Top Questions to Ask Your Event Planner

One of the best ways to increase the odds of hosting a successful event is to select a highly qualified event planner.

For optimal results, the relationship between client and planner should be based on trust, experience, future expectations, and a positive chemistry between the two individuals. The event planner will be the liaison between the client and vendors, such as venue and possibly other vendors related to entertainment, floral arrangements, and transportation.

When selecting an event planner, it is vital to ask in-depth questions to get the information necessary to help you make an informed and intelligent decision. Consider asking potential event planners the following questions and listen carefully to the answers as they respond.

What are your services going to cost?

This fundamental question may be the most important for many individuals or companies. If the quoted fee is not something the client is willing to pay, the other information is a waste of time for both parties. Look for an event planner that charges a flat fee for a number of reasons.

As opposed to one based on percentage, the flat fee allows accurate budgeting and eliminates the worry that the event planner might be padding the bill to get higher compensation at the conclusion of the event. It is not unusual for the initial quote to include a flat fee, plus an additional flat dollar amount per hour while the event takes place.

Will you be attending the event?

As basic as this may sound, it is important to ask the event planner this question. The most sought after professional event planners may rely on assistants to attend and manage events for them.

Sometimes, the event planner is only involved with the initial meetings, and the assistants might take over and execute the actual event. As mentioned earlier, this process is about relationships and trust. For this to happen, the event planner must personally be involved in all planning stages of the event and be readily accessibility in person or email for questions as they arise during the process.

How far out will you need to plan for my event?

Event planners operate in many different ways and with a variety of schedules. Large events, such as trade shows, may be in the planning stages for several years to hold the space at a particular venue.

With few exceptions, the venue selection is the single most important decision to consider. In general, three to six months out is a reasonable time for most event planners to create and execute a successful event.

Do you have vendor contacts and experience with their contracts?

You may want to select an event planner who has extensive relationships in the city where the event is happening. These contacts could be related to entertainment, floral, decor, equipment rentals, shuttle buses, and temporary staff workers.

Having established relationships could translate into significant savings for the event. Also, the event planner will need to be able to examine contracts with vendors to look for hidden fees designed to pad costs at the venue. An experienced meeting planner will be able to identify these charges and either eliminate or negotiate them to lower and more advantageous terms.

What is your vision for my event, and what are the contingency plans if something goes wrong?

Make sure the event planner shares the same vision for the event as you do. If the event is centered around an awards ceremony with guests in formal wear, the event should be planned with that concept in mind. For this type of event, it would not be appropriate to serve hot dogs or dress waiters in khaki shorts with a tray offering appetizers.

Also, if the event is an outdoor poolside event, what are the contingency plans if it rains? Prayer is not going to help much if a downpour suddenly materializes an hour before guests arrive. Inquire if the venue has an indoor space on hold in the case of rain and if there is a fee for moving the event indoors. Discussing these types of potential scenarios in advance is wise and responsible.

What type of events have you done in the past and how successful were they?

When interviewing a potential meeting planner, you may want to know what kind of events he or she has coordinated in the past. Some gravitate toward professional wedding planning and others toward corporate functions. Some planners may prefer reward trips for corporate employees, and some may prefer to plan conferences.

Ask if your meeting planner has relevant, industry-recognized education in the field. You may also want to research the school they graduated from to ensure the school has industry connections.

Also, look for industry designations such as the Conference Management & Event Planning (CMEP), Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE) or Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP). This research can confirm if the planner has prior knowledge of event planning and whether they can read and decipher a banquet event order and understand the arrangement of an event space.

Evaluate the answers to these questions and listen for confident responses. The information learned will assist in guiding the selection of an event planner. It is also important to trust your gut feeling regarding the capabilities of the planner. Finally, ask for and check references. Past performance is a good indicator of what type of meeting planner is going to show up the day of your event.