A virtual meeting planner may seem like the perfect solution for your budget-conscious event. However, is it really? How can you know a person who is 200 or 2,000 miles away? Will this be a cost savings or a time-burning headache?
These are the questions I’ll attempt to answer today. As with every aspect of event planning, the process and the people still matter. The ability to trust that things will be completed on time, within budget and by an experienced professional is the standard, whether the planner is standing in front of you or thousands of miles away.
PRO: Can complete mundane tasks.
Every event planner has items he or she just doesn’t enjoy doing, from making cold calls on sponsors to emailing attendees about last-minute logistics. These items can easily be delegated to someone virtual as long as the instructions are clear and tasks are well-defined.
PRO: Have flexibility.
Because the person you hire might be several time zones away or prefer to complete the work at night, many of the tasks you would normally put off until morning can be completed that day.
PRO: You cut costs.
It’s estimated that a virtual planner will generate a savings of 40 percent for your event because that person is not an employee, generally doesn’t work full time on your event and is paid a modest hourly wage.
PRO: Experienced planners are efficient.
If you hire the right person, he or she will have an understanding of the deadlines and pressures you’re under to pull off a great event. He or she doesn’t need to be trained because chances are, he or she has had your job sometime in the past. Being virtual may be a choice due to family obligations or easing into retirement.
CON: Hard to collaborate.
If you run into a problem and want to collaborate, but your virtual person is five time zones away, you may be faced with solving the problem on your own. The same holds true with explaining complex processes. Sometimes, having someone face to face is the best option.
CON: Multiple clients.
A virtual planner may be working on several events at the same time, which may impact meeting your deadlines and gaining your attention. When vetting a remote planner, ask about his or her current workload and be sure to get the contacts for the last three events he or she planned. Call all references before moving forward.
CON: Confidentiality could be at risk.
The virtual person you hire may take your information and unknowingly share confidential practices and procedures with others. Even if you have him or her sign a confidentiality agreement, there’s no way you can be certain he or she won’t violate it, especially if the planner works with your competitors.
CON: May not understand the company culture.
Without a doubt, you understand how things are done around the office and how management communicates their wants and needs. You know who to ask for a favor and who to avoid. However, virtual planners don’t know any of this. They assume everything they are told is the truth and without knowledge of the political climate, they may not know what to do in certain situations.
Given This Information, Now What?
First, if you decide to hire a virtual planner, determine exactly what you want him or her to do. Perhaps 20 percent of the event planning tasks can be outsourced because they are easy and repetitive, such as making telephone calls or posting on your social channels.
Second, understand the planner’s experience and educational level. Don’t hire a planner to run a product launching event, if all he or she has ever planned is weddings. If the planner is new to the business or if he or she doesn’t have any relevant certifications to the meeting industry, you’re probably well-served not to hire him or her for your event.
Third, pay the planner by the hour or task completed. Early on, give him or her two to three items to complete for your event and see how quickly and efficiently he or she completes those tasks. This allows you to exit the arrangement if you do not like his or her work or it takes too long to complete.
Fourth, include the virtual planner in your weekly meetings. Since he or she is part of the team, treat him or her as such. Be sure to set up your meetings at the same time and day every week.
In conclusion, a virtual planner is something for consideration given today’s technological environment, the available talent pool and when dealing with a tight budget. It’s best contemplated on a case-by-case basis, because there are so many factors that go into planning a successful event.
Kalahari Works With All Planners
Whether a planner is local or virtual, Kalahari Resorts and Conventions has the professional staff and infrastructure necessary to execute your next meeting, convention or trade show! Give one of our sales professionals a call at 855.411.4605 to start the process rolling!