You’ve been given charge over a big day ahead – the company’s annual summer barbecue, the founder’s retirement party, hosting those “big wigs” from the corporate headquarters – and you know you can’t handle this all your own. Your trusty assistant, who threw together last year’s office holiday party in less than three weeks on a shoestring budget, says you can’t pay her enough to ever do something like that again. You need professional help and you need it now! A party planner is the person for you!
The first thing you need to consider is whether or not your occasion is actually an event. Party planning has become so specialized in recent years that not all events are, well, events. The more business-like events – training seminars, merger deals, and new product development sessions – where food and drink are either kept at a minimum or served offsite are now considered “meetings” and have their own special meeting planners to handle their particular specifics. Most other events, with food, drink, entertainment and a theme or festive purpose, are just that – events. Professional event planners deal with the myriad of details that such occasions warrant.
Now that you know which type of planner you need to consult, your next decision should be just how much control over the planning you intend to give to the planner, and how much that planner charges for those services. Some planners like to “do it all” – you basically give them the date, number of expected guests, theme or purpose of event and they do the rest. They’ll find you the venue, the caterer, the entertainment, the decorations, flowers, and everything right down to the party favors. You’ll have final say, of course, but other than that, you can sit back and let them do the work for you. Your only worry is whether your tux or gown will come back from the cleaners on time. Other planners will merely suggest, or “paper plan” the event, giving you lists of caterers, venues and whatnot suitable for an event such as yours. Then, you have to check each one out, make the reservations, make the decisions, do the leg work. And then there is the majority of planners who prefer to fall somewhere in between those two extremes.
Each planner has charges or fees for each type of service they do. Your budget is going to become a great factor in just how much involvement your planner has in your event. Be sure to ask for proposals. Don’t automatically go with the lowest bidder, though. As we will see, there are other factors and qualities to choosing the perfect planner for your next event than the bottom line. Asking your prospective planner a few questions can help determine which is the right person or service for you.
What are the nature of your business, and the projected tone of the event? Are you a high profile law firm? Then a more subdued atmosphere to your holiday party is probably in better keeping with your clientele and personnel. Does your business specialize in creative web development? If so, then a masquerade dinner party to honor the year’s top employees may be greatly anticipated and highly attended. Your event planner needs to understand the nature of your business and the overall personality of your people. This is never more important when asking the planner to handle decorations, venues and other details that will set the style and mood of the party.
Is your planner flexible? Is your planner experienced? If your supervisor suddenly decides to add the guys from R & D to the product launch festivities, how will your planner deal with the change in plans? Can your planner manage several types of events, or do they prefer to deal with just one or two kinds? There are great party planners that wouldn’t know how to cope with the media rich atmosphere of a product launch. And on the flip side, there are great planners who wouldn’t bat an eye at something like a launch, but wouldn’t dream of doing a sedate and subdued cocktail party. As we stated earlier, party planning has become very specialized, and while not every planner has chosen a specific niche, you want to make sure that your planner has had experience in the style of event you’re planning.
Lastly, try and discern your planner’s availability and communication style before hiring. A planner that only works in the evening may not be suitable for your business, unless you like making business calls from home. Likewise, a planner who is never available for calls, or prefers text messaging or emails, may not be as reachable as you’d desire or require them to be. All business people are busy. All of us become unavailable at times. But a part planner who is never around when you need them is not the type you need.
In any case, before hiring a planner, you should ask for references. Your business will be spending hard-earned money on both the event and the planner. You can’t afford to hire the lowest bidder if they are someone not experienced enough, not available enough or not trustworthy enough. Your event is special to your business and its people. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be worried about it enough to want to hire a party planner. Just make sure that the planner you hire is as special as the event you’re planning.