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So you have an event idea and would rather not waste your precious time doing the running around to organize everything…what now? Hiring an Event Planner is the obvious choice but how do you decide which one is best? There are probably hundreds in your market although not necessarily all proficient. Before committing to one, go through these steps to help you make a decision ensuring the best fit for your needs.
Event Objective – for any event, there has to be an objective. What do you hope to achieve by organizing this event? Is it for networking, launching a product, exhibiting a range of suppliers, introducing a subject matter, celebrating a milestone? Once you have clarity on the objective, you would be better able to explain it to the prospective event planner.
Budget – no event has a blank cheque budget so knowing what the absolute maximum you are able to spend is very important. Also remember to be realistic and not expect a Caviar event on a Hotdog budget. Most event planners will help with trying to reduce expenses where possible but they’re not magicians.
Shortlist – look online and search for event planners in your area who may have done similar events successfully in the near past or ask around for suggestions. An alternative is to choose a planner who is relatively new to the business as they may be more enthusiastic and invested in ensuring everything is done well. The suggestion is to shortlist 3 to 4 companies and by the end of the process to be able to decide on your final choice keeping one backup…just in case things go awry along the way.
Meet Up – arrange to meet all the shortlisted companies individually. Give all of them the same brief of the event objective, budget and what you expect as far as number of attendees, seating formats, décor, stage requirements, handling contingencies, attendee check in and whatever other info you feel they should have. If a face-to-face meeting is not possible, suggest a video call so you can judge rapport.
Knowledge – even before finalizing your choice, test the knowledge of each of the companies by asking for suggestions related to the intended event. A good candidate should have general knowledge of venues, vendors and approximate costing for some of the elements, F&B suggestions, etc.
Ask for References – peer recommendations are always a great thing however not all companies would be willing to say good things about their competitors. Ask each shortlisted planner to provide references from vendors or clients with whom they have previously done business. Pics of the event would be a great visual reference too. If you have already decided on a venue, asking the venues’ Sales personnel for recommendations of planners they have dealt with is a good way to know of reliable planners.
Personality – if you’re going to deal with someone, it’s important that your personalities don’t clash but it’s also important that the person who is going to deal with vendors on your behalf is not a pushover either. After all it’s your money in their hands and they should be able to negotiate to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ as well as get vendors to deliver and set up elements on schedule.
Get Creative – have one-on-one discussions with the shortlisted planners and toss around creative ideas deciding on what may and may not work. Depending on the event objective, you may need someone with ‘outrageous’ ideas or someone who knows how to organize an elegant event. This kind of discussion will help you judge their creative style.
Quotation – ask all the shortlisted companies to provide a quotation based on the discussed brief. Compare the quality of proposals not just the price. Is there clarity on what exactly they will be providing? Ambiguity will only lead to discord later in the process and disappointment on what you thought was going to be provided versus reality. It should be a customized proposal for your specific event not a copy/paste version that they would use for every event.
Transparency – never accept a quotation with one bulk amount stated. Any company doing business is in it to make money and adding mark ups for goods and charging a service fee are accepted norms. Trying to hide overcharging by showing it as one bulk amount or ‘double-dipping’ is not. Most planners will charge by one or a combination of these means: Commission, Hourly Rate, Percentage of Expenses or Flat Project Fee (a Flat Project Fee will be one bulk amount). Expect transparency in the pricing and any company that does not provide that should be taken off the table without a second thought.
Contract – once a decision is made on which event planner you’d like to proceed with, request for a written contract. Have your Legal team review it to ensure all the points agreed upon are included and confirm that a termination clause enabling suspension of the contract owing to unsatisfactory service is included.
Follow Through – planning an event is not a ‘one meeting’ kind of thing. Regular updates should be provided all through from planning up until the actual event. If at any point you feel a lack of follow-through, meet up with the event planner to remedy the situation. If lack of follow-through still continues, consider terminating their service and going with your next choice. Ensure you have a legal way of getting out of the contract if you are dissatisfied at any point.
Hiring an event planner that fits not only your personality type but offers transparency, quality of service and knowledge at a good price can be tough. Having loads of providers in the market, it’s up to you to do your research so that halfway through the process you don’t end up regretting your decision.
More precision on what is expected from the event will facilitate a detailed quotation but if the event planner does not have follow-through, it could still all go sideways!
The more due diligence you put into the initial stages, the better the outcome with an event planner who will achieve an event of which you would be happy and proud.