of event planners in Puerto Rico watching her presentation at the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art.

Of course we have to find a balance between keeping the lights on and useful innovation.

Which leads me to Sexton's second point.

Staying on Top of Things Is a Challenge

She said she’s gotten daily calls pitching something new that will make her event better than ever. It’s impossible to keep up, but yet event planners are expected to and often have to as part of their job.

Some technologies truly can make events better. And some technologies are a waste of time. And some technologies will stick around for a bit even when they routinely don’t work.

When was the last time you saw a PowerPoint presentation work on the first try? #snark

Clearly, meeting and event planners, and really anyone, need to stay on top of things, and that’s what consultants are often good for.

Bring them in once in a while to give an objective update and maybe make some predictions on what technology and strategies might be taking off, the latest in user behavior and so on.

Of course, you could keep track yourself as well by reading reputable sources and spending a few minutes here and there checking out the latest meetings and event tools and trends.

Meetings Today offers a number of newsletter resources to help planners do just that.

Following is the strategy I like to recommend:

  • Set a high-level goal and then map actions against it.
  • If the actions don’t align with the goal, don’t do the action.

For example, I used to have vendors tell me about their tools, many of them great, but my goal was driving website traffic so the non-traffic-building tools, while sometimes interesting, wouldn’t work toward my goals.

You can apply the same concept to meeting and event planning.

How will this next step or the next five steps help you make your next event a success? And if you can’t figure it out, look for the next solution. Keep it simple and don't overwhelm yourself with choices.

Christoph Trappe is director of content engagement at Stamats Business Media, the parent company of Meetings Today. He’s also a long-time change leadership and business evolution trainer.