OK, you have to begin planning your next conference, incentive, dinner or other headline event. Where to start? If you are new to the role or feel it is time for a change, you fire up your favourite search engine and start looking for a professional conference organiser (PCO) or event manager.
The standard process these days is to prepare a detailed brief covering all aspects of the event then ask a number of PCOs to reply in writing with a full work up of the event. While this may be the right way to buy a fleet of vehicles or contract out a call centre, it is the wrong way to select a partner who will help you create a range of experiences that will engage your audience which, after all, is what events are all about.
Event design and delivery is not a service where normal procurement procedures add much value. You’re not looking for a response to a technical specification, you are trying to find the people for your team – right fit. Why go to the trouble of selecting a specialist then telling them chapter and verse how to do their job? Switch it around. Why not find a team of people who understand your needs and vision and then together create the event blueprint within your event parameters?
So find two or three companies and call them to determine their level of experience and working style. If they pass this first hurdle, send them a briefing document which clearly and simply sets out the key elements of the event:
- Overview of the event including why you are doing it – key objectives
- Approximate date and duration of the event
- Approximate guest numbers
- Brief profile on the guests (average age, job titles, experience and so on)
- Previous similar events – destinations, guest numbers
- Description of what you want the PCO to deliver
- Approximate budget
- Advise that you are available for a call to answer questions
Give them a deadline to come and present to you. That’s it. Get to know each other, their relative strengths and, most importantly, discuss what you really what to achieve. This approach will determine best fit before going to the effort preparing elaborate proposals that might just be wasted time. Besides, you would hope that any plans made before you have appointed the your event specialist will be changed and brought to life as they get to know you and you take advantage of their expertise.
Here’s the crunch – you are not really trying to compare like with like, you’re trying to find a partner you like. A good starting point is to watch them in action in presenting to you, so let them do it their way. After all, you are going to the market to look for specialist assistance so let the specialists present as they see fit. This allows you to learn more about them rather than just comparing written proposals. Remember that they are there to help you create memorable and engaging experiences.
- How confident are they?
- Are they really looking to meet your needs or telling you how it should be done?
- Watch the style of the presentation, is this what you want in your event?
- How responsive are they to your questions?
- Are they using this as an opportunity to learn more about your business?
- Can they deliver the key elements of your requirement within your budget?
At the end of this second step, pick someone whose style and grasp of your objectives fit your needs. Then get into the detailed planning, but more on that at another time.