the meeting planner
Mandy Begley, CMP
MANDY BEGLEY, CMP is the Senior Meeting Planner, Leadership Team Services, for the Texas Association of School Boards. The MPI Texas Hill Country Chapter recently named Mandy their 2012-13 Planner of the Year.
MPG : What first attracted you to the
I have a degree in advertising and marketing. When I moved to Austin, an association management firm was looking for a marketing person and I took the job. I didn’t realize that association management entails a little bit of everything and I wore a lot of hats. After five years, I realized it was the meeting planning that I was drawn to most.
In 2006, a friend at TASB told me about an opening they had for a meeting planner. I took this job excited that I could focus on event planning. It’s been a great fit.
When I plan a meeting, I take on the persona of a host entertaining guests. If I’m hosting 50 people or 300 people, what do I need to do for my guests to be welcomed, to be entertained, to be fed and to be happy? When I was growing up, my family was like that so it’s a natural for me.
Were you served by mentors during the
early days of your career?
My first large conference was held at the Westin Riverwalk in San Antonio. I was very fortunate to work with Sandy Montalvo, their sales representative, and Cecily McKinley, who is still my Starwood rep in Texas. They were so wonderful to hand-hold me through that process and they are both still important in my network. I’m so grateful for the lessons they taught me about patience and fairness. I love contract negotiating and my goal is to always find a “win-win” solution, one that is fair for
Tell us about the meetings you plan for TASB?
We are a large organization and plan meetings for many different entities. The meetings I plan range from small, one-day seminars up to two and three day, mid-sized conferences for 400 to 600 attendees that include general sessions, concurrent breakouts, and meal functions. I’m all over the state – Abilene, El Paso, Nacogdoches and I do larger events in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.
What are the key elements of a “successful meeting?”
In my opinion, a successful meeting is one where the venue, the planner and the vendors are all in sync. When everyone is on the same page and the attendees think that the event is just “effortless,” I would
call that a successful meeting.
Tell me what comes to your mind when you think of the word “inspiration.”
Inspiration is finding new ways of doing
old things. Like 99% of my peers, I’m hooked on Pinterest and have multiple boards for meetings and event planning. I can find inspiration from people who are doing something really creative for a kid’s birthday party. I think “hey, I can do that on a
I’m also inspired by hotel chefs who are part of the locavore (locally grown) movement. I love to cook and I enjoy getting involved in menu planning. It’s fun to plan menus with a chef from a different part of Texas who is pulling from locally produced foods. It really provides the best quality.
What traits do you like most in your
Recently, Emily Matthews with the McAllen CVB called to set up an appointment with me and the other three planners at TASB to gather information about what events we each plan. I thought that was so smart because so many hotels and CVBs don’t do their research before calling on me to try
to win my business.
We are a complicated organization with 400+ employees and 7+ entities. I appreciated Emily saying, “Let me take 15 minutes of your time and find out about the meetings you plan and your specific needs.” She got a clear picture of what we do and
I appreciated that.
Is there something a rep has done that you thought was particularly helpful?
Cecily McKinley with Starwood provides a color printed document with a picture of my association sales rep for each of her Starwood properties in the state of Texas with a little bit of information about each of them. I know just by looking at that sheet who’s at what property and what they look like. That is so smart because it’s a job that changes often and it’s nice to keep up.
What are your thoughts about meetings’ technology?
I don’t think we should discount the new technology nor do I don’t think technology will ever replace face-to-face meetings. We’ve been able to use some really cool speakers that we couldn’t afford to fly in but we could Skype them in.
What’s your biggest challenge?
I believe the real challenge we are all facing is dealing with reduced meeting budgets without reduced expectations for our meetings. To combat that, planners need to be more creative in infusing surprises into the day that help make the event special even though it may have cost less to produce.
What is your best advice for a non-professional meeting planner?
They don’t need to feel like they are reinventing the wheel. By joining a local industry association, they can pull upon resources from more experienced planners. The MPI Texas Hill Country Chapter has been a valuable resource for me and I’ve been able to build a wonderful network
of suppliers and planners around me.
It’s particularly important for non-professional planners to have that network
of professional planners.
What is the one thing that you’d most
like for our readers to “take away” from
The mentor who made the greatest impact on my life is Janean Ferguson, a long-time TASB planner, who is now retired. I learned from her that kindness always wins. I sincerely hope that, in my business life, my peers and vendors always see that in me.
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