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The better part of my event planning career has been on the supplier side of the industry. Specifically I was a partner with a small boutique destination management company (“DMC”). It was our job to act as a broker for our clients, meeting planners. In order for us to win a piece of business, we would compile a proposal that we would then present to a meeting planner. That proposal would encompass a program outline based on the criteria that was provided to us by the planner. And our competitors were doing the same thing in hopes that they would win the meeting planner’s business.
Quite often I found that our venue suppliers were, at times, put into an awkward situation. You see, as part of our proposal we would often put venues on hold by providing the meeting name to the supplier. And our competitors did the same thing. Suppliers that understood how DMCs worked knew that one of the bookings would, most likely, be successful and that they would be awarded the business.
Is a Meeting Planner Obligated to Work with the Supplier without a Contract?
Here’s where the awkward situation sometimes occurred.
A DMC is not necessarily known outside of the meetings and events industry. They work very diligently in the background to ensure that their client’s program is a success. DMC’s are very well known by meeting planners and event suppliers.
I can’t tell you how many times that I would get a call from one of our venues where we had placed a hold, telling me that the meeting planner had called them directly to finalize the booking.
Here’s Where the Event Ethics Issues Arose
Fortunately for my company, we had great relationships with our suppliers and venues. I’m not trying to say that a meeting planner does not have the right to deal directly with any supplier or venue. Of course they do. What I do, however, have a problem with is when those particular meeting planners ask you (and most likely your competitors) to spend time sourcing appropriate suppliers and venues for their programs knowing very well that they have no intention of booking with you, or your competitors for that matter.
We were fortunate as those venues would build in a commission to us. While that was not mandatory, we did feel it was appropriate as we had pitched that particular venue to our potential client. The ethical suppliers understand this. And for those that did not… Well, safe to say we didn’t continue proposing them unless they were an absolute fit for a potential client.
I’m talking about this issue because I hoping to impress upon new planners entering the industry just how important ethics are. This practice is not considered ethical. While there are no repercussions that can be done towards a planner, I have found, through my experience, that they soon obtain a reputation within the industry. And, as such, those planners’ job becomes more difficult with time. Nobody wants to work with them.
We’ve talked a lot about the Association for Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) here. I can remember when this association was just getting underway. All of us in the industry, even though we were competitors, were excited by the fact that we had one Association that could now set industry standards moving forward.
Some additional articles regarding the Association for Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI):
Ethics in any industry can be a touchy subject. And, more often than not, trying to lay blame or pointing fingers only ends up hurting you. But, by establishing standards for the event planning industry, we are hoping to create a level playing field that all of the players can abide by.