Imagine this scenario: you’ve been tasked to organize a user group conference, sales incentive program, product launch, corporate retreat, annual fundraiser, or fill in the blank here. You need to hit it out of the park, but it’s a first time event at your company, and planning is not your primary role or in your wheelhouse. You are also aware that events, when executed successfully, are an essential part of your marketing mix. You realize you should seek the expertise of an outside event management agency to help save time and money, and deliver optimal results. But how do you select the best company for the task?
What do event management companies do?
First, what is an event management company, and what support can they offer? Event management companies provide expertise and services in planning, organizing, and executing all or certain elements of an event on behalf of their clients. Services may include the following:
- Branding/event identity
- Budget management
- Concept and theme development
- Entertainment management
- Event collateral design
- Event layout and design
- Event marketing and promotion
- Event production and A/V
- Event sustainability
- Food/beverage management
- Entertainment/leisure activity coordination
- Housing management
- On-site event management and event execution
- Post-event analysis
- Promotion and social media
- Registration management
- Safety and security
- Site research and selection
- Speaker management
- Special events
- Supplier contracts and negotiations
- Travel arrangements/transportation management
- VIP services
- Virtual and hybrid event services
- And more
There are different types of event companies/partners to select from, including freelance professionals, production companies, and full-service events agencies. Knowing the scope and scale of your event needs and having a clear idea of budget can help the selection process.
A freelance event professional might be your best option when you are looking to fill a staffing gap, manage a small-scale meeting, or have a small budget. If your event needs are strictly technical (i.e., livestreaming, lighting, stage design, videography, audiovisual support, etc.), then a production company may be the better choice. For more comprehensive, strategic planning or mid to large-scale projects, a full-service events company, like Castle, will handle all aspects of event planning from concept to completion. We tend to think of ourselves like an event general contractor. Similar to building a home or other structure, an event management company ensures that each facet of the event program is not only structurally sound but aesthetically pleasing, comfortable for guests, on time and budget.
Why hire an event management company?
Going back to the opening scenario, it’s wise to hire an outside agency when any or all the following apply: you need guidance/support on event strategy and tactics, you have limited in-house capacity, logistics do not fall in your wheelhouse, you are seeking to better engage your audience, and want to take your event to the next level. An events agency can help provide strategic insight, manage the project timeline, source and coordinate vendors, drive deliverables, execute the program onsite, and help you sleep at night! Working with an agency can help save time and money due to the company’s efficiencies, negotiating expertise, and vendor relationships/purchasing power. Experienced planners/agencies can also provide counsel on how to avoid pitfalls throughout the planning process and how to add value to your overall program.
10 Things to look for in an event management company
Experience– Perhaps the most important quality to consider when hiring an event planner is the depth and breadth of experience they can bring to your event. Inquire about the number and type of events produced, the tenure of employees, and project management style. Make sure the experience matches the type of event you are seeking to host. For example, if you are planning a large-scale trade show with multiple exhibitors and sponsors vs. an exclusive sales incentive program with attendee travel coordination, the services required may be very different. At Castle, our management team has been with Castle for an average of 13 years, producing hundreds of events worldwide in all shapes and sizes, representing clients from the non-profit, public, and private sectors.
Strategic counsel– Many companies offer planning and logistical services. However, does the event management company have the ability to see the big picture, understand your event goals, and plan everything toward this end? Having a strategic partner in the planning process can provide the extra step necessary to maximize your ROI.
Partner/vendor relationships– From event venues and caterers to photographers, tent companies, and city permit offices, the art of planning involves coordinating with many different vendors and industry contacts. A well-connected event management company that has established relationships with a reliable, trusted, and diverse set of vendors can save time and money, and lead to a smoother planning process and overall event execution.
Creativity and innovation– Creativity plays an important part in achieving a memorable and unique event. Ideally, an outside events agency should bring fresh ideas to the table and engage with you in creative brainstorming; helping develop themes, design, layout concepts, entertainment and engagement ideas, and ways to wow your audience. The company you hire should be on top of industry/audience trends and know what works and what doesn’t in your event setting. A good event management company also knows how to work creatively to make the most out of any budget.
Credibility/reputation– As part of the decision-making process, it’s wise to check references, seek testimonials from past or current clients, and ask to see examples (photos, videos, case studies, etc.) of past events. Reputable event management companies will have client rosters and a strong portfolio of work to share. This feedback can help verify if the company delivers the quality service and results that you require. It also provides a level of trust, knowing that others have had successful experiences and were satisfied customers.
Tech savvy– In today’s digital age, technology is integral to event management. Ensure the company you are hiring is up to date with registration platforms, mobile apps, virtual event capabilities, and other technologies necessary for your event’s success. Being tech-savvy can save you time, create efficiencies, and help create a seamless experience for guests.
Clear services and pricing– You may need an event management company to perform all or a few event planning pieces. A company should be upfront about the services they can perform and their pricing. Is the scope of services clearly defined so that both parties can identify what the client vs. the planner will be responsible for? Make sure to require a formal contract and ensure all terms, policies, and pricing are clear and align with your expectations before signing.
Sustainability– Hosting sustainable events is becoming increasingly important to the triple bottom line (people, planet, and prosperity). If going green is a focus, seek a planning company that has experience with sustainable event management and can integrate sustainable practices into the planning process. They should be able to offer eco-friendly alternatives and address aspects such as waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing (gifts, signage, catering, etc.), and transportation options. At Castle, our team is well versed and/or certified in event sustainability. We are committed to utilizing and promoting sustainability practices that help our clients make a positive impact.
Flexibility and adaptability– Every event planner will agree that the most important thing to expect when planning is the unexpected. Events can be unpredictable, and plans often need to change on the fly. Assess how the company handles unanticipated challenges and adjusts to last-minute changes. A flexible agency should have contingency plans for various aspects of your event.
Communication skills– Effective communication is crucial in event planning. Pay attention to how the company communicates with you during the initial stages of your engagement. Is the dialogue open and easy? Is the company responsive and attentive to your needs? You want a partner who listens to your ideas, provides feedback, and communicates clearly throughout the planning process. Additionally, successful event planning requires communication with multiple stakeholders, including vendors, speakers, sponsors, suppliers, venue, and event staff. Strong communication skills are a must to ensure all parties work together seamlessly.
Get started with the best event management company
Without the right support, planning events can be downright overwhelming. Many factors must come together flawlessly to ensure success and make sure your goals are achieved. Rather than go it alone, know that an expert planner can be your best ally. Call the Castle events team to help!