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Conference services include the booking of conferences, meetings, or other events, as well as the planning and provision of the services necessary for those events to be successful. Conference services are also commonly referred to as meeting management, event management, event planning, or event marketing. Conference services managers are also called meeting or event planners. Conference services vary according to the event, but typically include budgeting, lodging arrangements, catering, and audio visual equipment and support.
There are two broad categories of conference services: those managed by in-house meeting planners, and those managed by third-party planners. In-house meeting planners are employees of the facility hosting the event. Usually, the group contact, the member of the group who is in charge of making all necessary arrangements, will decide in advance which facility to use for the event and contact its owners directly. A conference services manager is then assigned from that facility. Outside or third-party companies are hired when a group does not have a particular site selected. The group contact will furnish a list of requirements, and the conference services company will begin suggesting appropriate facilities and act as an intermediary between the group and the sites.
Conference services required for every event include lodging and dining. For this reason, conferences are often hosted by hotels with on-site conference facilities. These usually include large and small meeting spaces, computer labs, a ballroom, and audio-visual capabilities for speakers or presentations. Meals are usually handled by the facility's own food and beverage department. These conference services are all managed by on-site personnel and coordinated by the conference services manager, who makes all the necessary arrangements when informed by the group of their needs.
Third-party conference services managers offer suggestions for a venue for the conference, then coordinate all additional services if not offered by that facility, such as catering and hotel reservations. This type of conference planning is common with groups too large to be accommodated by a single hotel, or for groups who want a third party to help them negotiate the best rate. Conference services also include the planning of any recreation the group may desire during their stay.
Choosing a conference facility is best accomplished by examining the needs of the group and what they seek to accomplish during their event. Typical conferences include trade shows, company training programs, or yearly awards ceremonies. Many hotel conference services planners also plan weddings or small family events. The goal in hiring conference services professionals is to ensure that all the group's needs are met and that the event goes smoothly without having to worry oneself about the details.
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