The Women (and Men) Tell All: Third-Party Planners Edition

By Kelsey Ogletree, August 17, 2017

For many organizations, using meetings procurement companies (aka, third-party planners) like HelmsBriscoe and ConferenceDirect for site selection, contracts and other meeting planning functions is crucial to executing a successful event. But while they’re ever so important, these talented planners can also be very misunderstood. We polled some of our own audience to prove a point: Third-party planners are anything but a third wheel. Get to know them better.

What keeps you up at night?

“As an independent third party, I am responsible for my sales pipeline. Making sure it’s full of good prospects can be a challenge. That’s why face-to-face industry events like Connect, MPI, PCMA, etc. are so vital to making new connections and staying up to date on industry trends. At HelmsBriscoe, we do not require a contract with our meeting planners, so it’s all based on the deliverables. If you like what I do, then you will continue to be my customer.” —Jan Tolle MacDonald, CMP, CMM, CIS, HelmsBriscoe

“My biggest stressor is making sure I keep our clients happy and [know they] understand our worth. It can take one hiccup in the planning of a meeting or conference to spark doubt from a client. It is important to me that those clients never second-guess why they hired an outside planner and would never consider another option.” —Jacki Bennis, Square One Meeting Planning

“As an associate with HelmsBriscoe, I become part of my clients’ teams. Their concerns are my concerns. I look for group rates within their attendees’ price ranges; I am concerned with AV costs, and how to track and minimize them; I worry about attrition and how to sustain their budgets based on contracted parameters when attendees book outside the block. Most of my clients are associations and do not have the dedicated personnel that corporations have to strategize in these and other focus areas. They count on me as an extended member of their team.”

—Anne Marie Kjelland, CASE, HelmsBriscoe


What do you wish in-house planners understood about third-party planners?

“I wish our legitimacy were more broadly recognized. There’s no question our niche has been plagued over the years by the rogue planner who has improperly or unethically touted or used their business, but the majority of us are extremely hard-working, independent planners who provide serious value to corporations and associations that either don’t have in-house planners or where those planners’ talents are spread too thin.” —Brett Sterenson, Hotel Lobbyists

“In-house planners need to know that I know what it takes to do their jobs. I can give them back some of their time by providing support for site selection and contracting, and we do that at no cost to them. I know many planners love this part of their job—but I know they don’t love all the phone calls from hotels and CVBs. I field all these calls. I set up all the site visits for them and make sure they are treated like gold. The travel part is what they like; I don’t take this part away.” —Peter Wann, ConferenceDirect

“A big challenge is explaining to experienced in-house planners the value we bring to the table. Third parties are an asset, and we are the client’s advocate. Third parties are individuals who run their own businesses independently, so choosing the one that best fits your organization may take some time, but a good relationship is paramount to a successful partnership.” —Jan Tolle MacDonald, CMP, CMM, CIS, HelmsBriscoe

“Working with a third-party planner is like having your own personal social network. Third-party planners are well-connected with hoteliers, CVBs and DMCs all over the world. Every day we are being educated. We are in the know on market trends. We are the liaison for the client and offer totally unbiased data. Our clients get to draw from our database of knowledge, and we can enhance their current relationships. We also create competition for their business. It’s so much value, at no cost to the client. Working with a third party just makes sense.” —Lisa Jarvis, ConferenceDirect

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