Many in-house meeting and event planning departments find themselves short staffed but with no budget or time to hire and train an additional meeting planner. Or they are only short staffed leading up to their main conference, but do not have enough tasks or responsibilities during the quieter times of the year to warrant hiring an additional person.
What to do? Using a Third Party (also known as a meetings intermediary, an independent planner, a meeting broker or a meeting consultant) can be the perfect solution. There are several benefits of outsourcing some or all of the design, planning, coordination and execution of an organization’s meetings, event and conferences:
Many meeting and event professionals are so busy ironing out the details of the next conference that it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. It is important for meetings staff to know what internal and external stake holders expect and need.
By outsourcing the development of a quality RFP, site sourcing and agreement negotiations to a third party, in-house meeting professionals reportedly save about three to four hours per week. This gives them the time to take a step back, ask themselves the hard questions and think more strategic.
Many organizations are not prepared if their top meeting planner suddenly decides to leave their organization. Using a third party can give the company more assurance of a smooth transition until the next meetings rockstar is hired, properly trained and is settled in his or her new role.
Besides the money an organization saves by not having to hire an additional (full-time, part-time or temporary) meeting planner, there are several other reasons third parties can reduce cost. Some examples:
- It’s not just the salary of that additional person. Additional costs and overhead like health insurance, office space, workers comp, etc. can be as high as 40 to 50% of a person’s salary.
- Using the consultant’s expertise to negotiate better room rates, meeting space rental fees and concessions.
- Organizations use local conference management associates to assist or run a meeting or conference onsite, saving travel costs.
- Same with site inspections: organizations use local consultants to provide them with their experience with a particular property. Or they ask them to do a site visit, potentially saving travel costs and the cost of being out of the office.
- Many third party firms have a database of thousands of hotels (e.g. ConferenceDirect’s database contains detailed information on 130,000 properties!), which can save hours of searching and contacting various properties.
Third Parties Have a Network, Existing Relationships and Buying Power
Another advantage of using a third party are their contacts and relationships with hotels, resorts, convention centers and vendors.
Larger third party companies have a network of associates all over the country or even the world. For example, ConferenceDirect has almost 400 independent associates that share recommendations and information all the time. An associate in a customer’s preferred destination might know the best local DMC or production company. Or even where to go for the best slice of pizza or coldest glass of beer for your overworked staff!
Buying power should be used to get the best deal for the client. Last year, in 2017, ConferenceDirect associates booked a total of 11,560 meetings, with a total of 3.7 million room nights, which results in a tremendous amount of buying power.
There are more than 60 negotiable terms in an average hotel agreement that can potentially cost a company a great deal of money if not negotiated correctly. Many third party associates have received the proper training and have the experience to know what to look for when it comes to hotel or venue agreements.
Some companies such as ConferenceDirect actually have pre-negotiated agreements with many of the largest hotel groups, such as Marriott (6,500 properties, 30 brands) and Hilton (5,200 properties, 14 brands) and many more. These agreements can include client-friendly clauses such as favorable attrition, group rate availability after the cut-off date, better cancellation terms and much more.
Technology and Event Tech Trends
Advanced technology to streamline and optimize meetings, events and conferences has come far in the last years. There are many solutions out there that can save countless hours of frustrating work. Unfortunately, not all meeting professionals have the time, expertise or interest to keep up with it.
Many third parties have the latest tech at their disposal, for registration, mobile apps, housing management, etc. Customers can use the advantages of these software packages or systems, without having to buy or rent it themselves or having to train their staff.
Some Important Things to Consider
Make sure to check the experience of the consultant and his or her company. Talk to some of their other clients or check their references. What is the size of the company the person works, with who are they affiliated and how many meetings do they plan each year (see the paragraph above about buying power)? What is their percentage of repeat clients?
Of course, it is also important to get along and have a productive work relationship. Is he or she taking the time to get to know your organization and conference(s)?
Done right, your decision to outsource your meeting, event or conference will increase your productivity and bottom line, consequently increasing the ever-important ROI of your meeting and organization.