Should You Outsource Meeting Planning? - Groups360

Should You Outsource Meeting Planning?

by | Apr 26, 2017 | Planners

Many organizations, government agencies, associations, and corporations are faced with diminishing budgets and overstretched staff.  As a result, they consider outsourcing vital tasks, including meeting planning and event management.

As the person in charge of your company’s events, meetings, conferences, conventions or trade shows, you’ve most likely asked yourself the same question:

To outsource or not to outsource?

As with any business decision, there are pros and cons to weigh. Here’s your guide to determine if outsourcing meeting planning is right for you and your event.

3 common ways to outsource event planning
Site selection/contract negotiation

Numerous third-party meeting planners — also known as intermediaries — specialize in helping corporate event planners and association meeting planners search for the right venue and negotiating the contract with a hotel.

Once the third-party intermediary sends out the RFP, compiles all the proposals for you to review, and offers their feedback, you then decide which hotels move on as finalists in your decision. The third-party intermediary can then arrange venue tours, help you make your final decision, and assist you with contract negotiations.

Pros

  • These intermediaries have staff throughout the country and are often up to speed on the latest hotel developments and local issues.
  • They have established relationships with major hotel brands and have overall knowledge how the brands differ and what each brand can offer your event.
  • They have experience with hotel contracts, a skill which can help at the negotiating table.

Cons

  • Third-party planners often receive incentives, including frequent traveler points and complimentary stays, to book business at certain properties. These perks come in addition to commissions from the winning property.
  • Without any objective rate data in hand, there is no way to verify if a third party has truly gotten you the best deal.
  • Because of strong relationships and incentive programs, intermediaries may have biases and lean their preference toward certain properties, regardless of your program goals.
  • They may have limited market knowledge and only suggest the properties they know or from which they receive incentives, even if the hotel or market is out of your price range, which limits your destination choices.

Note: Groups360 meeting advisors do not have any incentive arrangements with venues that would bias recommendations. Instead, they use GroupSync, which predicts market rates before you contact any hotels.

Logistics

As more full-time meeting planners take on more strategic management roles in their companies, they often outsource the logistics to an outside event planner to focus on the nuts and bolts of the event.

This can include managing speakers and exhibitors, planning all F&B, and arranging off-site events and activities — freeing you up to focus on the big picture.

Pros

  • With time-consuming logistics off your plate, you can now manage the event experience from a higher level and concentrate on the content that matters to you and your attendees.
  • Many third parties have worked on events of all types and sizes and are familiar with the essential tasks, the details involved and the timeline of each.
  • Because third parties can charge a commission to the hotel and several other vendors they use, their services often come free of charge.

Cons

  • Again, third parties may have biases with certain vendors — such as transportation providers, AV companies, and destination management companies — who award them incentives and commissions. These meeting planners may push for a particular vendor even if they aren’t within your budget or in your best interests.
  • Outsourcing the logistics of your event to another planner can easily get complicated. Without thorough communication, significant details can fall through the cracks, information can be misinterpreted, and deadlines can be missed.
  • You need to invest a lot of time to thoroughly educate the third party on your company’s objectives, event goals, company culture, and business preferences, as well as introduce them to decision makers and educate them on your team’s procedures.
Full-service meeting management

Perhaps you have so many events on the calendar you’re called on to act as more of a strategy lead for the entire department. Or, perhaps you and your staff have plenty of other projects to work on.

In that case, you can hire a third-party meeting planner or event planning firm to handle the entire event, from site selection to logistics to event follow-up and reporting.

Pros

  • You can maximize your purchasing power when you have access to the third party’s established relationships with vendors and venues.
  • You’ll save time on researching vendors, collecting pricing, negotiating, organizing all the details, and collaborating with many moving pieces. This frees you up to focus on the larger picture of driving ROI from the event.
  • External meeting planners generally have extensive hospitality experience and are up to date on any industry trends that would impact your event.

Cons

  • When you hand over the reins to your meeting, you may lose control of both the big picture and the important details at any given moment. Depending on the size of the event, the third-party planner may come with extra staff, which means more people to keep in the loop, more lines of communication, and more potential complications.
  • You can’t simply hand off your attendee list and event dates to a third-party corporate event planner or meeting planning service provider. As stated above, you will need to invest your time to thoroughly teach them your procedures and what matters to you and your company. This tedious process is very similar to hiring a new employee, with a complete orientation and on-going education.
  • You may end up spending more money when third-party meeting planners highly recommend event vendors who pay them incentives. This bias means you may not be presented with all possible options. You’ll be driven to select a venue and vendors that are not the best fit and outside of your budget.

If you decide to move forward with a third-party meeting planner, conduct a thorough background check into their experience, chat with former clients, and reach out to some of their suppliers to get a better gauge on their work style.

Clearly define roles, responsibilities, deadlines and how you would like to be updated on milestones.

And most importantly, insist they be transparent about how they are paid so that you are clear on any incentives and commissions they receive from both venues and vendors.