Even if you're an appreciative reader of this column from way back, chances are you still aren'tall the services you really should. "But Dale," you say, "how can I change my ways? I know that I can save my company time and money by outsourcing to other firms that have resources, services, or expertise my company lacks. What I don't know is how to get started."
I think you do know: The possibilities are right front of you. Doubtless you are cold-called, raw-shrimped, spammed, or junk mailed daily. Start here. Look at the folks hounding you for business. Compile a library of the stuff they send you, and then sit down and read it. Whittle your pile down to a few companies that intrigue you. Talk to them on the phone. Meet with them, if you like. Find out what they can do for you.
Then, most importantly, experience their work.
This doesn't mean just checking references or watching one of their well-produced videotapes. If you want to really experience their work, you have to go with them to a meeting they're working on for another company and watch them provide their goods and services. Most firms that are serious about winning your business are willing to welcome you to such an event.
No matter what type of service you are outsourcing, an on-site visit is a great way to experience a firm's professionalism and character. If you're seeking a registration company, go see the registration area at the meeting. Talk to as many attendees as you can about the registration process. Ask them about everything you can think of, from what they read about the conference's registration process on a Web site to their experiences walking up to the counter to get their badges. If you're outsourcing to a party planner, here's your chance to party on someone else's dime (kind of like crashing a wedding reception ... not that I'd know anything about that).
Ease Your Mind By experiencing a company's offerings first-hand, you'll gain confidence simply by seeing that other companies are outsourcing successfully. Once you realize that you, too, can outsource, you'll appreciate three more important reasons for experience outsourcing:
1.You will get ideas for your meeting or event. Everybody does things at least a little differently. You may have a chance to experience an idea you really like, something that you can use at your meeting. Conversely, you may experience something you absolutely hate. Either way, you're learning.
2. You will put a face to the folks who are calling you and get to know the people who are sending you all that stuff. When choosing a firm, it really does help to select a group that's philosophically aligned with your company. And there's no better way to get to know the people who are hounding you than by seeing them in their element--in action and under pressure. Peoples' attitudes can be a good indicator for determining whether a company is right for your project. At the end of the day, it's really all about
3. You will see firsthand whether the company has the goods. I've already made this point, but think how truly beautiful it is. If the event is a fiasco, who cares? You didn't pay for it. And you just learned a valuable lesson: You learned who not to hire! If the event is a spectacular, memorable meeting, you've spent invaluable time getting to know and experience the joys of successful outsourcing.
If you would like a list of companies that service some area of the meeting industry, please contact me. I'll be happy to send you some of my stuff.