Great news. My work was recently profiled in a Thumbtack Spotlight. Please click on the logo to read the article.
What a wonderful start to 2016!
One of the groups I'm a part of on LinkedIn, Event Planner Productivity Hacks, recently posted a great discussion question, "Is it unethical to take kick-backs or mark-ups?". This is a question that continues to fuel great debates within the event planning community.
My initial response was absolutely, without a doubt it is unethical. Then I thought about it, is it ALWAYS unethical? Does the answer depend on the type of event planning? Does the answer depend on geographical location/regions? Are there exceptions to the rule as to when mark-ups are widely accepted and expected?
In the wedding planning industry, there are times when a planner receives a commission for referrals if the client decides to book. This is the case for certain event venues, hotels, and even vacation resorts. This is very common and we in the industry do not frown on this practice. It is not unethical to receive the commission, what is unethical is to only recommend vendors that will give commission and to refuse to the viable non-commissionable vendor options.
Event planners may have a vendor relationship that offers discounted or wholesale pricing. If the event planner rents and/or purchases the equipment, the event planner has the right to create a suggested price that may include a markup. In my opinion, as long as the pricing is comparable to the average retail price for the same equipment, it is ethical to markup. What is unethical is to overcharge a customer who is unaware of the pricing.
Event planning trends and customs differ from city to city. In one US city, I worked with an amazing event company that provided an event venue sourcing service. It was a free service for me, the client. The chosen event venue paid a commission to the event company for finding them business once I booked my event. I thought this concept was genius. In this city, it was not uncommon. It is very uncommon in my home city. The event/meeting planning industry widely accepts and appreciates 3rd party sourcing for hotel sleeping room group bookings, but not for unique venues/meeting space.
All in all, my conclusion is that it is not unequivocally unethical to take kick-backs or mark-ups. It is unethical, however, to only focus on your company's opportunities to profit at your client's expense.
I took a blogging break in December. I'm back!!
During the holidays event planners are either very busy planning holiday celebrations or they are preparing their event calendars for the new year. Throughout my career, I have been in both positions. This year, I was definitely busy with the latter.
I believe 2015 will be a rewarding year. So many exciting opportunities on the horizon. Event business will continue to increase and budgets will be larger than years past. Overall business is back; therefore, so are meetings and events.
I look forward to sharing new ideas, interesting tips, and event anecdotes with you.
Happy New Year!
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to plan a variety of events offering innovative event ideas. I thought I would share one of my top ten favorite events.
When I was employed as an event planner for Sage Communications, I was hired by a foundation to design, plan, and execute an event geared towards the young professionals who actively support the arts. The strategic objective of the event was to engage young professionals in the DC metropolitan area. The foundation wanted to create a lasting memory in the attendees’ minds and establish the fall event as the “party to go to”, thus increasing the foundation's visibility within young professional community. Through this event, the foundation would begin to build its base and would start the process of establishing a core group of young professional advocates, supporters, and donors.
The event was definitely not the average cocktail party or reception. It raised the bar and pushed the limits. It added a level of attractiveness, style, and intrigue. The theme was film noir (40's & 50's stylish crime film genre) and the venue was a historic home in the heart of Georgetown.
The COO of the foundation had the brilliant idea to stage a live murder mystery throughout the house as guests arrive. Guests did not know who was in character and who was not. Multiple people "died" over the course of the night, with the last murder taking place via a loud gunshot. During this time, guests were also enjoying hors d'oeuvres from some of the hottest restaurants in DC, listening to an amazing pianist and 40's themed singer, partaking in a whiskey tasting, lining up to be served the flaming craft cocktail served outside, taking 40's themed pictures with props in an awesome photo booth, and exploring the many rooms of the house that were transformed to match the theme.
As the murder mystery ended, we found out who did it, and the standard thank you remarks were made, guests were surprised to see flashing headphones in the ballroom. Everyone rushed over to learn more. We announced dancing would begin in the ballroom as the DJ's speakers suddenly went silent. People wondered if the speakers failed. The flashing colors of the headphones were so intriguing everyone eagerly grabbed a set. As each person put the headphones on, they found the DJ's music was loud and clear.
We introduced silent disco to Washington, DC! The ballroom had approximately 100 guests dancing and the only sounds coming from the ballroom were off-key singing and heels hitting the dance floor. The DJ's music was wireless transmitted to headphones. Even better, people could walk through the house and outside in the gardens still listening to the music. What a sight, to see a couple with headphones on rocking out in the garden as others were quietly talking and enjoying cigars.
The event was a hit! Silent disco helped to solidify this event as stylish and innovative. BizBash listed the event in their Event Report for 2013: 30 Ideas from Fall Benefits.
I all honesty I must admit, NO ONE thought silent disco would work. The host committee blankly stared at us when we introduced the concept, but said they would go along with it.
Lastly, I'm sure you are asking, why did we have silent disco? Well, we introduced silent disco since we had a noise ordinance and could not have amplified music past 10 pm. Silent disco allowed dancing, conversation, and fun until midnight. :)
A seasoned independent event specialist will have a significant number of vendor, supplier, and venue contacts. They know the caterer who specializes in delightful food and service the large 400 to 1000 person galas, the creative caterer who displays works of catering art, and the finest catering company to use for an intimate dinner of 10.
If you want exclusive access, an independent event specialist will deliver it! These planners have relationships with the most prominent restaurants and can secure the “hard to get reservation at the last minute”.
Want to recreate an event you saw in a magazine, your independent event specialist can do it. They know the production company (more importantly the specific tech) that provided lighting for the coveted pre-Super Bowl party. Your event will have the same lighting effect for a fraction of the Super Bowl party’s cost courtesy of your event specialist;s contacts and relationships.
Last minute requests, no problem. Independant event specialists are able to fulfill last minute requests for a specific type of chair to be used on stage for the president of your organization with only hours to spare. When a major storm hits and floods your event venue, they can quickly call another venue/hotel, coordinate a transfer of all vendor deliveries to the new space, and work with the stakeholders to communicate the changes to the guests.
Why are independent event specialists more successful in delivering these positives results? Typically an independent event specialist has worked as an internal planner for a few companies, they have had clients within a number of industries, and they have had experience planning variety of event types. All of these traits create a rather extensive and robust vendor and venue contact list.
If you have an event to plan, considering hiring Christi Rich your strategic event specialist today.
This is a question that almost every freelance event planner has to answer at least once a week.
Event planning, once considered just of the many duties of an administrative assistant, has become a multi-million dollar industry. Today, there are multiple reality event -planning TV shows and movies where the protagonist’s profession is in the events industry. The planners are dressed to impress, the events are lavish, and the work seems like fun. Political events, Hollywood events, and celebrity weddings profiled in magazines and the media showcase the style, creativity, opulence, and glamour of events. Socially, individuals plan their weddings and milestone events becoming wrapped up in the merriment and excitement of the event. I have to admit; even I was caught up in the charm of the movie the Wedding Planner and always purchase the issue of In-Style featuring the Oscars after-parties. And yes, planning my parent’s 25th anniversary party when I was 23 years old made me feel I could plan an amazing party for every couple.
Unfortunately, the movies and magazines do not mention the long hours of planning, difficult contract negotiations, stressful moments of uncertainty that all will go according to plan, and multiple planning matrixes that it takes to pull off the near flawless event. Your event does not have to be an inaugural ball or a major personal milestone event to encounter these types of planning pressures. Every event can benefit by hiring independent event specialist.
Independent event specialists are typically seasoned planners with over 8 to 10 years of experience planning within a number of industries and have planned a variety of event types. They can provide full planning services or focus on one area of event management. They are educated, informed, and aware of the latest trends offering the most innovative and creative ideas for client events. They are connected domestically and, at times, internationally, giving access to food, décor, and entertainment not accessible by those not in the industry. Above all, season planners are skilled in negotiation and contracts, securing the best rates and in-kind donations that are often considered unobtainable. They can work on temporary assignments, serve as a contractor, or work on a retainer.
An independent event specialist can offer a huge return on investment.