Top Ten Skills Needed to be a Meeting Planner of the Future

Now, more than ever, meeting planners need to be flexible and savvy. Read on for the 10 must-have skills for the meeting planner of the future.

By Jeanne Sheehy, MBA

Young woman waiting for flight at the airport lounge. Businesswoman sitting on a bench with coffee and using a mobile phone.

Coming from a robust marketing background, I have always been fascinated by the dynamics of team leadership and the skills required to excel in high-pressure environments. This year, as I led a team of seven meeting planners, my admiration for their craft deepened profoundly. I am excited to share the critical skills essential for any meeting planner looking to survive and truly thrive in this continuously evolving landscape.


This skill comes in many forms – from the ability to react to issues that occur on-site to adjusting to changes in the industry and the needs of members, sponsors, exhibitors, and other stakeholders. Being agile is at the core of skills needed to grow. An adaptable meeting planner embraces new trends and incorporates innovative ideas into event planning in creative and expeditious ways.

Communication Skills

Planners have always had to have strong written and verbal communication skills to run a conference, meeting, or tradeshow effectively. Today’s communication skills require those key strengths and knowledge of the digital channels primarily used to reach and engage target audiences, such as social media, email, mobile apps, websites, videos, podcasts, and blogs. Understanding the complex nuances and uses of each channel in marketing and managing an event makes essential communication much harder but if done right, extensively more effective.

Data Analysis & Financial Management

Analytical and financial skills are needed now more than ever to interpret data and feedback from current and past events and then use that data to make informed decisions and improve future events. Planners must also create and understand key performance indicators (KPIs) for events and measure success. PACE reports, dashboards, and on-demand financial information about a meeting are becoming the norm. Event planners who excel possess the budgeting skills necessary for efficient financial management and demonstrate strong negotiating abilities with site and vendor contracts, setting them apart as top performers in the field.

Tech Savviness

Technology acumen is a requirement for anyone working in associations today, but think about the constant learning meeting planners must do to stay on top of A/V production, mobile applications, virtual event platforms, live streaming systems, hybrid event strategies, and more. No one had to pivot faster than planners during COVID; technology was at the forefront of how connections would be sustained during the pandemic and beyond.

And now, with the addition of Artificial Intelligence, new ways of managing content and logistics are rapidly adding to the technology skills needed. One example in this area is PCMA’s Project SPARK, a free education and development initiative to shed light on the evolving place of AI in the business events industry. By signing up to participate, planners get hands-on access to a business events AI tool in development aimed at immediately helping to jump-start routine event planning tasks. There will be more and more platforms such as this, along with education, training, and professional certifications for planners to digest.

Project Management

In the many interviews I performed as our meeting team grew, I was amazed by the number of young and seasoned planners who said they still use pen and paper for checklists to manage their daily work and priorities. I don’t remember one interview where that wasn’t the case. Organizational and project management skills are essential, and many digital tools and platforms exist, such as Basecamp,, and Trello. Many planners use those project management tools effectively. Still, at the end of the day, it’s a short list of tasks that can be crossed off that provides great satisfaction for these type-A personality meeting professionals! No matter how you stay organized, a keen eye on projects, from planning to post-event alignment, is required to meet all KPIs.

Networking & Negotiation

Professional relationships thrive over time because they are built on trust, respect, and mutual value. Meeting planners need to develop and maintain a strong network of industry contacts and collaborate effectively with vendors, venues, and other event professionals. Leveraging these relationships to enhance event offerings, find the best value for clients, and deliver memorable experiences will be an instrumental trait for future planners.

Crisis Management

During a crisis, planners rely on many of the skills already mentioned – adaptability, communication, tech savviness, negotiation, etc. to manage through unexpected issues. Crisis management also involves problem-solving skills to resolve problems quickly and effectively while remaining calm. Preplanning and developing contingency plans are vital to crisis management, and unfortunately, we continue to see more and more plans needed for health, violence, social unrest, and political reasons.

Global Awareness

Our world continues to get smaller and smaller with increasing ways to connect and transact with members and customers. Whether you are planning events outside of the U.S., every planner needs to stay informed about international trends and cultural considerations for their attendees. Planners who manage global meetings must understand global regulations, cultural aspects, and local partnerships as best practices.


Embracing eco-friendly practices in event planning has become a cornerstone of modern event management, aligning with global trends towards environmental responsibility. The increasing use of event-based mobile apps exemplifies this shift, providing attendees, sponsors, and visitors with essential information in a digital format, significantly reducing the reliance on paper. Additionally, choosing event locations proximal to entertainment and transportation hubs enriches the attendee experience and minimizes the need for individual vehicle travel. This approach to sustainability demonstrates environmental consciousness and responsibly enhances the overall event experience. Stay informed about sustainable event practices. Incorporate environmentally friendly options into event planning.


It takes creative thinking to solve problems on the spot and generate unique and engaging event concepts, incorporating innovative elements into events to keep them fresh and exciting. Meeting experiences come in many different forms, whether in person or virtual, and they can range from outdoor meeting spaces to local charity events to even tree house breakouts. Building memorable experiences that align with your association’s values and mission will keep members engaged and coming back for more. Planners must continuously think outside all traditional meeting aspects to bring attendees unforgettable experiences.

We are asking a lot of our meeting planners these days to continuously evolve and adapt with the association event planning industry, but with the help of revolutionary AI, specialized project management software, and cutting-edge training to assist in efficiently tackling mundane tasks, planners will have the well-deserved space to enhance their strategic, creative, and insightful talent to any meeting.


About the Author

Jeanne Sheehy is the Chief Marketing Officer at Bostrom. She has more than 20 years of branding, global marketing strategy, and integrated marketing expertise. She is also a speaker on digital transformation, AI for associations, and integrated marketing concepts in association management. Jeanne is a member of Association Forum’s 2023-24 Content Working Group.

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