Sometimes I will do a proposal for a potential client, and I know that ultimately, they are going to say “nah, we’ll just do it ourselves”. This worries me because I’m fairly sure they don’t know what they are getting themselves into. PCOs to a whole lot more than booking a venue and ordering sandwiches. Organising a conference is not like organising a wedding or a birthday party. For one thing, the people attending those events aren’t paying to be there, and they all love you and they will forgive you if something goes wrong.
Time: When you decide to do this yourself, you are inevitably not counting the *time* involved in doing it. Time is money. Conferences take a lot of time to pull together. When you go to look at the financials at the end, you probably won’t be taking account of the time you spent doing it, so it won’t really be a true picture of what it cost you.
Reputation: The way your event is managed, as well as the actual execution of your event, reflects on you. Regardless of whether this is for your internal staff, or for your external suppliers, the way it rolls out is going to reflect on your organisation. If your staff get stranded at the airport, or your supplier can’t bump in when you said they could, this can seriously damage the relationships that you’ve been trying to foster.
Experience: Like everything else, it’s easy when you know how – but if you have never organised a conference before, there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that all need to come together at the same time. It’s really easy to get that wrong.
Software: PCOs use specialised software that takes account of things like privacy, accommodation blocks, and GST. Conferences are generally are not simple enough to manage through online ticketing sites. You can create some serious headaches for yourself there.
Budget: Conference and event budgets have a way of expanding if you’ve never done it before. A PCO can create a realistic budget for you right from the start, so that any movement is controlled. If you can let them know your financial goals to begin with, we can make sure the budget reflects this.
Advice: We have done this a lot, for organisations like yours, and we can tell you what works (and what doesn’t). Things that sound like great ideas sometimes don’t work in practice. Human behaviour is a funny thing. We may have seen something or done something for someone else that would work really well for you. I hope I’ve convinced you. Your EA or your in-house marketing person is probably great, but it doesn’t mean that he or she has the skill set, or the time to organise your conference.
I hope that helped.