The results are in. In preparation for a seminar I gave at Event Solutions in March in Las Vegas on pricing (“The Elephant in the Room: How, and How Much, To Charge”), I conducted a survey of 102 event planners from around the country. Word spread that I was going to share the results, and I was quickly overwhelmed with requests. Apparently there is a tremendous thirst for information on this topic, which prompted me to do two additional things, both of which are the reason I’ve had to wait a month before disseminating the results to everyone.
1) I personally called around two dozen planners who completed the survey, to get further detail on some of the questions.
2) I took the time to further analyze the information and wrote a comprehensive White Paper on the subject. For who just want the raw data, you can download the pdf of the results here for free. However some people wanted much more in depth information on the subject, and wanted to see a greater discussion on what the numbers mean. If you’re one of those people, I encourage you to buy the White Paper, which at 20 pages is a pretty deep dive into this topic.
The question I was most interested in finding out was how planners made money. I asked what the primary way of charging was, and the vast majority, 61%, said it was a flat / project fee. Let me say here that there is no right way to charge; each has pros and cons, and provided the client is on board, it doesn’t matter how you do it. However, my personal recommendation is in fact a flat or hourly fee, for a number of reasons, so I was pleased, though quite surprised, the number was so high.
On the question of commissions, 31% said they usually do accept them from vendors & venues. If we scrutinize the numbers, however, this means that a decent chunk of planners whose main way of charging is with fees also takes commissions on the side. (This analysis is explained in more detail in the white paper.) Of the group that does take commissions, only 49% of them disclose this to their clients. Personally, I think that number is really lower, as I think this is the kind of question that people tend to fudge on surveys.
I’ve become a big fan of transparency when it comes to pricing. The main reason is it forces you to focus on the value you bring to the client, which is the holy grail of the entire equation. So while it’s great to see that the majority of planners surveyed use some kind of disclosed fee, the commissions on the side is a potential hazard.
In terms of hourly rates, 40% charge $50-99 / hour, with another 25% charging $100-149 / hour. So two thirds are in this sweet spot of $50-150. Most planners do not charge by the hour, and I asked those people to estimate what they would charge hourly if they had to, just to get a proper sampling. There are numerous factors to take into consideration about these numbers, not the least of which is that they do not take into account regional cost differences, nor do they factor in differences in experience levels. (More on these in the white paper), but it should give you a reasonable point of reference.
Again, please download a free pdf of the complete survey results below, and if you’d like more analysis, pros & cons of the different rates, etc. you can purchase the white paper. Either way, this is a topic I’ll be blogging more about, so I’d welcome feedback from all of you on this subject, either directly on the blog as comments, or by emailing me offline with your thoughts.