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From tech and business expos to rollicking music, food, and arts festivals, an exciting range of events take place in Chicago each year. As a hub for top chefs, healthcare firms, and government offices, as well as research, engineering, and creative businesses, the Windy City’s got a boatload happening year-round — and a ton of events means plenty of superb event companies.
Event planning can be tricky, if not stressful for even the best of us seasoned professionals. After all, there are so many moving parts and there can only be so many hours in your day. You can’t possibly do everything and still enjoy the event, not to mention that mishaps do happen.
The truth is, planning an unforgettable event goes beyond event management and logistics. It calls for experience and creativity, as well as taste and vision. Thankfully, every Chicago event company starred on this list personifies these attributes.
While it may seem daunting at first, event planning can be easy and hassle-free with the help of the right event company in Chicago. A great event management company will go above and beyond to learn your brand identity and understand your specific needs. From here, they will leverage their own creativity and expertise to create a truly memorable event. Go ahead and check out our curated list of the best event companies in Chicago.
What does an event planning/event management company do?
Most companies, businesses, and individuals draw on the connection, expertise, and tools of event management companies to coordinate their most important events. These could be their trade expos, meetings, seminars, team building events, weddings, birthday parties, or other social events.
At the fundamental level, event planning entails the process of using organizational, creative, and business management skills to imagine, plan, and implement business, corporate, and social events. Firms that specialize in event planning leverage a host of vendors, schedules, and budgets to plan and execute great events for their clients. In short, they are involved in the planning, managing, and evaluating of events for corporate, government, association, nonprofit, and individual clients.
As far as event companies in Chicago go, you will discover that some refer to themselves as event planners while others say they fall into the event management umbrella. This begs the question: what’s the difference between an event manager and event planner?
Event planners are what they sound like – companies that plan and make sure every aspect of the actual event is a success. More specifically, they ensure your venue is set up properly and keep track of time during the event, as well as manage the caterers, wait staff, and a raft of other venue-centric tasks. In other words, event planners focus on the venue and everything related to the big day.
On their side, event management companies work with you every step of the way, from start to finish. As such, event managers help you work out your event’s timeline, budget, and venue. Not just that; they also help you pick the perfect venue, negotiate contracts, coordinate vendors, and synchronize all the event details — they don’t leave anything out!
It all starts with a scoping meeting between the client and the event management company. In this initial meeting, event managers will gather important information about the event and what the client wants from it. They will also discuss the event budget, timeline, vision, and the overall theme/concept.
Once all the nuts & bolts of the budget have been worked out, they will now focus on the selection of vendors, venues, and maybe speakers, plus finalize a few practical kinks of the event. If other things like transportation, parking, and security, are required, they will also arrange for them. Furthermore, they may play a role in obtaining any necessary permits, permissions, and insurance.
When the big day arrives, the event company will be present to take care of any potential problems and generally run the event. Post the event, they will wrap things up and perhaps obtain feedback from those involved.
Why do I need an event planner?
Event planners do much more than arranging concerts and weddings. They have what it takes to orchestrate all the details of any special event, whether that’s a product launch, wedding, workshop, sporting event, conference, fundraiser, fashion show, or an important meeting. When it comes to organizing a successful event, the true magic happens when everyone plays their part.
An event planner has to make sure everything falls in the right place during the special occasion. You may not notice their contribution and role at a well-thought-out event, but you’d obviously reckon chaos at a poorly-planned event. That being said, here are top reasons why you need an event planning and management company:
Event planners bring lots of creativity and ideas to the table. Once again, creativity and that wow factor are indispensable when creating an unforgettable event. It takes a creative team of event planners to do so. They will take advantage of their expertise, vision, and taste, as well as incorporate design aesthetics, organization, and imaginative ideas to make your event successful.
Gain access to essential tools and technology. That’s right; working with the right events company means that you can use their events planning technology, premium quality lighting, sound systems, and display screens.
Attention to detail. Great event planners understand that the little things count. They drill down to the minuscule details of your event, including those that you would easily overlook. Putting together these tiny pieces is usually the most difficult part of event planning and yet they contribute to creating an impressive event.
Saves you money and time. Hiring an event planner might seem expensive at first, but they’ve got viable connections with event technicians, venues, performers, speakers, and trusted vendors. Through these vendor relationships and industry discounts, they can help you save time and money, usually to the tune of 10 percent or more.
Risk management. In event planning, things can always go awry. A great event planner is a risk management partner who will help you secure essential permissions, permits, licensing, and insurance. Event companies also have expert staff on-site, helping you iron out problems quickly and with little disruption to your event should they happen.
Takes guesswork out of event budgeting. An event planner will not only organize your venue and take care of your timelines but also see to it that your budgeting is done right. They will have an experienced pro working on all involved costs and estimates on any potential changes, contingencies, or extras.
Cleaning up after the event. An event planner will make sure post-event clean up is smooth and easy for you. They usually have a crew that will tidy things up and leaves the venue looking impeccable after your event. This takes the pressure off you and frees up your time, so you can say your thank-you’s and catch up with some of the attendees.
Bottom line: an event planner takes care of the venue, catering, entertainment, and other tasks you need help with to put on an unforgettable event. This way, you can truly focus on what matters: your attendees.
How large does my event need to be before I use an event planner?
There’s a lot that goes into creating a successful event, including many rounds of planning, meetings, and attention to detail. Sure, you may have a vision and theme for your event, and perhaps you have secured a date and location. After that, however, all the to-dos can become overwhelming, and that’s where an event planner can come to your rescue.
A good event planner can bring any event to life no matter the kind or size, which is particularly true if you are a busy entrepreneur, business, or professional. Even if you are only expecting 25 people to attend your reception, it can be a big relief to know that a professional is in charge of the entertainment, catering, decorations, setup, planning, and post-event clean-up.
However, an event planner can be quite useful in handling all the headaches and pain-points that come with organizing a large event. In saying so, the general rule of thumb is to bring onboard an event company if you’re inviting 100+ attendees.
The actual figure varies depending on the type of event you are organizing.
How much do event planners cost?
The average hourly cost of hiring an event planner in Chicago ranges from $73 and $90, which translates to between 10% and 15% of the total expenses of an event. This is somewhere in the middle of the national average which ranges between $50 and $150 per hour.
What you will eventually pay for an event company’s service will certainly depend on the size and complexity of the event, as well as the planner’s rate.
You will come across a variety of event planning fee-charging models. Some companies charge a flat fee for every project, while others opt for an hourly rate. The latter is a great choice for someone who needs minimal help.
More seasoned event planners typically charge a percentage fee. In this case, the total cost of the event expenses will do much of the talking. At the same time, some event companies may go for a combination of an hourly rate and a percentage of expenses.
Why use a Chicago event planner?
Chicago event planners know the ins and outs of the local event planning market. More importantly, they have working relationships with local Chicago vendors, venues, and partners. You can count on a Chicago event planner to easily and quickly figure out the best venue, manage the caterers, book any entertainment, and create the most effective vendor line-up for your event.
Aside from ensuring a seamless and smooth production, a local planner can make your event as unique as you want. Plus, you can take full advantage of their local industry discounts and connections.
How far in advance should I get an event planner?
The further back you can begin to plan your event, the better. Even though some event planners offer last-minute options, it’s recommended that you start 8-12 months beforehand. This is especially true for large events like fundraisers, big weddings, and galas.
What types of events does an event planner plan?
Not all event planners are created equal – some specialize in a niche market while others plan a variety of events. When you’re planning an off-the-charts birthday party, nonprofit fundraiser, or a high-profile wedding, there’s an event planner for you.
Talking of specialization, some event companies focus on corporate and business events. Corporate event planners plan high-profile meetings, team-building events, end-of-year parties, product launches, business dinners, executive retreats, Trade Expos/Shows, seminars, conferences, and shareholder meetings, just to name the most common few.
In a corporate or business setting, event planners often cover A/V needs, coordinating caterers, booking speakers, event registration, ticketing, and event branding or marketing. They may also plan grand openings, galas, workshops, graduation ceremonies, public events, association meetings, and much more.
On the other hand, social event planners deal with weddings, birthday parties, reunions, family get-togethers, christening parties, baptisms, and Bar mitzvahs. The list goes on and on.
Will an event planner boss me around?
That’s a big NO. An event planner is your partner or consultant, and not your boss. With the places and event companies on our list, your vision is the priority.
Of course, you must find a reliable, professional, and trustworthy event planner if you want everything to go smoothly. Make sure to:
The overall cost of hiring the best event planners is higher, but their top-notch service brings time savings, vendor relationships, and unmatched expertise.
Are event planners done when my event ends?
No, they can do debriefs or help you analyze the success of your event. Depending on the type of event company you hired, they may also offer post-event clean up, collect feedback, and conduct reviews.