Is Outsourcing Conference Management a Good Option for Your Association?

Selecting a management firm to handle your conference is a big decision for any not-for-profit organization as you are placing a lot of responsibility in the hands of someone else who will be responsible, in part, for the success or failure of the event you are planning.

The decision to outsource the planning and management or your conference or event really depends upon the size and complexity of the event you are planning. It also depends on the availability of staff and volunteers and whether they have the ability and expertise to properly plan, manage, and execute the event. To help you make the decision on whether to keep the event in-house or outsource it to a management company, we would like you to consider the following:

Keeping the Conference or Event In-house

  • What experience do staff/volunteers have to handle the type and size of conference or event you are planning?
  • Do staff/volunteers have sufficient time over and above their normal day-to-day responsibilities to be able to properly manage the conference or event? This is often a pitfall to many conferences and events that are kept in-house. The time involved is underestimated and many details for the event get missed or not completed to the best that they should.
  • Can the team leader motivate others to volunteer and provide support?
  • Does the team leader have the technical knowledge of the conference medium?
  • Does the team leader have experience negotiating with venues and hotels for proper room blocks and meeting room assignments?
  • Are staff/volunteers willing to work late nights and over weekends?
  • Do staff/volunteers work well together, especially under pressure?
  • Is there sufficient technology and software available to handle communications and registration?
  • Do staff/volunteers have enough experience to properly budget for the size and type of conference or event being planned?
  • Do staff/volunteers have enough experience to keep the event's financial records in order?
  • At what cost is it to the organization by keeping the event or conference in-house?  Keep in mind, you may not have to pay for certain resources and staff/volunteers directly, however, it doesn’t mean the resources and staff/volunteer time comes without a cost. Time is money, especially when you have a paid staff. What percentage of staff time are you willing to devote to the organizing of an event or conference? Once again, don’t underestimate the time it takes to properly plan and execute a conference.
  • If this is a regular or annual event, are the staff/volunteers ready to start working on the next event immediately following the current one?

Outsourcing the Conference or Event

There are plenty of good reasons why outsourcing an event is a good option for your association, many of which were highlighted in the previous section on the in-house option. In addition to those reasons, there are a few additional key points to consider:

  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to plan, organize, manage and execute an event, especially if the person or team in charge has little experience and resources.
  • Don’t assume keeping the event in-house is cost free to the organization. Time is money, especially when you have paid staff. It is even more costly, if your event loses money unnecessarily due to the inexperience of staff/volunteers organizing the event. Professional event management companies can actually save you money through their stronger negotiation power, experience and resources.
  • Be clear on what it is you want the event management company to handle. Have clear expectations.
  • Choose a management firm that has been around long enough to establish good connections and resources.
  • Choose a management firm with a good reputation in the industry.
  • The success of the event management company is dependant on the success of the event(s) they are contracted to handle. They have a vested interest in and are highly committed to ensuring the success of your events.

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