Supply Side

It takes a village” could very well have been written to describe the sheer number of people and suppliers required to bring an event to life. From multi-day conferences to weekend incentive trips, understanding what each party brings to your event will make it easier to find the right supplier and communicate your needs, wants and goals.

Here Mix lays out a guide to some of the most common categories of suppliers; we explain who they are, what they do, and how they can help.

Supply Side

What is a PCO? And Why should I hire one?

Hiring a professional conference organiser (PCO) or event manager allows groups big and small to benefit from the event manager’s years of experience, objective insights and original ideas about how to make the event memorable. Event managers know how to stay within a given budget and create something spectacular – a feat that some clients may find particularly helpful. They also offer savings as they can provide a host of services wrapped into one package.

How do I know they’re any good?

Ask for an introductory meeting and see what kind of company the PCO is: more strategic, more corporate, are most of the clients from a particular sector? The firm should always be able to show you examples of previous work and refer you to other clients.

Can I do it myself?

Sarah Williamson, creative director for Jack Morton Worldwide, explains: “We can ask deeper questions and find out what the company really wants or needs to achieve the goals of the event… that way we are able to stick to the message a company wants to send. Based on that, we know where you should be putting your money to make it work and what will really make this event spectacular for your guests.”

What is an A/V company?

An audiovisual company does everything from sound and lighting to more advanced broadcasting and production.

Why should I hire one?

Professional A/V companies can work wonders: coordinate light and music for the evening, complete a theme, create the right mood, and change it all at the drop of a hat. Good companies will be able to wow guests by designing lighting for a stage or set, full venue lighting schemes, and sound systems that cater to anything from a single speaker to a rock band.  

How do I know they’re any good?

There are no specific degrees that an A/V professional needs to obtain – some of the best are self-taught. However, some professionals may have a certificate or Bachelors degree in Audio Engineering and Production, or qualifications as a certified technology specialist. A/V companies that handle events on a regular basis will have a portfolio of work to show you, they should be comfortable working with your chosen PCO, and can refer you to testimonials from previous clients.

Can’t the hotel or venue staff do it for me?

Hotels do have A/V staff, but if the event requires more than a few microphones and a PowerPoint presentation, then it is best left to a trusted supplier that reports to you, not to the venue.

What is a logistics company?

A logistics company will take goods from Point A to Point B

Why should I hire one?

Events requiring the importing of goods – anything from food to signs, sets to equipment – require careful handling and timely arrival.

Where can I find one?

They are more prevalent than you might think. Again, conference associations and online searches should lead the path to a trusted logistics company. If working with a convention centre, they will likely contract with a reputable company.

How do I know they’re any good?

By definition, a logistics company should be big. Going with a global company, their network of planes, trains, automobiles and local partners in various countries will be more comprehensive. Websites should boast client lists or contracts they have won.

Can’t I do it myself?

Logistics companies are in this business for a reason. They know the particulars of each country’s customs laws, what kind of timeline shipping and delivery will require, they can track shipments 24-hours a day, and they know how to fix a problem if there are bumps along the way.

What is a sign or brochure printer?

From menus to namecards, banners to backdrops and blowing up pictures and corporate logos, printers do all that – the visuals for your message.

Why should I hire one?

Professional printers can create visually appealing materials of any shape, size or colour, with any logo or design to your specifications. For indoor and outdoor signage or displays, the state-of-the-art, modern equipment manned by skilled craftsmen creates durable signs for long-term use. Their designers know what should be kept simple and what should show off a bit of creativity.

How do I know they’re any good?

Printers that make event-quality signage will have an extensive array of machines, and a number of options for signs and display banners. Always ask to see an example of the finished product on a computer before the final print. 

Can’t I do it myself?

Explains Culsin Li, general manager, Hong Kong and Southern China, e21 MagicMedia about choosing a printer: “This is a labour-intensive industry so hiring an experienced team is critical.” Because print and visuals can make or break the feeling of the event, hiring professionals is key, particularly for large jobs.

What is a set designer?

Different to an event manager, the set designer creates the focal point of a stage or area for exhibitions, conferences and seminars.

Why should I hire one?

No doubt about it, a good set designer can create amazing themes, drop-down stages, surprise elements and more with creativity, imagination and some impressive engineering.

How do I know they’re any good?

Again, seeing is believing, and set designers worth their weight in water will not only have an awe-inspiring portfolio, but will also likely work with the same clients year after year, event after event.

Can I do it myself?

The do-it-yourself method has a number of pitfalls. Rob Campbell, creative planner at Sunshine, says: “I go to a conference for the experience. I want to be inspired as well as informed.

“I’ve been to so many conferences, industry events and brand functions, and many of them end up being in a dressed-up hotel ballroom, with little in the way of convincing decoration.”

On the flip side, great set design can include surprise elements like a hidden door for entry, the ability to change shape or construction, and a way to reinforce a message; but only when done the right way.

What is a DMC?

A destination management company – a group that will scout the perfect place to hold the event domestically or abroad, arrange transport, logistics, hotel and venue selection, as well as off-site entertainment and excursions.

Why should I hire one?

Experience. A great DMC can create new experiences, even in a place that delegates know fairly well. Branding a city or a hotel, finding unique venues for dinners, coordinating with local government and regulators, a DMC has the specialist knowledge of the destination, and connections to make anything happen.

How do I know they’re any good?

Ask about experience: how long have the executives you will be working with been in the business; what does their client list look like; where have they previously hosted events; for what types of companies and what size groups? It will become clear very quickly whether the team is proficient. Also make sure that the event is not being subcontracted out to an office elsewhere in the region. If communication ever becomes slow or vague on details, cut ties immediately.

Can’t I do it myself?

Adrianne Lynch, conference and incentive travel manager of Hong Kong’s award-wining DMC – The Destination Management Company, says: “We have established relationships with local suppliers, venues and secure preferred rates. What might appear to the organiser to be a drama can be solved more easily on the spot by an experienced DMC knowing exactly who to call and what doors to knock on.”

What is event insurance?

Event insurance covers everything from legal liabilities to medical issues and travel problems to the cancellation of an event.

Why do I need it?

As a company, you need to be protected legally and financially if anything goes wrong, such as travel accidents, terror alerts, water activities.

How do I know they’re any good?

Insurance for events is a relatively new concept for Asia, so looking for advice out of the US or the UK is a good starting point. The larger names in insurance will likely know local partners that can do the job just as well.

How much will it cost?

As a general rule, about one percent of the overall budget of the event, but extra coverage for special events or terror can increase that quickly.

Is my event really that risky?

Brian Kirsch, managing director of Event Assured, explains: “The standard event is not high-risk. You are bringing people to a safe, secure venue, which has its own health and safety or insurance policy, emergency planning… all of that. You have speakers on stage addressing an audience and that’s the scope of the event. Adding in factors like artists flying on trapezes, pyrotechnics, alcohol, outdoor events that include water sports; those are things that are seen as risky by an insurance company.”

 Supply Side

What is food and beverage service?

Caterers, bar staff, waiters, chefs, live station cooking and anything else that entails the preparation of food and drinks for an event

How do I know they’re any good?

Whether working with a five-star hotel or a company that specialises in cupcakes, a taste test will tell you very quickly whether the team can meet your culinary expectations. It will also let you know how they work and what size events they have previously catered. Always ask for examples of menus from similar events

Do I need to hire a whole team for this?

There’s nothing worse than under-ordering on the food or having too few waiters circling a room. Hotels and catering companies can look at numbers and the style of event and give you a direction on the number of people or size of the catering team needed.

What will it cost?

The cost of food and beverage will depend on quantity and quality. Serving steak and lobster at a gala dinner versus canapés at a cocktail reception means something very different for the bottom line. Equally, alcohol is often the most expensive single element of a catering budget and pre-ordering cases of wine or spirit on your own can save a considerable amount of money.

Can’t I organise it myself and just tell someone what to prepare?

Liz Seaton, the founder of Gingers, a catering company in Hong Kong, explains: “We are able to help you to plan in a way that will mean success: things like the ventilation system, whether a unique venue is set up for the preparation of hot food, what the demographic of the audience will be, if there are religious or dietary considerations, what has worked in the past. There are a lot of aspects to food and beverage that most people don’t think about, but we’ve done this for so long that we know what to ask.”

What is a corporate travel agent?

Different from a retail operation, a corporate travel agent could work with one airline specifically, or arrange travel for companies around the world.

Why should I hire one?

Booking online just won’t cut it when flying 300 people from 40 different countries to an island with two runways. Dealing with visas, preferential security channels, group check-ins, transport to and from the airport, customs, insurance, low fares – potentially your own airplane – and how to fix a problem if anything goes wrong is something the company should outsource.

How do I know they’re any good?

Reputable corporate travel departments should have websites with information about their services. They should also be members of a local or international travel agent association, such as the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents.

What will they charge me?

Fees for agents are typically relatively low, especially given the amount they will likely save you on the total cost of travel.

Can’t I do it myself?

A representative for Corporate Travel Management in Australia explains: “We negotiate for our clients to receive the benefit of any complimentary air travel/hotel/tour offerings from suppliers. We have a dedicated team of group and conference specialists who can act as your call centre for the exclusive receipt of individual or group travel bookings for conference or major event delegates; and we provide this 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” 



Depending on the category, suppliers can be relatively easy to come by, or surprisingly difficult to find. Conference and exhibition associations like the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (, Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (, and the International Congress & Convention Association ( are all excellent starting points.

Event management companies generally use the same third-party suppliers for every event because they are reliable, professional and deliver the highest quality to clients – their recommendations are usually the best. If tasked with finding suppliers, referrals are always favoured, but the internet can be an excellent place to search for companies that have helped bring events to life for similar companies or for groups with like-minded


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