Hands-free is the way to be

Meeting professionals are expected to be a walking office-supply closet. And when a coordinator is busy juggling registration, swag bags, attendees, catering, entertainment and vendors, there is no time to drop everything to grab a paper clip or a pair of scissors from a hotel suite.

One solution to this preparedness problem could be that de rigeuer accessory of the ‘80s, a fanny pack.

But how many people want to be caught sporting one of those anymore? (Not everyone can rock it quite like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—Google it).

Fortunately, meeting planners saw a need and did something about it. Think custom-designed, wearable belts specifically for the events industry—and stylish to boot.

“Even though a fanny pack was the perfect solution, there was no way I could wear one,” jokes Lora Grafenstein-Kinzel, owner of professional tool-belt maker MP Bastian in Minneapolis. “It would be professional suicide. I needed the functionality of the fanny pack but the beauty of a fashion belt.” So, she designed one.

Buckle Up

The MP Bastian tool belt has cleverly hidden pockets on the inside. When it’s fastened around your waist, it appears to be nothing more than a fashion accessory. No one suspects you discretely have a mobile desk hugging your body. Whip it open to reveal all your goodies, like an exhibitionist opens a trench coat.

Another planner, Brit Bertino, saw the same void in the market and designed her TottyBelt, which means “tools of the trade.” She originally gifted her creation to her employees for Christmas. People saw Bertino and her cohorts wearing them to jobs, and requested belts of their own, Bertino realized she could turn it into a business.

“It was made just for event pros by an event pro,” says the owner and ring leader of Las Vegas-based Event Excellence. “We listen to our buyers, and we continue to develop new designs based on customers’ requests.”

Must-Have Items

Grafenstein-Kinzel recommends several must-have items for a planner tool belt. “Definitely [have] a pen!” she says. Grafenstein-Kinzel also includes Shout wipes, a laser pointer, AA or AAA batteries, breath mints and small scissors. “The nice thing is that you can have your box of tools, then switch your tools out for each kind of event,” she says.

The design of the TottyBelt is a bit different. A band wraps around your midsection and you add pockets of various sizes, depending on what you need to carry. Think of it as a charm bracelet for your waist. The compartments can hold anything from a writing instrument to a tablet.

Bertino says every planner has different ideas about what to tuck inside, including a phone, pens, scissors, a tape measure, snacks, a banquet-event order, production schedules and safety pins.

Precious Cargo

When traveling to a meeting or an event, meeting professionals pack much more than clothing, toiletries, paperwork and computers.

At Smart Meetings, we hit the road 11 times a year to host professional networking events nationwide. Our expert events team has mastered the art of packing cargo containers with everything from event signage to lanyards and swag bag contents (of course, you can also ask the sponsor to send this directly to your venue to reduce how much you schlep).

Smart Meetings planner Maria Cruz stresses how essential it is to set up text and email alerts, in order to be notified every time your packages are scanned—to know their exact location at all times. Require a signature upon delivery.

She aims to have boxes delivered five days in advance of the event, and plans accordingly with the shipping carrier. Cruz recommends always communicating in advance with the destination venue to avoid confusion as to your packages’ whereabouts when you arrive.

The team had the following additional suggestions.

  • Categorize containers, labeling the outside of each package with its category, and keep a master list of all the contents.
  • Tape a list in each container with the contents inside. Then, you won’t have to dig for buried treasure every time you need something.
  • Arrange all items so they can all be seen in a single glance.
  • To avoid breakage, use packing materials such as bubble wrap and tissue paper to fill in gaps and keep everything secure and tightly packed.

? Smart Tip

Equally important is re-packing. Return the contents to the same container. Then, back at your office, you can easily keep track of your inventory and see what needs to be replenished prior to departing for your next meeting.