Event Planning is No E-Commerce

Many things go wrong in the way we make proposals for events. Wim van Besien exposes the pitfalls and points out the responsibilities of both agencies and clients.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Many things go wrong in the way we make proposals for events. Wim van Besien exposes the pitfalls and points out the responsibilities of both agencies and clients.


Hi Wim, welcome to our studio.  


It's my pleasure to be here. 


Today's topic is quotes for events and there are some pitfalls in the process. What's the problem with how we quote an event? 


Well, maybe the difference is already spoken out in the way that people want something. Either they ask for a proposal... A proposal stands for a creative and well filled in process, where ideas are important. Sometimes they ask for a quote. Now a quote is obviously more in terms of what would this or that cost, and they might have an idea what they try to create in their event, what is necessary and so on. So if it's a quote, then it is not really the thing we like to do, because an events agency is in fact per definition an agency that likes to create or produce events and not give prices and put a few things together. 


But you can understand that as a customer you want to know the price. 


When they don't have any experience, when it's not a pitch or a very good professional event manager, that is paid by the company itself to do all their events over the whole year, then people are walking in the dark. You can give indications of prices but they need to understand that everything has its own effect, and effects or 'wow-moments' are not to be expressed in figures. 


At the same time, in this modern society we're used to shop online, compare things online... Is the same thing also happening and a problem for the event industry? 


Well, e-commerce is still putting people still more and more in the instant-satisfaction situation. Delivery in time... We ask it: tomorrow it's delivered. With service, that is not the case. Now we find also that especially for concepts that are put forward as ready-made products, that can still be adapted or whatever, that people then just go around and have their own ideas and then it can't be compared and it's not very interesting to work in this way. 


What about the time periods people ask proposals for? What you often see is that everyone wants the same periods for their event. 


It's quite normal that you have high-season and low-seasons. You have it in tourism. But unfortunately it's not necessarily something that should be a subject for events. If you want to do outdoor activities, like a team-building or what have you, then around the summer is quite normal, but indoor meetings or celebrations and stuff like that, if it's not necessarily, then to avoid this high-season period, which covers mostly May and June and September and October, when then everything is full, when venues are booked way beforehand, when the possibilities are not there... 


And also more expensive sometimes. 


And sometimes they are more expensive. It's the same with hotels: if you book a hotel for groups, who an incentive or an away-day together, in Bruges in the weekend it's more expensive. Do it in Brussels then, when in the weekends it's much cheaper, and the other way around. 


So we should start thinking about the off-season periods for events also? 


Yeah, and it should be a very good thing that potential customers do realise to plan way ahead, and that obviously also the period... That they consider other months, which might be much more fruitful and give a lot more possibilities and a lot more value for money sometimes than when everybody is booking or planning together. 


Are companies always honest about their budget when asking for a proposal? 


You have companies that are more or less experienced fortunately, and they might have an idea of a budget. This is fine to work with, but in fact sometimes, especially when they have an ad hoc event, they think the impossible: they don't have a budget or they don't want to tell it. Or they have it wrong: they have a budget but then they didn't realise that a lot more people would turn up and it should be in the same budget and it can't change anymore, then obviously we have a problem. The budget is something like a mystery. Especially, I think, in Belgium. I find that it's so hard to come to terms about: "let's put a figure on the table". 


Is it particular for specific countries or people to do so? Are other cultures more open about their budgets? 


Yeah, I have some international experience also in the past. And a budget is a budget. Here it's like... Maybe we tend to think: "if we put it on the table..." 


They're gonna spend it all?  


"They're gonna spend it all. And it wasn't necessary, I don't want to have spent too much". That's obviously not always the case. 


A last pitfall is of course: if you compare a lot of proposals from agencies, they all look different and it's very hard to compare them. How should we deal with that?  


There is something we could do. What I do believe is important for the price setting, that there is a clear way that can be standardised, so that people have a clear overview without the exceptions, the small references, the small letters, included, excluded, options and so on. Everyone has another way to work around that, but for the overall presentation it's normal that you want to put yourself forward. Depending on the type of event, it might be even wise sometimes, - this is a discussion that we have -, to keep it short and to the point, because sometimes people are not interested in overinformation, and they say: "that's what I want, I want to know the price and that's fine. Let them do that". But especially when the creation of a whole concept, which is especially event- marketing-wise important, then we build it up from scratch, and then you want to prove: "what's my strength", "what's my speciality", and so on. But there should be a clear overview that maybe we should streamline within our industry. 


So the customer doesn't face surprises during the process? 


Yeah, because unfortunately it happens just that little bit too much. 


Okay, we've discussed a lot of pitfalls. You already mentioned that we can do something with the entire industry. How do you see that? How can we change those things?  


Well, with the expert center event marketing we might put on the table to think about putting forward as a message that events are services, that they have a plus value, that you can't treat them like buying a product, that the periods of time that you plan it can play an important role, and that also the budget should be clear and that they plan much more ahead. So we should try to put that message across towards especially those companies who are not used to organising a lot of events. 


It's about educating our customers.  


A bit, yeah.  


Wim, thank you very much for coming over.  


You're welcome. 


And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!