I asked event professionals for their most unpopular opinions on event planning, events and the industry altogether and they definitely delivered!
Hidden beneath the surface are a variety of eventprofs who believe certain parts of the industry and the event process itself needs to change, and let’s be honest, we all have an opinion that others don’t agree with. Through a lively Facebook discussion, I set out to find some of the most unpopular ones. I’ve opened up a can of worms over some topics that event planners just can’t help but discuss and dispute.
For example, 20% of people involved in the discussion agreed that conferences aren’t as innovative as they should be and need to be improved. However, the most disagreement (and the most unpopular post) came when discussing if associations need to evolve into a single union to establish best practice for all eventprofs. Regardless, for better or worse, I collected and collated these opinions and here they are. Which ones do you agree with?
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1. If You’re Stressed It’s Your Fault, Not The Industry You Work In
I have discussed event planning stress on the blog before; it is a stressful job and competitive industry and while it may not be as bad as some other worthy professions, eventprofs face real issues with stress. However, some believe we bring it upon ourselves and we need to do more about it. While this can be true, how much control do we really have?
“Working as an event professional is NOT one of the top five most stressful careers. If you think it is, try talking to an ER nurse, where situations really are life or death. It's not the industry's fault that you are stressed. Working with the wrong types of clients on events that are doomed to fail from the outset...that's the source of stress. Learn to say NO and stop chasing bad business.” - Kevin Molesworth
2. The Event Industry Makes You Unhealthy
In a constantly competitive atmosphere with tight deadlines and clients to keep happy, it can be easy to see how the industry can make you unhealthy and lead to burnout. That’s why it is important to take care of yourself while also planning successful events, but does the industry need to take better measures to ensure that its professionals are doing this?
“Our industry, in general, often leads to an unhealthy lifestyle that we should, as a whole, pay more attention to.” - Evan Carbotti
3. You Can Run An Event Company Entirely Remotely
Are companies hiring for logistics and scrimping on quality? This can lead to poor performance and ultimately terrible events, but is it as easy to just hire contractors and remote workers or could lack of local knowledge, control and reduced communication channels cause issues and create more of a problem for the business as a whole, which in turn could affect service and standards?
“Event production companies should be hiring for talent and not location. It's entirely possible to run a company with 100% remote team (FT and contractors).” - Karen Hartline
4. Photographers Have Too Much Power
Hiring an event photographer allows you to capture your event, as well as your attendees and add it to your portfolio as well as social media. But in most cases, the issue of rights to use the photographs and crediting of images is also tricky. The event planner or designer does not necessarily have the rights to use the photos.
“Photographers should not be allowed to take photos of designers' work without granting the creator full unrestricted rights to the images.” - Evan Carbotti
5. Clients Don’t Respect Event Planner Value
It happens time and time again. Clients want a tall order, but gawk when they are given the price tag, assuming that given the time they could do the same job themselves. Event planning is undervalued and many don’t appreciate what is involved.
“The non-understanding, therefore sometimes disrespect, clients have for our professional service fees, and how they express that, is not comparable to the extent of the experiences we give.” - Jaclyn Bernstein
6. Know What You Are Selling
Event businesses are focusing on the wrong elements when pitching to new clients and spending so much time on the specifics of event planning, when events are so much more than just a planning process. Sell your vision and the return that the event will bring, including how you will measure it.
“Event Business Owners are focusing too much on logistics when they first sell their services to their clients and prospects.” - Eric Rozenberg
7. Pricing Transparency Should Be The Norm
Event planners can add a commission on top of items that they book for events, however they can sometimes be hidden from the clients or specifically unclear. Are eventprofs entitled to mark-up items that they book or should they collaborate more often? Isn’t it their responsibility to at least be clear with clients to ensure they don’t feel taken advantage of?
“CSEP mark-ups on costing should be a thing of the past and transparency/collaboration should be the new normal.” - Aaron Kaufman CSEP
8. Quantity Is Better Than Quality
Some event professionals try to go big or go home but this only works if you have the quality to back it up. If not, you will find your message gets lost and your event will fall flat, regardless of how much money you have thrown at it.
“Bigger is better – it is so not true. Big can be good but only if you design it by putting the participant at the heart of the action.” - Bjorn G Wigforss
9. Anyone Can Plan An Event
A hot subject for eventprofs! Budget event planners who lack education, training or finesse but still manage to undercut on price are ruining the industry and causing it, as a whole, to be less advanced than other sectors. Not everyone can plan events properly and many have undergone experience and training to give the best service, and prices reflect this. However, those who undercut on price alone are damaging and devaluing the industry as a whole.
“The event industry is years behind intellectually because of mass exposure to unqualified educators willing to present for free because conferences and association events that claim to exist to benefit the industry, only really make a living off of it.” - Nick Borelli
"’Anyone can do an event’ – I hear this so often that it makes me sick. But in fact it is true. Anyone can do an event. But it is only a few of us that have what it takes to create IMPACT with events.” - Bjorn G Wigforss
“The barrier of entry for our industry is WAY too low.” - Evan Carbotti
[When people say:] “We don't need an eventprof, we have staff on our payroll that can manage this..”. - Danny Stevens
10. Some Attendees Should Be Banned
If you frequently have those who do not attend, without sending apologies, should they be struck off the invite list? Particularly if they have been catered for. Keeping your lists up-to-date with serial non-attenders will help you attract the right people and avoid time wasters (as well as saving money) but should people be blacklisted and banned altogether?
“Recurring no-shows should be banned from the next invitation list, even if it's your biggest client. It's disrespectful.” - Danny Stevens
11. Party Planners Deserve More Recognition
Some event professionals argue that party planning is a cheap knock-off of event planning and, infuriatingly, the role that people envisage all event professionals do. Others appreciate the vision, creativity and skill required to bring it altogether and believe they deserve more recognition.
“Party planners are a thing, serve a niche, and don't deserve the c&%p we give them.” - Xander Castro
12. Compliance Is Skimmed Over
When event professionals don’t follow rules and regulations properly it can have dire consequences as well as damaging trust within the industry as a whole and can reflect poorly on others. While many address the bare minimum health and safety standards or brush past best practices, should we be focusing on it more closely or is it not our responsibility?
“Health and safety planning and implementation is not just a box to tick. It's an essential component of every event. Many event organizers only give it lip service.” - Amanda Fiddes
“Too many industry professionals have a hard time following best practices or don't follow the rules/contracts they agree to. This makes it harder for other industry professionals to do their job.” - Alex Plaxen
13. Labelling Events Can Turn People Off
Is labelling a thing of the past? Are you having the opposite effect by describing your event or session for beginners or experts? You may be getting the wrong demographic because of your labelling and alienating certain groups. Some professionals may not want to attend a ‘beginner’ session even if they would derive benefit from it as they would feel it is beneath them. Instead, try coming up with different names, labels or a system whereby there is something for everyone e.g. labelling by years of experience. Ensuring the content provides directly for each specific level of experience means attendees are getting the most that they can out of the event and you are providing maximum value.
“I'm not a fan of labeling content as beginner (or PC, introductory), mid-level or CEO/advanced. I've found that some people don't want to go into introductory sessions because they don't want to be seen by peers or their boss at that level in anything and/or they've been reading a lot on the topic so they feel they are immediate in knowledge. Also, everyone wants ‘CEO-level’ education but that's not accurately defined, and it intimidates potential speakers. Too often, CEOs submit session RFPs that are intro or very mid-level because it's ‘safer’, ‘easier’, and they want good speaker ratings. What if your CEO-level session is deemed too simple or obvious by your peers? You may feel you're more vulnerable.” - Kristin Clarke
14. Social Media Is Underutilized
Are we using social media to its fullest? It can promote events, raise brand awareness and provide useful sponsorship opportunities so it is amazing that some still don’t utilize this! Using hashtags for your event is a basic that not only gets attendees talking but also helps others discover and follow your event, improving turnout, but surely we all know this by now?
“Event planners don't invest enough time or money in social media strategy. Why do events still not have hashtags? Why aren't you monitoring the conversation about your event? The feedback you get in the moment online is way more valuable than post event surveys!” - Alex Plaxen
“No hashtags, ‘secret’ aka not announced hashtag, no hashtag on event assets...” - Sylwia Korsak
15. Event Marketing Is Behind
With the resources available, are we making the most of what we have as eventprofs? Event marketing needs time and budget to get the right people there. Sometimes it is done well but often it is done badly.
“Event marketing is very far behind. With technology like Salesforce and Hubspot where we can track every single touch point, marketing should be much more personal. We are not using the available technology out there.” - Alex Plaxen
16. Events Aren’t Marketing Channels
As an event professional, I help to promote events and knew how useful they can be as a marketing medium on their own. But does that mean I am blinded by my role to assume that events are the best or only answer?
“Eventprofs are always promoting and praising events as a marketing channel/medium. First off, eventprofs are biased so it's not that credible and let's face it, creating an event may not always be the most effective solution. Sometimes this needs to be said out loud! Eventprofs need to look at the big picture, and fight tunnel vision.” - Timo Kiuru
17. Emotional Marketing Is Forgotten With Logistics
Relaying logistics to potential attendees and the public is essential, giving them the information they need to turn up, but can you get details across and still find time to tap into their emotional needs and use it to convince them to turn up? Marketing is about appealing to the consumer and events are personal so perhaps we should be focusing less on the logistics of an event when we market them and more about connecting with consumers.
“Most event professionals get caught up in logistics and forget about emotional marketing.” - Bjorn G Wigforss
18. Event Planners Should Put More Effort Into Meeting Design and Marketing
An idea that works for one event may not suit another, which means that marketing and event design needs to be tailored - there is no magic formula. There’s a difference between drawing on previous experience and just copying marketing proposals and event formats from one to the other, and the latter is just plain lazy and ineffective.
“Event marketers should put more effort into strategic event planning – what´s your key message or feeling you want to leave your audience with and how you orchestrate everything around it like the best theatre play. Using recycled catalog ideas lead into brand experience mismatch.” - Erno Ovaska
“Lazy copycat event owners/organizers that duplicate events without properly thinking about the event design from the stakeholder's perspective and creating something distinct and original.” - Ruud Janssen
19. Influencers Should Put the Effort In
Developing relationships with influencers can be an excellent to tap into new demographics, but are we getting value back in return? Likewise are we looking after them and giving them the tools and respect they need to do their job?
“Event bloggers who spend all day at an event and instead of live tweeting and Instagramming it only write it up in a short post.
Bad coffee. No power supply, especially when bloggers are invited.” - Sylwia Korsak
20. Technology Isn’t Everything
Eventtech can be exciting and for an event planner, showing it off to your attendees can fill your head with plenty of ideas but it won’t fix other problems with your event for you. You need to have the content, work out your logistics and have the planning in the bag to make tech most effective and enhance your event.
“Eventtech should be used to enable your objective...not become the objective.” - Danny Stevens
“Many people think that great technology will fix their bad event. ...(more elements to just technology, it can enhance a good event or highlight the issues in a bad one).” - Keith Johnston
“Every event wants to integrate the latest technology without the real end goal in mind, or even how to integrate it effectively without getting overwhelmed and then completely checked out and then the end result is typically half ass!” - Michelle Bergstein-Fontanez
21. Some Event Apps Are Disappointing
Are you looking to use an event app at your event and have you measured its ease of use, functionality and attendee opinion? Mobile apps can be rolled out to use throughout your event and be a useful source of information and income opportunities, but do attendees know how to use them and are they making the impact you think they are? Which is the best option? Just because we can create an event app, doesn’t always mean we should.
“Event apps are still too much complicated for the audience. There is no good event app for b2b events.” - Maria Kirillova
“Most event apps – underwhelming.” - Greg Bogue
22. Tech Events Don’t Cater To The Demographic
Technology-based events could be missing out on opportunities as they make it difficult for some of their demographic to attend. Events that are less child friendly, held on evenings or weekends and are more expensive than other event types to attend cuts out a lot of who they are potentially keen to target. Can tech events be planned better to offer more value and encourage more attendees by offering services or discounts or timings that certain groups need?
“Personally, what bothers me at tech events is lack of crèche (I was a single mum and struggled with presenting at some). I also think young people should have a chance to attend more tech events.” - Sylwia Korsak
23. Digital Events Can Replace Live Events
A digital event can sometimes extensively reduce costs and planning time and can still offer some of the benefits of live events. But can users connect with digital events in the same way? We know that one can complement the other but will virtual events replace the need for face to face encounters completely? This certainly got a number of event planners worked up but, particularly with advances in virtual reality, do we need to accept the the face of events, and our role, is perhaps changing?
“Digital events can replace live events in many circumstances.” - Xander Castro
24. Conferences Are Boring
Everyone had a lot to say on conferences! Delivering the same content in the same way leads to the same result, and attendees have seen the common conferencing structure time and time again. Many think it still works or that they are being innovative but while you may be delivering in some aspects, are you really engaging your attendees? Getting speakers to change their engagement and presentation strategies can make them ramp up their keynotes and ditch the slideshow. If you aren’t willing to improve your meeting design, then don’t blame the attendees when they don’t stay until the end or leave after the break!
“Most conferences are BORING because they use really outdated approaches to delivering educational content. Parking participants in rows and presenting information to them from the front of the room is a surefire strategy for putting them into a comatose state whether it's one speaker or you parade a series of ‘talking heads’ in front of them every 20 minutes.” - Anne Thornley-Brown
“Conferences want to be innovative, but they are still being presented in the same formats. It's time to truly bring them into the 21st century.” - Janet Antonelli
“Blaming attendees for not showing up at the last sessions of the day or not going back in after the coffee break is over is not ok – there is a reason why they don't come back, figure it out and fix it.” - Bianca Dragan
“Conferences, in particular... same big profile speakers, same ho-hum sessions, same mostly white male headers, same model of sell as many seats as possible, same early bird registration incentives, sssssaaaaaammmmmeeee.” - Lara Volochkov McCulloch
25. Ignoring Attendee Knowledge
Using experts on stage can be useful for learning but what about the experts you have in the audience? You could argue that many attendees would be more qualified than the speakers themselves and you would be wise to harness the wisdom of the crowd. Tap into this resource by incorporate exercises and games with networking opportunities into the planning, so that attendees can also learn from each other.
“That we still often put a supposed expert on stage to talk to hundreds of others, that have bags of experience themselves, rather than focusing on surfacing all the knowledge in the room peer-to-peer.” - Oliver Hurrey
26. Logistics Are More Important Than The Content
User experience and logistics are key but content is also important otherwise you aren’t going to wow your guests. A healthy balance between the two allows your attendees to have a seamless experience but take true value from the event as well. One won’t work without the other, but which is most important?
“You can have an amazing content. But in case you have bad/no food, lines in the toilets or bad logistic, people will be disappointed.” - Maria Kirillova
27. Food Trucks Are Out
When event planners favor ideas over logistics it can make for poor experience. Food trucks look great but they aren’t suitable for large-scale events unless you are going to scale them up as well. The event planner who chooses this style of catering without considering the logistics puts people off food trucks altogether.
“Foodtruck festival for catering! You just stand in lines all the time! Super annoying. Looks good, doesn't work for large groups (seen it fail, fail and fail again).” - Gerrit Heijkoop
28. Not Everything Can Be Measured
Many things can be measured with post and real-time event feedback and online analytics for websites, social media and digital activity. As long as you have a start and end point, most things can measure a change of some kind, whether positive or negative, but some things are extremely difficult to quantify accurately.
“Forget the idea, that everything can be measured.” - Bo Krüger
29. Better Break Food
Terrible break food for conferences or meetings can put your attendees off. Give them something that shows them you care and gives them a better experience, as well as boosting brain power. They will come back in feeling appreciated and taken care of, making them better receivers of your message.
“Stop serving nitrogen frozen ice cream during coffee break. Nobody wants to see that. It's old. Invest in proper coffee.” - Thorben Grosser
30. Speakers Should Attend The Whole Event
A hired speaker is part of the event and should stay for the duration, or at least more than just their keynote. They are representing the message and event itself and need to invest the necessary time and interest into their commitment and see the bigger picture.
“A speaker should turn up for the whole event (or at least the day), listen to everything talk to everyone. Not turn up late, do 20 minutes, then leave. No matter how famous they are!” - Chris Shipton
31. Speakers Don’t Stay On Topic and Promote Bad Practice
Speakers can make or break an event and need to be chosen carefully. Likewise, a lot of time and effort is taken by a skilled speaker to perfect their presentation and this should be respected and paid for, ‘exposure’ doesn’t cut it. Speakers who flaunt a lack of education can be disrespectful to those that have worked hard to gain qualifications and experience.
“There are WAY too many keynoters paid top dollar to speak about when they went bungee-jumping in the Himalayas, deep sea diving, or some other adventure that is totally irrelevant to the challenges that participants face on a day-to-day basis. What a waste of time! Who cares? On the other hand, speakers and facilitators with relevant experience are asked to speak for free to ‘increase visibility’... after 20+ years in the business.” - Anne Thornley-Brown
“Speakers who start their presentation with 'I actually never studied this at school, I have enough of experience to know it all anyway' – it's not impressive to promote academic ignorance.” - Sylwia Korsak
32. Industry Education Needs to be More Practical
The academic route needs to ensure outdated theories are not taught and that real-world examples and case studies can back up and provide explanation and depth for the subject. Practical examples, best practice and skills are needed to successfully bridge the gap between theory and application.
“Event and meeting management education is too rooted in theory and not focused enough on real world experience, leaving the new work force with a lot of outdated theories and not enough experience.” - Alex Plaxen
“Educators are teaching WHY you should do something for your business but always fail to give you the HOW!” - Kellie Daab
33. Associations Need to Sort Out Their Pricing Structure
Are associations are pricing out smaller players and individuals in the industry? Or is it necessary to keep fees high to distinguish the serious event planners?
“Industry associations should not treat all suppliers the same. A startup does not have the same kind of money to spend on membership, hosted buyer events, education events, etc. as all the top tier destinations and hotel chains. A tier system based on amount of employees and annual revenue must be established to even the playing field. It's not beneficial to planners to see the same companies over and over and over again just because all the smaller companies are priced out.” - Alex Plaxen
“CSEP Association membership dues and event registration costs are inexpensive and trivial compared to the time invested as an active member of any association. Dues should be expensive to separate amateurs and hobbyists from committed professionals.” - John Humphries CSEP
34. Associations Should Combine
Whether the association focus is on venues, vendors or organizers, they are all working towards one goal. To better the industry and also the experience for both planner and attendee, should associations combine and work together on that single objective? This was the most unpopular response to any opinion listed in this post. Members often pay to be included in more than one association to reap the benefits and education, which means paying more than one association and it becomes costly. Do they offer sufficient value in return?
“Associations should evolve into one labor union representing event professionals in every sector. This way, we could establish real ‘rules’ and best practices.” - Kevin Molesworth
“Why don't some of the industry associations merge? MPI/PCMA/IAEE and NACE/ILEA. Suppliers have to support all of them by sponsoring, exhibiting, donating to their foundations and attending. All of which cost a lot of time and money. It seems millennials are getting education online that one usually had to attend a conference to get. So, member retention is tough now.” - Patti Shock
I initially asked people to share their most unpopular opinions about the events because I wanted to promote discussion and a lively debate but it highlighted many thought provoking issues within the event industry. Although it uncovered an array of unpopular opinions, it also illustrated a lot of agreements with many of the statements shared. Hopefully with the help of my fellow eventprofs, I have been able to open a dialogue and get you thinking about changes that may need to be made and how to improve your event planning in the future.
Which of these unpopular opinions do you agree with and why? Do you have an unpopular opinion about events? Share it with us.