5 Qualities to Look for in an Outsourced Planning Partner

When choosing an outsourced planning partner—much like committing to a personal relationship—you want someone who “gets you,” who is open and honest, and who thinks about the long-term benefits to both parties. This partnership should be based on solid communication, trust and the mutual desire to accomplish goals together. To ensure the perfect match, here is a checklist of attributes to look for in an outsourced planner as you would in a partner or spouse.


Get to know each other. This goes beyond a Google search. Potential partners should communicate, share about themselves and learn who you are, what you do and why you do it. Make sure you understand each other’s values and beliefs. Spend time ensuring expectations from both sides are aligned, such as the ways you’ll communicate, the responsibilities for each partner, how each will be held accountable and who makes the final decision in which areas.


Outsourced partners are an extension of your existing staff and are charged with executing your objectives. Therefore, you should expect them to dig deeper to understand the fundamental purpose of your organization and its meetings. They should analyze your historical information and any emerging topics in your industry; get to know your organization’s stakeholders; and fully understand the value your the organization seeks to provide, the needs of your attendees and whether the event is delivering on both.


Your outsourced partner should constantly be thinking of ways to advance the goals of your organization, not only now but for the next several years—even if the partner has only been retained for one event. The right partner will offer a staged approach to your annual event, suggesting a series of small changes over time. This strategic approach will help your organization make decisions that will affect outcomes in the future.

  Good Listener

The last thing you want to hear from an outsourced event planner is “it can’t be done.” The best partners listen—really listen. They should bring experience and expertise to help decide the next steps. They should want to incorporate all of your ideas, but they should also be grounded in reality. It’s important to have a partner who will provide constructive feedback and work collaboratively to deliver outcomes that realistically meet your budgetary and experiential needs.


Your potential planning partner should be viewed by your organization as an extension of your core team. This skilled facilitator will align your team and challenge them to work collaboratively, while at the same time delivering on their promises and be the one you can immediately turn to when faced with a challenge. You should be able to trust your outsourced partner unconditionally.

Megan McDonald Paulson is event director of the INCOMPAS Show and a member of the event services team at SmithBucklin. Contact her at mpaulson@smithbucklin.com