Hiring an Event Planner with the right mindset and expertise, who exactly knows what your Principal is looking for, can be a daunting task. An Estate Manager needs to source the best Event Planner for your Principal’s requirements and screen them carefully before committing to one.
Benefits of Hiring an Event Planner
- An event planner can suggest venues, recommend food and beverage options, source speakers and entertainment, be on-site for day-of production needs, and handle invitations and RSVPs.
- Event planners can save money and time with built-in vendor networks and resources
- The right event planner can reduce your stress and give you peace of mind
- Event planners are aware of legal and logistical requirements
Understand the Objective
First, you should know precisely what you’re asking the event planner to do. Being an Estate Manager’s EA, I’ve made mistakes down the road, and here are some of my personal observations and understanding that may help you in your process.
Before you start your search for an Event Planner, you need to understand the Principal’s objective, the budget you’re working with, and the reason for hiring externally. Once you’ve defined your objectives and talked through how the event should feel, a few clear ideas will begin to emerge about the theme and message you want to convey. This will help narrow down the prospects you will screen.
Now you’ll want to come up with a Request for Proposal and a budget your Principal has agreed upon for the planner to understand what they will be expected to do. Prepare this as you would any RFP, communicating the broad outline of the event, its most important goals, and measure of success. I typically put a lower budget cap than what has been agreed to so that there’s room for contingencies; at least 15%.
Finding Your Event Planner
Regardless of whether it’s a social event or a corporate meeting, the rules of hiring an event planner remain the same; you want the best team who can execute the best experience. Here are some tips for searching for an Event Planner:
- Look for someone who has expertise in the creating type of experience your principal has envisioned and has handled a similar budget and guest list.
- Find a company with a strong reputation within the community of event planners; Peer reputation is strong indicator of their work ethic and product
- Seek recommendations from other Estate Managers. Their insider experience can be invaluable.
- Keep track of parties that your boss raved about and track down the planner and vendors who executed it.
For me personally, the most difficult part of screening event planners was judging how good someone actually is vs how good they say they are. From what I’ve learned over the years, most event planners will be eager to hear about your principal’s budget first and then start making plans on how they would spend it. My advice to you would be to give them brief details at first; only the type of event, general vibe, location, and number of guests. In the initial round of interviews, focus on their experience in the specific type of event you’re having and whether they have the ability, resources, and the team to execute.
My next steps usually are to:
- Reduce the list of candidates to the three strongest applicants to push up to my Estate Manager.
- Provide each of the ‘finalists’ with the detailed event RFP and request their submission within a set number of days. Ask that they include details about their business, insurance, and payment structure.
- Check candidates references including vendors
- Contact former clients and make sure there aren’t any badly botched events or other issues
Once hired, a good planner will walk you through a discussion about the event’s overall objectives, timeline, budget, guest count, and personal preferences, and also ask questions about your Principal’s organization. After those meetings, the event planner should be able to share a detailed plan for the event with you.
Follow Up (The most important bit)
Event planning requires the effective coordination of logistics, people and expectations. Most event issues are a result of a lack of follow-through and confirmation. Keep track of deliverables and key project milestones for an event as you would any other large-scale project. Don’t assume everything is handled; Get proof – receipts, emails etc… You’ll need stay on top of the project and be available for pivoting or unexpected changes. The event planner shouldn’t have to (or be allowed to) make major decisions without your or your Principal’s input.
Ultimately, an Event Planner and their team are temporary staff with specialized expertise that you need to execute your event. Manage them and the process with the same attention to detail as you would your permanent staff and an in-house event.