Ask the Questions

As a corporate event planning firm we are often surprised how many people don’t know what questions they should be asking their event planner. Most planners offer a free consultation as a way of interviewing their potential client. They want to know if the event is in their scope of work and if they feel they can work well with the client. They always have a list of questions they ask and the answers help them decide if they want to move forward with the project. They are also the basis of the contract between the client and the event planner. What people aren’t realizing is that the free consultation is also their opportunity to interview the planner and decide if they want to work with them. Its very important that you ask the right kind of questions during this process.

So, what exactly, should you be asking? Good Question! This list of questions was provided by the International School of Hospitality but we’ve added our own answers.

  1. What are your services going to cost? Every event has a budget and if the planner’s rates are out of your budget then you should stop the consultation right there. Their rates aren’t going to change and asking them to discount their rates to you isn’t likely. There are planners for every style of budget so pick wisely.  Also, be aware there are different ways for planners to charge so make sure you are comfortable with the way they charge. You can have an hourly rate or a flat rate and both are good for different reasons so be sure to ask if they offer both options.
  2. Will your planner be attending the event? This seems like it has the obvious answer of yes but that isn’t the case. A lot of planning firms have Event Lead’s, Junior planners, or Assistants that are the actual onsite staff lead at your event. This isn’t a bad thing but you should know if the planner you are working so closely with will be onsite the day of the event or passing the fulfillment of the event over to someone else and I f so are they going to be included in the planning process so you are comfortable with them and their skill level. Another thing to note, it may cost more to have the planner onsite rather than their assistant so if you are comfortable with the assistant it may save you some money to not have the planner onsite.
  3. How much time do you need to plan my event? Just like every event is different, every event takes a different amount of time to plan. Some events can be turned around in a week and others take months to a year to plan based on the scope of work that is involved. Knowing if you are working on a shortened timeline can help you in the planning process. You should always ask your planner to give you a work-back schedule from the event date so you know when major milestones in the planning process are. That way you can plan accordingly.
  4. Do you have vendor contacts and are you experienced in contract negotiation? Why does it matter if your planner has a lot of vendor contacts? Well, established relationships can lead to discounts which in turn could save you money. It also lets you know how well known they are in their market. What about those contracts?  Everyone can sign a contract and agree to the terms stated but an experienced planner can often see where a contract request is unreasonable, can ask for different terms or special requests be added to the contract. They also need to be able to clearly communicate with  you the terms of the contracts so you aren’t surprised if something goes wrong. Another question to consider is if the planner will be signing the contract on your behalf or if you have to sign all the contracts. This is a big debate in the planning industry and you would be smart to know how your planner feels about the subject of legal liability on your behalf.
  5. What is your vision for my event and do you have a contingency plan if something goes wrong? This is a big one! If you and the planner do not have the same vision for the event you are likely to be unhappy with the end results and they may be too. It also makes the planning process difficult and painful on both sides. Who wants that? No one. A good planner has a back up plan, and a back up plan to the back up plan. Make sure your planner is thinking about what to do if things go wrong, although, unless its an act of nature a good planner will make sure things don’t go wrong. Still, it pays to be prepared.
  6. What types of events have you done in the past and how successful were they? References. References. References. Ask to see pictures of their work but more importantly ask to speak to previous clients. If a planner doesn’t want you to talk to past clients that is a huge red flag.


A successful event requires that the relationship between client and planner is based on trust, experience, future expectations, and a positive chemistry between the two individuals. As a last piece of advice: trust your gut and go with who feels right regardless of their rate. Cheaper isn’t always better and it also isn’t the determining factor on a successful event, as a matter of fact it almost always is a detriment. Planners can make your life so much better when you trust them so pick your planner wisely.