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Event Planners, Marketers Listen Up: Co-Create & Collaborate

Event Planners, Marketers Listen Up: Co-Create & Collaborate

Last February, The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Foundation, in conjunction with Cvent, released a study titled Cross-Department Collaboration: When Event Planning Meets Marketing. The methodology was relatively simple: Interview 10 senior-level meeting planners responsible for producing large conferences or conventions. Follow-up with an online survey of 157 entry-level to experienced planners. Ask them if and how they work with marketing.

What this study found may not surprise you, however, the tricky part is in the implementation. Below is an overview of the survey findings along with the challenges regarding this type of departmental collaboration. In addition, you will learn about the ways technology rentals can help.

Survey Findings

Here is a cursory overview of the report:

  • 79% of event planners believed it is valuable to work with marketing
  • 53% felt setting objectives to support overall business goals is the most important factor in planning an event
  • 49% reported they always or often work with marketing
  • 33% include marketing in the event debriefing
  • 6% determined that design and content were important to focus on during the planning phase

Challenges of Departmental Collaboration

The study identified the following five challenges when the meeting planning and marketing departments work together. I have identified successful ways to address them.

Lack of cross-department communication

Everyone is busy enough with their own department, let alone adding on another project from a completely different division. Add on virtual employees from different time zones and you can have a recipe for major miscommunication.

However, if you assign a project manager and utilize collaborative tools such as Microsoft Office 2016 or a Surface Hub, this process will become a whole lot easier.

Fight for Control

Who owns the event? What happens when meeting planning and marketing don’t agree? Who is responsible for the success or failure of the event?

Rather than focus on the departmental control of the event, focus on meeting the business strategies of the company. Case in point – In 2003, Dreamforce had 1,300 attendees with a few keynote addresses. In 2013, 130,000 attendees came to the event headlined by entertainment maven Bruno Mars. In ’03, it was a meeting planner’s event; in ’13, it was a company convention.

Blurry Budget Buckets

In most large organizations, each department has their own cost center where expenses are measured against it. If the meeting planning department works with marketing, planners may feel they can transfer some of their cost to that department, and vice-versa. Both parties quickly lose faith in the collaboration effort and walk away from an event that needs both their strengths – logistics and creativity.

At the beginning, clearly identify who is responsible for what. If it is unclear, agree to split the cost 50/50. As new budget items come on the horizon, be transparent and come to an agreement ASAP.

Timeline Delays

Without clear expectations, timeline delays will occur. Your event needs marketing materials (online and printed). You know when they are needed, but have you effectively communicated that to marketing? What else is on their plate?

Again, with a highly effective project manager and a consistent communication plan, timeline delays should be minimized.


When marketing’s event goals are not aligned with the meeting planner’s structure, trouble can easily brew. Marketing’s branding and logo standards must be met to create an environment of consistency and familiarity. Planners want to focus on checking things off their list and event logistics (i.e. room block, contract attainment).

Believe it or not, these two departments need each other. A product launch is much better with design, content and logistics. A stogy association convention can use the ingenuity of marketing.

Greg Oates, Senior Editor at Skift, sums it all up in this way, “Event planners and marketers need to combine forces more aggressively to co-create large meetings and conferences because the next generation of interdisciplinary event design and experiential marketing is far too complex for planners to navigate on their own.”

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