The Do’s and Don’ts of Outsourcing

Here's how to manage the ins and outs of outsourcing from beginning to end.


BE AS FLEXIBLE AS POSSIBLE. “If you have the ability to shift your pattern by even a day, it can mean a lot in terms of being able to get better rates or concessions from a hotel,” said Experient’s Nancy DeBrosse, CMP. “If you’re inflexible, then it may be a little more difficult in today’s market.”

OUTLINE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES. HelmsBriscoe’s Greg Malark encourages planners to be upfront with suppliers about the issues creating the biggest strain on internal resources.

BE OPEN-MINDED. A third-party supplier brings a fresh perspective to your planning team. “Planners need to make sure they’re treating the provider like a partner,” said SmithBucklin’s Carol McGury, “and not ‘You’re a gopher, you’re a go-to.’”

SHARE DATA FROM PAST MEETINGS. “History is very important,” DeBrosse said, “so that we have the ability to block rooms and secure the necessary number of rooms that a show’s really going to need.”

DEFINE ROLES EARLY. For maximum efficiency, Malark encourages planners to decide who on their team is involved in each step of the planning process as well as who will have the final authority over decisions.

SHOW THEM THE MONEY. “Everybody should know what the budget is,” Malark said. “Everybody should know what the budget rules are, and what happens if there are situations where prices are going up.”


FEAR CHANGE. “We spend a lot of time on how to be engaged as a team and how to get by in this new situation,” said SmithBucklin’s Leslie Thornton, “because change isn’t easy and we know that.”

NEGLECT TO CHECK REFERENCES. It may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure you find out who you’re working with and what their track record is. “Make sure that you understand when you’re working with individual entities that come highly recommended,” Malark said, “so you actually know the individuals that are involved.”

BE TERRITORIAL. Thornton stresses the importance of giving your third-party supplier a seat at the table. “In no way, shape, or form are we trying to take anyone’s job,” she said. “We are trying to assist to make the event successful.”

KEEP OUTSOURCING PARTNERS IN THE DARK. Open and honest relationships between planners and suppliers are crucial. “One of the things that we see that can be challenging is when there isn’t a clear understanding of the mutual objectives,” Malark said, “and when there isn’t transparency in the relationship.”

FORGET FACE TIME. Thornton suggests scheduling video calls with outsourcing suppliers instead of relying on email or phone calls. She said: “We all know face-to-face is the best way to create that trust and confidence.”

WAIT TOO LONG. “Early on,” Malark said, “we can ask questions that would allow for greater flexibility and potential out-of-the-box sourcing options that could make the meeting better.”

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.