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What's Trending: The State of Planners in 2017

By Selena Fragassi


Recently the Event Leadership Institute released a report covering various details about the state of planners in the year 2016. Written by Founder and Executive Director Howard Givener, this insider knowledge discussed current wage medians and billing practices, the choice to work for a company or solo, and the option to work from an office or from home, and the results were quite intriguing.

The comprehensive findings came from surveying a cross-section of 516 planners in different industries, career levels, and geographic locations as follows: One-third worked as solo practitioners, i.e. self-employed; one-third worked for a small company of 2-5 people; and one-third worked for the large firms with a staff of more than 20 people. The majority, nearly 43 percent, had 15 or more years of professional planning experience, while 27 percent recorded 8-15 years of experience.

Regarding location, the largest concentration of planners was in the Northeast (31 percent), followed by the Midwest (22 percent), Southeast (19 percent), Southwest (19 percent), and Northwest (8 percent). Tallying the primary type of events planners worked on, 55 percent reported organizational events—41 percent said serving corporate clients and 14 percent said association or nonprofit clients—while another 45 percent work on social events.

What follows is some of the more interesting findings.

Where Planners Work

Choice of working space was a near 50-50 split between home offices and external offices. This is a sizable shift from when the Event Leadership Institute first surveyed planners in 2013 and found that 64 percent worked at home. Givener rationalizes that as the brunt of the recession has waned (when many planners were laid off and had to start their own businesses), many have now either grown their business and need more space outside the home or have taken jobs with firms.

In this conversation, the advent of co-working spaces also has to be considered. Their popularity has surged given the fact that many can be reserved on a moment’s notice and without the need for long-term leases. They also provide a number of the standard comforts such as worktables, Wi-Fi, lounge areas, even conference rooms. Some planners that participated also noted that there is a strong perception of company size that factors into their clients’ decisions—some worrying that small staff can’t meet the demands for an event—so by giving the illusion of an office space with co-working options they may be able to win more business.

How Planners Charge for Work

This is one of the most curious and contentious points of discussion between planners, notes Givener. Everyone wants to know what their colleagues charge but are afraid of divulging their own rates. This report gives a rare, in-depth look.

When polled, the majority of respondents (54 percent) stated that they charge a flat fee or per project fee. The next most popular option was a tie between an hourly or daily fee or marking up vendors—each reported in at 15 percent. A close 14 percent stated they charge a percent of the budget fee while another 2 percent charge commissions. The other two percent had other answers like charging a per delegate fee.

Many respondents noted that they often default to what the client prefers for billing, and many times this is the flat rate choice. This way neither party is surprised when the invoice comes in. There was also some intel that more and more younger planners (0-3 years of experience) prefer an hourly or daily fee. Of those that reported preferring hourly rates, the majority (40 percent) reported billing in the range of $50-99 per hour, and only 10 percent of veteran planners charge less than $50 per hour. However one of the greatest disparities is that most planners don’t consistently track their hours (27 percent said never, 31 percent said sometimes), which could lead to missed opportunities for compensation.

How Much Planners Actually Make

When it comes to salaries and per event earnings, results were all over the board. The clear majority of 53 percent make less than $5,000 per event, while 15 percent report between $5,000 and $10,000 per event and the minority of 6 percent make between $10,000 and $15,000. However nearly double that (13 percent) make in excess of $15,000 per event. The most alarming was that 14 percent said they didn’t know how much they made.

When it comes to annual compensation, these figures are also parallel, seeing that many planners make on the low-end of the spectrum, with more than 40 percent earning $49,000 or less per year. As one would assume, 87 percent of those reporting salaries under $50,000 have the least amount of experience (0 to 3 years). Most intriguing, most planners (59 percent) said they believe their clients think they earn more money per year than they actually do. The good news is that many (48 percent) reported they believe they will make more in 2017 than they did in 2016.

Reasons Why Planners Believe They Are Hired

It’s not just enough to do your job well, according to many planners who said they stay competitive by offering various skill sets that get them hired time and again. Twenty seven percent believe production and execution sets them apart, while another 27 percent believe it’s logistical management. The other advantageous areas include creative ideas (21 percent), guidance and advice (18 percent) and finally access to vendors and venues (8 percent).

To get the full white paper, visit Here, you can also receive information about professional development courses covering planner pricing, prospecting new business, winning RFPs, and launching your own business.