Many professional event managers have the talents you need. However, there are individuals out there who call themselves planners, but they may lack the breadth of skills and experience necessary to effectively produce and manage your event. This can lead to poor outcomes, and even place your organization at financial, public relations or legal risk.
You will be working very closely with your event team. Make sure they are a good fit for you and your organization, as planners can differ greatly in management styles, approaches and processes.
By the way, get references from vendors as well as clients. Ask if your prospective manager is good to work with. Do they communicate well? Do they pay their bills in a timely manner?
Here are sample questions you may want to ask:
Q: What type of events do you organize the most?
There are crucial differences between conferences, trade shows, weddings, reunions, sporting events and fundraisers. Find out about their qualifications for handling your particular type of event.
Q: How do you staff your projects?
Is the work done by one person or a team? Are they full time staff, independent contractors, interns, temps? Who will be your key point of contact? Who will be on-site at the event? Is there backup support if a key person is not available?
Q: What is your experience in fiscal management?
Your event manager may be processing large amounts of money on your behalf. If they handle funds for you, they should have a fidelity bond. Ask about the size of the budgets they manage, their ability to handle cash flow, how they handle registration funds and their payment cycles.
Q: Do you carry liability insurance?
A professional event planner will – it protects them, and you, during an event. Check whether they can provide advice on risk mitigation, and if supplemental insurance is recommended for your organization.
Q: What services are included in your fee?
Event planners have different ways of charging for their services; hourly, flat fee, percentage, cost-per-person. Most are upfront about their costs, but something you think is included may not be. Discuss fees and services in detail and avoid surprises later. Do they mark up third party vendor costs or take commissions? If so, they should disclose this in advance.
Q: Tell me about your experience with….
This question will vary based on the scope of services you need. Find out the extent of their experience in the areas that matter most to you – marketing, registration, evaluation, social media, contract negotiations, etc.
Q: What types of software and technology are you familiar with?
What tools do they employ for project management, web design, evaluation, budgets, registration, etc.? If there are specific tools that you use, make sure they can work within your requirements.
Q: When things do not go as planned, how do you fix them?
Events involve people, weather and technology; three things that have a mind of their own. An experienced planner knows how to solve problems under pressure and remain calm under stress. Ask them to share a couple of “behind the scenes” stories with you and how they handled them. (If they claim not to have any, they are not being truthful).
Q: How do you stay current with industry trends and issues?
Trends, technology, laws, generational impacts, and learning approaches are constantly changing within the meetings industry. How does your planner stay on top of this? Are they involved in professional organizations? Do they attend conferences? What industry publications do they read? Do they have any certifications?
Q: What is your cancellation and refund policy?
Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Most planners will charge for hours and services already utilized, and any purchases acquired. Make sure you know the details of their contract terms for cancelling, postponing or otherwise changing your event up front.