Capricia Marshall, former U.S. chief of protocol, shares her smarts about knowing your audience and remaining flexible during the event planning process.

Use 'Smart Power' to Plan a Successful Meeting

Capricia Marshall, former U.S. chief of protocol, shares her smarts about knowing your audience and remaining flexible.

Want to know what a U.S. Chief of Protocol keeps in her meeting planning arsenal? Smart power.

What is smart power? Former Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall explained it during the keynote at the recent Destination Marketing Association International’s Destination Showcase in Washington.

Smart power, she says, involves “using every tool in the diplomatic toolbox to engage the world,” but it applies to all meetings and events. She identified four ways any planner can tap into smart power:

Tip 1: Make the Event Matter

In every country, events are used to share something important, special and unique—make sure your event reflects that, Marshall says. The meeting’s purpose should be to connect, engage, share and learn, she says.

Tip 2: Flexibility Is Key

Another power tool is agility. It's critical that the planning team “remain flexible when things don’t go according to plan,” Marshall says. That way the team is prepared to adjust on the fly, no matter what issues arise.

Tip 3: Remember Cultural Engagement

As chief of protocol, Marshall says she felt a responsibility to bridge the gap between the United States and the other nations it engaged with. A meeting planner should bear that same responsibility, she advises.

It’s essential to highlight the city or country where the event takes place, especially with food. “The backdrop of your city tells a story.”

Tip 4: Know Your Audience

“Know your audience by doing your homework,” she recommends.

Understanding deeply who will attend your meeting or event affects the elements included and how meaningful the experience will be for the attendees. If gifts are being given to attendees, make sure they are thoughtful and significant by tying them directly to the meeting purpose.