responsible for planning meetings,
conferences and events for their
organizations may decide to use
the services of a meeting or event-planning
firm. These companies will assist
in site selection, contract negotiations,
and the creative and logistical
demands that make a business successful.
However, this decision has its pitfalls,
including financial risks.
firms have a number of options when
pricing their services. They may
add a percentage (from 10 percent
to as much as 30 percent) to the
cost of the event, work through
commissions from the various suppliers,
mark up the individual events, charge
on a per-person basis, or charge
a management fee. Each option has
an effect on your bottom line.
far the least risky approach is
to pay a management fee, since the
other options offer planners a disincentive
to negotiate the best prices for
you. And keep in mind, within the
planning industry it is considered
highly unethical to use more than
one of the above forms of compensation
without full disclosure to, and
agreement by, you, the client.
the right planning company - one
that best fits your needs and budget
- will go a long way in ensuring
a successful event.
are fine, but requesting a list
of hotels and other venues this
firm previously worked with will
give you a better idea of a planner's
these simple guidelines when comparing
Know your program. Know your
goals and objectives, and your needs
versus your wants.
Prepare a preliminary budget.
By knowing what your business is
worth, you give yourself more negotiating
power. Comparing this budget to
your vendor's proposal allows you
to see how and where the firm may
be marking up your conference costs.
3. Know your planning partner.
References are fine, but requesting
a list of hotels and other venues
this firm previously worked with
will give you a better idea of a
planner's capabilities. By speaking
with the convention services managers
at these facilities, you should
gain a more accurate assessment
of the planning firm's abilities.
4. Prepare an accurate request
for proposal (RFP) - Highlight
the facts and requirements as you
currently know them, such as the
number of attendees, the need for
guest and meeting rooms, AV equipment,
and banquet and recreational facilities.
And ask what "miscellaneous"
charges you should anticipate -
ones you may have neglected to include
in your RFP. When requesting a proposal,
ask the firm to first outline the
basics (and the corresponding costs)
for a successful event. Then, have
the company list its suggested optional
upgrades. This will allow you to
pick and choose the items that fit
your needs, and see the costs associated
5. Request a list of upcoming
programs. Then go on-site to
experience what their attendees
are experiencing, get a feel for
the service and the planning firm's
6. Make sure vendor invoices
accompany the final billing.
Don't sign an agreement without
assurance that copies of the vendor's
invoices are available for your
review. While not a perfect solution,
it will make overcharging by your
planning firm more difficult.
7. Don't be afraid to negotiate.
And remember everything is
K. Kustwan is the owner of OnTheMark,
a conference consulting and management
company located in East Longmeadow,
MA. He can be reached at
(413) 526-8900 or at: