Time to Rebrand Third-Party Planners

third-party-meeting-plannersDonna Hunt, CEO and managing director for HMS Meeting Services (left), and Yashema Mack

Hotels do it all the time. Rebranding is a natural part of the hospitality industry, so much so that we don’t even blink when properties change names or flags.

I believe it’s time to do the same for third-party planners. There seems to be a negative connotation when it comes to third-party planners.

This topic came up last week during Florida Encounter, which included more than 5,000 one-on-one appointments between planners of all kinds and suppliers. During an offsite dinner at Disney Springs, I asked Yashema Mack, who works for Connecticut-based HMS Meeting Services, how she described her job.

Are you a third-party planner? And if you’re not a third-party planner, what are you? The conversation quickly switched to a brainstorming session on what we should call employees of small but mighty agencies that are staging thousands events for major corporations.

Mack mentioned that she thought of herself as a freelancer, which is more of journalism term than a title applied to planning. Then she said she was really an independent meeting planner. We were getting warmer.

After a few more tries, we settled on Independent Meeting Contractor or IMC. Even though there are already too many acronyms in the meetings and events industry, you have to admit IMC has a ring to it, especially since we’re all accustomed to the roles of DMCs, or destination management companies.

As our excitement was building, we asked Donna Hunt, CEO and managing director for HMS Meeting Services, to join the discussion. I had already told Mack that the term third-party planners really bugged me and shared the same sentiments with Hunt.

Hunt’s reaction was priceless: “We’re not third-party planners,” she said. “We’re THE party. It’s demeaning.”

Bingo. Hunt took it a step further saying she doesn’t even like to be called a planner, that what she and Mack do goes well beyond planning. Hunt brings 20 years of pharma expertise to HMS, and Mack has degrees in computer science and computer engineering. Between medical meetings and mega-computer trade shows, their collective experiences help a variety of businesses stage critical, and fun, events around the globe. They deserve a job title that reflects what they do and one they own wholeheartedly.

As the three of us strolled back to the bus to return to our host hotel, Omni Orlando ChampionsGate, we were downright giddy with our very impromptu discussion and subsequent new term to describe the many valuable women and men behind the scene making meetings and events go off without a hitch.

I snapped a photo of Hunt and Mack, who I consider to be the first official IMCs in this new club of meeting and event professionals. Who else wants to join? There’s no certification yet, but we’re thinking about it, and at least we have a new name and Twitter hashtag–#IMC.