Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May
Back to Basics
By Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM
HIRING THIRD-PARTY HELP
Shorthanded and harried? When and how to turn to outside
We all need help sometimes and it’s out there, in the form of
third-party planners offering expertise in every area of the
Yet, many of us are reluctant to take that step, perhaps out of
concern that hiring an independent might threaten our job or blow
Following are some simple ways to answer these concerns and
benefit from third-party expertise.
Independent planning companies ready to handle every aspect of the
meeting, from concept to post-con, can vary in size and services
and often specialize in a specific industry. The size of the firm
does not matter but credentials and references are essential.
One advantage to hiring an independent is the volume discounts
they offer, as many have favorable contracts with national chains.
When to use them. Independent planners are very flexible and
suitable for one-off programs that are too large to handle
in-house. Try to ensure their style and culture is comparable or
complementary to your own.
How they are paid. Independents are paid a fee based on the
service level either a percentage of the program budget or an
hourly rate. Fee plus commission is considered “double dipping” and
is unethical. While some might argue otherwise, any sleeping-room
commissions from the hotel should go back to the event’s bottom
For overseas events, call a professional congress organizer, or
PCO, for help with cultural distinctions, customs questions, site
selection and A/V requirements.
When to use them. Use PCOs for all your international programs.
Many PCOs are bilingual (often multilingual) and have encyclopedic
knowledge of their destinations and local regulations. PCOs are
unique entities nothing similar exists in the United States. The
closest would be a combined international diplomat/independent
meeting planner/destination management company.
How they are paid. PCOs can be paid on commission, but usually
they negotiate a flat fee never both.
FINDING THE VENUE
Site-selection companies track down venues, offer destination
comparisons and negotiate contracts and room rates. When to use
them. These firms are ideal when a planner does not have the time
or resources to compare or select venues. Your group should need a
large room block, otherwise site selectors won’t work with you.
Site-selection firms also are perfect for multiple-venue events,
such as road shows. “Clients who run their own programs but are
constrained by time or staffing are ideal candidates for our
services,” says Brian DiMartino, president of 21st Century Group in
How they are paid. These firms are paid a commission generally
10 percent of the hotel sleeping rooms.
Destination management companies are the pros to call for local
help, planning pre- and post-event tours, providing cultural
knowledge, as well as logistics and suggestions for off-site
locations. They have Rolodexes full of entertainers, transportation
providers and more.
When to use them. Always use a DMC when you are unfamiliar with
your destination. DMCs often offer meeting planning services as
well, just as some independent planners offer destination services.
Unsure which to use? Rely on references to help make your choice.
How they are paid. DMCs receive commissions from vendors or a
straight fee from the event organization, but never both.
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