Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How much would a Meeting Planner charge to produce my event?

That’s a tricky one to answer and there is no way I could give a realistic estimate without knowing details. So – let’s look at how the Meeting Planner would come up with an answer for you. It mostly comes down to two main factors…

To begin with, it depends on how the planer expects to get paid. Do they work on commission or do they use a “fee for service” structure? If they are “fee for service”, do they charge by the hour or by the job? Or, do they mix the difference fee options? [For more on how meeting planners get paid, check out this post.] Each approach yields different answers in terms of how much you would need to pay the planner, though the amount earned by the planner often ends up being roughly the same.

The second piece of this puzzle is the event itself and what you items you want the planner to handle. This is, in many ways, the greater of the two factors as well as being the more complex of the two. A couple of things you may recall from earlier posts: event RFPs outline the basic structure of the event and staffing (who staffs the event and how many people you will need) helps determine the planner’s physical presence at your event. But these areas only scratch the surface of what a planner will want (need!) to know about your event before they can give you an accurate estimate of cost… What more will they want to know? Well, once you get past the basic information about when, where, and how many people, a meeting planner will want details about each task that you want them to do. Each task requires a different amount of work and that amount is potentially different for each event – even for the same task.

For example, if you want the planer to handle registration, then information about how many people you expect to attend, what fees they will pay (if any) and who collects those fees, who produces name badges, etc. will all be useful for the planner to know in building a quote for you. Similarly, asking the meeting planner to handle all of your food arrangements will involve needing to know how many food functions you will have, how many people you anticipate attending each one, and meal restrictions or guidelines. And, an event for twenty people will require different things than an event for several thousand (though there are many similarities). Basically, the more information you can provide for each task you wish the meeting planner to do for you, the more accurate a quote they can provide.

When RDL works on a response to an RFP, we examine each task area that the potential client is asking us to do, while looking at how that task fits into the “big picture” of the event. We then start building the estimated “fee for service”, using a grid that outlines each task area with the common jobs within each area (and, no, I can’t share the grid…sorry). The grid allows us to estimate the hours required for each job and for each level of staff expertise, then calculate a total for the event. One of the nice things about this approach is its ability to take in account overlapping task areas when pricing an event. For example, the budget management task area includes many jobs and responsibilities that also appear in areas like site selection, food ordering and management, attendee reimbursements, and audio-visual services, just to name a few. If we are handling multiple areas for a client, we can often reduce the charge for those services below what they would be if you simply ordered services off of a “menu”. The whole costs less than the sum of the parts…

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry about it too much. Remember, meeting planners – especially the independents – are used to doing this on a regular basis. They can get you a cost estimate fairly quickly. However, be ready to answer their questions in as much detail as you can so they can give you a more accurate response.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises