As long as I have been involved in meetings and incentives, I have watched corporations go through the struggle of deciding if their events are best run by their own staff or by outside event professionals. Although making a choice seems the only logical solution, in truth the issue does not necessarily mean that a company has to choose a single option.
As a corporate planner at both Tupperware and Bombardier Aerospace I lead an event staff that oversaw dozens of events each year, ranging from regional sales meetings to aircraft deliveries to employee incentives. At both companies we managed many events in-house, but employed outside companies to oversee certain events that required a time investment that we could not make with our resources or required specific skills that we thought were better provided by external professionals. The decision was always based on our determination on how to best achieve the corporate objectives.
The event business has certainly changed substantially in the past three decades. Specialty sourcing companies like HelmsBriscoe and The Meeting Encore Group have grown using their expertise to find the appropriate space for corporate clients who do not have their own event procurement specialists or prefer relying on external professionals to handle sourcing and contracting. The drive to obtain efficiencies and consolidate spend has spurred the growth of Consolidated Meeting Management platforms and the development of event management technologies, driving the growth of companies like Cvent and StarCite. Many corporations use these platforms to track opportunities and expenditures and guarantee policy compliance.
Full service providers like Bond Brand Loyalty or Aimia (who I work for) can do a lot more for their clients than just oversee meeting and incentive logistics. Today, full service companies offer print and on-line communication strategy and operational expertise, ensure that every aspect of an event or incentive trip from the initial announcement to the post-event messaging is supporting the objective, assist with gamification to engage attendees, ensure that professionals with the best experience and expertise follow established processes to drive client success, and maximize financial efficiencies.
So the in-house or outsource decision does not have to be an “either – or” choice. Companies may want to manage most meetings in-house but have a strong event management partner to design and deliver channel and employee incentives. Alternatively, corporations may not have the internal resources to manage every event they operate and so engage partners for specific client or internal gatherings.
If I can offer any advice to a company considering engaging an event partner, it would be to ensure that you base your selection on how the partner can best support your needs and objectives. You may even want to meet with several suppliers to talk about you do now and how they might envision helping you get even more from your event expenditures in the future. Finally, encourage your staff to look at suppliers as partners if you really want total alignment and synergy.
– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for Aimia’s Channel and Employee division in Canada. He has been a corporate, third party and independent event professional for over 25 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors, and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com.