Planning one domestic meeting for ten people can be just as consuming as planning an international incentive trip for one thousand people. It requires endless attention to detail, multiple systems and software programs, and intimate knowledge of a destination’s customs, laws, and tax structures.
If you often find yourself juggling multiple priorities on top of leading all of the planning for a group trip, you are likely asking yourself, “how will I get all of this done?”.
The great news is that you don’t have to do it alone.
Third-party planning firms were created just for you. These firms, often referred to as “incentive houses,” dedicate their whole team to you to make your life easier. Their every effort is spent on taking away the planning headaches so that you can focus on your event’s high-level strategy, as well as your many competing priorities.
Here are 5 things you should know about third party planning firms:
1. Think of Third-Party Planners as the “Planner’s Planner”
These firms consist entirely of fellow planners and support teams to assist you with every single phase of managing your program. They understand your goals and needs and dedicate the right team to ensure your event is executed on time and on budget. Typically, you get a full team dedicated to your every need. With their partnership, your team expands to include a dedicated project manager, event planner, destination specialist, contract attorneys, graphic designer and website registration manager, flight reservation agent, on-site program leaders, and so much more.
As you are planning for a new program, is it challenging to narrow down the best destinations, hotels, and transportation partners? Your planning team will have you covered. In understanding your group’s preferences, they can research and present “best of” lists so you can make quick, informed decisions. And better yet, they can serve as one central point of contact for all vendors – ensuring they meet service guarantees and keep budgets on track.
2. Access their Systems & Suppliers
Managing a successful event requires a lot more than paying attention to the details. It requires a lot of systems that keep everything organized. If you’ve labored over rooming lists, flight manifests, excursion coordination, and even golf club preferences, you know that triple-checking lists is a full-time job. Luckily there are many systems that streamline everything from project management and event registration platforms to flight reservation bookings, graphic design and billing. However, they do come at a significant cost upfront. Third parties typically have contracts already in place with these systems. That means you can access savings and you don’t have to pay annual subscription or set-up fees, nor the time investment necessary to get them working for you.
Third parties have also done all the hard work for vetting every single supplier. Since they have clients with varying attendee numbers, budgets and preferences, they know the best options (and order specifics) for every scenario. Are you trying to find high-end luggage tags for a group of 25 top performers? Ship etched beer stouts to Germany? Find the best videographer with a drone license in Mexico? They’ve got a partner for every need you have.
3. Get More Bang for Your Buck
The more meetings and incentive trips you host throughout the year, the more you can access savings and concessions (better known as “freebies”). Third parties manage anywhere from a few dozen events to thousands of events every year, which means that they have some seriously strong relationships with hotels, tour operators, transportation partners, and every other vendor who support executing an event. With their increased buying power, they can leverage those relationships and secure significant benefits for your program. They also have contract specialists who know exactly what clauses are needed to protect your event and your dollars.
4. Ensure You’re Getting the Best Service for Your Guests
Whether you’re hosting a retreat for ten of your top executives, or an incentive for 500 award winners, the service that they receive needs to be VIP at every turn. But with smaller groups, you can’t always count on that high level kind of service. While those ten c-suite leaders are indeed VIPs, they only represent ten rooms to a hotel. The reality is that smaller groups may not generate significant revenue for the property hotel. Sometimes service levels suffer for smaller groups because of this. A huge benefit to having a third-party partner at your side is that event vendors know that these planning firms represent a lot of clients, so if the vendors work really hard to accommodate a small group’s every need, it is very likely they could have more opportunities for additional (and potentially larger, more revenue-generating) business with them.
5. They Treat YOU like the Award Winner
You do everything to make sure your incentive award winners and meeting attendees are taken care of. But what if you got to feel a little love every now and then too? Working with a third party means you are their client, and they treat you with every ounce of white-glove service you could want. A third-party firm is your partner, and they serve as an extension of you. On top of supporting you with your program, they are there to take care of you and your needs.
This list of five items is truly just the start of how third-party planning firms can support you. If the items listed here sound appealing and valuable to you, and you could really use an “easy button” for planning – know that you have some great options right at your fingertips. Set up a few calls with third-party partners to learn more about how they can support you and your next program.
If you’re looking for some extra tips on planning, follow Achieve Incentives & Meetings’ Instagram account for access to our weekly #PlannerTips.