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Events are an awesome tool for growing your business if they’re run well – but that’s actually harder to do than you’d think. If you don’t know what you’re doing when you plan an event, there’s a good chance it’s going to end up being a dud. It’s really no surprise, then, that so many businesses hire event planners to do the job for them; it’s the best way to make sure things go off without a hitch.

Of course, bringing in someone to manage your events – whether you’re hiring on a permanent or contractual basis – comes with its own crop of problems. You need to make sure you’re hiring someone who knows the industry. You want someone who knows what they’re doing; someone who can put together events that’ll knock your guests off their feet.

That’s what we’re going to discuss in today’s piece. How can you make sure the event planner you hire is a good fit? What do you have to do to ensure you only bring on experienced, passionate, and – most importantly – skilled people?

What Do Event Planners Do, Exactly?

I think it best to begin with a brief overview of the event management profession. There’s actually a pretty good reason for that – it’s easier to hire someone competent if you know the job you’re hiring for. It’s easier to know whether or not a prospective hire is capable of planning an event if you’ve an understanding of what goes into the job.

See, “event management” is actually a pretty vague catch-all term. The field itself is comprised of a number of different industries. You’ve got your meeting, conference trade show and convention planners who regularly work with businesses on one end; party, wedding, and fundraising planners are on the other. Even then, that’s sort of a general overview – for every type of event in existence, you can bet that there’s a professional who specializes in running it.

For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to assume you’re hiring someone to run a business-related event.  Whoever you ultimately hire, they’ll be responsible for the following:

  • Working out the details of the budget.
  • Design the event so that it meets the client’s needs, and come up with creative ideas to ‘spice things up’ if necessary.
  • Planning the event’s scope, time, location, and schedule.
  • Registration – how much tickets will cost, how they’ll be sold, when they’ll be sold.
  • Getting in touch with partners, vendors, suppliers and sponsors.
  • Co-ordination of marketing efforts for the event.
  • Venue selection and setup.
  • Heading a team of staff and volunteers responsible for running the event.
  • Seeing to equipment such as projectors, cattle gating, audio gear; etc.
  • Monitor the event to ensure everyone is satisfied.

As you’ve likely surmised, it’s not an easy job – not everyone is made for it. The best event management professionals have a sort of natural charisma, coupled with considerable organizational skills. At the same time, they’re artists of a sort; with a great deal of passion and a boundless well of creativity. If you’re a good judge of character, it shouldn’t be hard to pick people like this out – and to determine when someone doesn’t possess all of these traits.

Why Are You Hiring In The First Place?

Now that you’ve a general idea of the event management profession, it’s time to start thinking about why you want to hire an event planner. What sort of event are you looking to run? More importantly, do you want to bring in someone on a temporary basis, or a permanent one?

The second question’s more important than you’d think. Plenty of the top event management professionals and firms in the industry work strictly on a contract-by-contract basis; although they’ve a crop of regular clients they frequently do business with, they can’t be said to belong to any organization but their own. Looking to hire an event planner as a permanent employee means you’re actually limiting your choices a great deal; for that reason, unless you’re planning to make events a core element of your organization (as in, you want to be known at least in part as an event management firm), I’d strongly advise simply contracting the work out to an external source.

It’s also important to consider what you want your event planner to do, says event planning expert Rob Hard. Again, I’m not simply referring to the type of event you’re looking to run. The general theme, feel, and concept of your event should be decided before you even start to think of looking for someone to run it.

“What activities and services do you need the external resource to handle on your behalf?”  Writes Hard; “will they help with selecting the venue(s)? Will they build menus and make those recommendations? Are they helping with creating important communication items, such as invitations and other event materials? Do they need to source entertainment and speakers? Will they be needed on site at the event? Will they handle event registration?”

You need to ask – and answer – all of these questions before diving into the hiring process.

Where Should You Look?

Right, you have an idea of what event planners do – more importantly, you know what you want an event management professional to do for you. Now it’s time for the hard part. Where can you find someone to run your event?

“If you’re trying to find the best event planner for your event,” says Hard; “then it’s best to research someone who is experienced and holds a strong reputation within the community of event planners. Word of mouth provides an opportunity for easy sales for a planner wanting to find new clients, but peer reputation is very effective.”

Of course, you shouldn’t rely on word-of-mouth alone. Generally speaking, continues Hard, the best place to find an event management professional is at one of the many different professional organizations devoted to event planning. These include Meeting Professionals International, The International Special Events Society, The National Association of Catering Executives; you get the idea.

“It’s also relevant to find out who is publishing articles in there industry,” Hard adds.

Hard mentions one other source, which he cites as all-too-often overlooked: the local market. Checking with a local Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotel chain, or governmental organization could quickly put you in touch with some of the best event planners in your area. Even if you think it unlikely your efforts will bear fruit, it doesn’t take all that much energy to toss out an email or make a simple phone call.

Of course, if you’re looking to hire someone on a permanent basis, it gets a little more complicated. Look for someone with a background in marketing or communications – or better yet, someone with an event planning degree. Get in touch with any nearby universities that offer event planning programs, and toss up a listing on job boards such as Monster and Workopolis.

What Should You Ask In The Interview?

As with any position, the most nerve-wracking portion (for both the hiring organization and the prospective hire, believe it or not) is the interview. You’re not going to be able to get by with a few generic questions and a gut feeling here – you need to make sure your questions actually test the knowledge, skill, and passion of the person you’re interviewing.

Thankfully, Event Juice’s Michael has published a rather fantastic piece on the topic, where he lays out a host of awesome questions that’ll help any professional to determine whether or not someone’s fit to be running an event.  According to Michael, your questions should test the prospect on three specific areas: general knowledge, strategy/tactics, and websites, systems, tools, and metrics. Although I’m not going to cite his article in its entirety (seriously, click through to Event Juice and give it a read; it’s worth your time), I’ve included some of his example questions below:

General Knowledge:

 

  • What does DDR stand for? What is typically included in a DDR?
  • How do you keep up-to-date with industry changes?
  • Give me five of your favorite venues. Why are they your favorites?

 

Strategy and Tactics

  • You have been give a brief of organizing a team building event for 150 Google employees to get them sharing resources and working better together. Brainstorm with me some suitable bespoke ideas to achieve the brief.
  • What are some of your favorite ways to enhance an event on a budget?
  • [Established brand name] is planning an advertising campaign to reinvent itself as a young, cool brand and you have been briefed with organizing the launch. Explain how you would approach selecting a venue for this.

Websites, Systems, Tools, and Metrics

  • How do you decide how much money to charge a client for an event?
  • How do you measure an event’s success?
  • What tools do you use to source and record venues?

See why having a general concept of event management is important? The fact is that unless you’re hiring a well-established, extremely renowned firm (which plenty of businesses can’t afford to do), you need to run interviews. And like it or not, you won’t be able to come up with effective interview questions unless you actually know a bit about event management.

What Should You Do About The Contract?

Now, if your business – like most – is hiring an event planner on a contractual basis, then there’s a good chance you’ll be given a few papers to sign.

See, most event management firms have clients sign some sort of contract before they agree to work with them (and you should take it as a red flag if the planner or firm you’re hiring doesn’t have one). Pay close attention to whatever you’re being made to sign, and make absolutely certain that you read the fine print. Seek out a legal professional to go over the details with you – the event planner in question likely won’t take offense unless they’re trying to pull a fast one on you.

While you’re at it, make sure you’ve a clear concept of all the fees and terms of your working relationship with your event planner up front. Nothing makes a partnership go sour faster than having to pay a fee you weren’t aware of, or finding out a huge percentage of the profits will be siphoned away from your business. It’s all about due diligence here, really.

In Closing

You should have a general idea of everything that’s involved in hiring an event management professional for your organization, on either a permanent basis or a contractual one. As always, if you’ve anything to add – any questions, comments, or concerns – then give a shout below.