No More Mom and Pop

No More Mom and Pop

The meeting and event planning industry was started by “solopreneurs” (entrepreneurs who strike out on their own) who started their careers as “frienders” (a creative friend who ends up your wedding planner). They are the rare creative people who are also well organized. They learn the event planning business working for you and then naturally strike out on their own, just like you did. The industry is populated by small to medium sized planning agencies started by “solopreneurs” that have thrived as the event planning marketplace has boomed out in front of them.


The explosion of the meeting and event market these past eight years has attracted competition from the big Madison Avenue advertising firms. Until recently, they were content to handle digital and traditional media marketing products. However, these big international agencies have recently begun to compete in the “face to face” meeting and event business. When signing new clients, they are offering live experience planning as part of their package of services. It’s a “one-stop shopping” solution for big international clients.


These international advertising agencies are beginning to disrupt the meeting and event planning business like Amazon disrupted publishing, music, and retail. Talented meeting and event professionals are vulnerable to these big agencies because the small firms do not create business structures and processes that can protect them from competition and take over. Let’s look at where we are vulnerable and see what we can do about shoring up our companies to compete against these new Amazons of event planning.


  • The first vulnerability of small to medium event planning agencies is dilution of talent. When a planner has a success or two they often decide to leave the firm and “go out on their own.” This is natural, but as the market evolves small entrepreneurial agencies must find ways to retain talent and bulk up their firm’s capabilities. Only then will the smaller event planners be able to compete for bigger and more complex events.
  • Another business technique that small agencies must consider is mergers and acquisitions. There is a time to compete fiercely with other planners in your space, but there is also a time to join forces to defeat a more powerful enemy. Combining firms with competitors is usually not the first tactic that occurs to “solopreneurs”, but as Dillion says, “the times they are a changin”. Advertising Amazons are on the march.
  • Transparency is the new integrity. Creative meeting and event planners can sharpen their business acumen by becoming more transparent. No more hiding appropriate fees because you’re afraid the client won’t like it. You have every right to charge for services rendered. Being shy makes you look less professional and vulnerable to a more professional agency.
  • If you’re depending on referrals to keep you in business, it’s time to rethink your marketing program. With these new Amazons marketing against you, it is time to design and execute an aggressive professional marketing program.
  • Sharpen up your vendor list. Smaller planners who have excellent relationships with the best vendors can often deliver higher quality service than a big ad agency that is new to planning. Vendor relations can make a solopreneur function like an international ad agency.


It’s time for individual and small partnership meeting planners to adopt big business strategies and tactics. Creativity, versatility, experience, and long-term professional relationships can still win the day if smaller firms recognize and plan for the dramatic changes that are coming to the meeting and event planning industry.