Five Significant Ethical Issues In The Event Industry

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

As with any industry, event planning has its own set of sticky ethical issues to deal with. As an event manager, you’re eventually going to be faced with a moral dilemma (or two, or three…) over the course of your career. How you deal with them will not only define you as a professional, but as a person.

It’s important that you’re made aware five ethical issues you might face in the event industry – and equally as important that you approach them with integrity.

Honest Representation

A few weeks ago we wrote about the most significant challenges a wedding planner may face – among these was ‘low grade competition; planners who have no idea what they’re capable of and either make promises they can’t keep or charge far lower rates for services than any sane professional should.

There is a difference between overestimating your capabilities and lying about them. Make sure you’re always honest with your clients, and lay the groundwork before making commitments. Through due diligence and planning, you’re able to represent your capabilities more accurately.

Never gouge clients. If tempted to pad a cost or add a fee for going the extra mile, remember you’re building a reputation. Treat clients with respect, and they’ll repay you in kind.

Rewards And Incentives

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with providing incentives for attendance beyond simple takeaways (or in the case of guest speakers, payment). You need to make sure, however, that this doesn’t become all you focus on. If your events become more about what you’re going to give people for attending rather than the information and the value your event as whole will offer them so they want to attend, you know you’ve got a problem.

Gift bags and free software only go so far; often people will show for the first half of an event and leave at “set break”. You’ll think you’re doing well with a full house and then your keynote is speaking to an empty room. Your event should offer some value to your target audience from start to finish to walk away to follow up.

FAM Abuse

If you’re a corporate event manager, there’s a good chance you’ve gone on at least one FAM trip – an expense-paid journey to a location in order to “familiarize” you with that particular locale from an event planning perspective. Already, I’m certain you see the potential for abuse here – an event planner could easily go on a FAM trip to a venue they’ve no intention of hosting at, simply because they want to go on a vacation (or because the venue owner desperately wanted the planner to come.)

Hard to say no to a paid vacation, but take one to many venue owners up on the offer and you may miss out on the opportunity you really want and can use professionally. Consider being proactive. Where do you wish an event? Have your cake and eat it too, just make it worth your while professionally!

Doing an on-location dry run for an event is an industry norm – ask a venue if they’ll consider having you visit the facility and walking you and a friend through your wish list of activities.

Social Media Mishaps

This one’s more on attendees than on you specifically. We’re more connected than at any other time in human history – and that can be a very bad thing when it comes to the types of social media posts people make – everything from breaching company policy to defaming the competition (particularly relevant at corporate meetings or private industry summits.) You need to ensure that you brief all your guests beforehand on acceptable behavior –and remember that anything you and your staff post online is actually your responsibility.

You can’t control what outsiders post, but you can suggest proper behavior. Sometimes simply telling people what’s expected keeps them in line. Or the opposite – know you’re crowd! 

Intellectual Property

Lastly, intellectual property is a difficult ethical issue in modern society, and its umbrella extends over event planning, from the music, graphic design, media, to your association with your colleagues. Creative Ideas don’t blossom in a vacuum, but understand where your own idea originated from and how it morphed to become a stand-alone concept. This can be difficult in events, and sometimes a game is just a game and is indeed played one way.

In all cases, there’s one thing to be said about intellectual property: don’t steal, even if you’re just poaching an idea.


Every industry has its fair share of ethical concerns – event management certainly isn’t immune to this truth. As an event planner, you need to be aware of some of the quandaries you might face – and prepared to act morally as you do. While the easy way often seems the simple way, you’ll only end up paying for it in the long run.