Confessions of a Recovering In-House Planner

Confessions of a Recovering In-House Planner

March 17, 2015

Hello, my name is Kolleen and I am a recovering corporate in-house planner.

Sure, at the time, I loved it, but in that role, as much as I hate to admit it, I was limited. Before I came to Dittman, I was always the only one in my organization that was responsible for events.  But here, I have colleagues that are also planners that I can lean on and learn from.

In addition to that support, there are a few key reasons why I can attest that a third-party, incentive travel partner is better equipped to manage corporate incentive programs than corporations themselves.


Incentive companies (aka third-party planning organizations) are familiar with hotel chains, as well as individual properties.  If a client is interested in hosting their next incentive event at a resort they’ve never been to before, chances are someone on our team has already been there.  What’s more, we are able to leverage existing connections in order to ensure better rates, better concessions, and better service on-site.

Time Management

In most companies, demand for increased production is higher than ever.  Not only are organizations expected to operate with less, they’re expected to produce better results.  This affects more than just the straight spend by a corporation—it also applies to internal resources.

While some companies employ in-house planners—like I used to be—in order to manage programs from site selection to execution, other companies choose incentive companies because they make the job easier, save them time, and streamline the planning process. Incentive company planners can contribute greatly to the success of the program, but also reduce stress and resource strain for the client.

So what will your in-house planner do if you outsource your program?  Trust me, he will be plenty busy.  Programs like these require tremendous coordination.  Third-party planners enable organizations and their internal planners to focus on other essential elements owned by the client, including content management, contest rules and results, and internal logistics.

Cost Effectiveness

This is an area of debate for many, but hiring an incentive company to handle the program is actually cost effective. With relationships with most major hotel chains around the world and  reliable local partners, they simply have resources unavailable to many in-house planners. It’s unsettling to think about how much time I spent before I came to Dittman, forging new paths and creating new relationships that would be one-and-done after a single program.

Time is money, and naturally, corporations are accustomed to knowing their return on investment.  Incentive travel programs can be difficult to quantify until several months after guests are back to the grind.  But for those who do crunch the numbers, they typically don’t consider the countless hours spent working on the program by internal resources—and not just by the in-house event manager.  Administrative staff to book flights, internal or contracted legal counsel to review contracts, designers and writers to create program materials—if you think about it, you’ve got a small village spending an astounding number of hours on every program.

Incentive companies bring their own resources.  Knowledge and experience allow us to source, negotiate, and anticipate in a time and fashion most corporations simply aren’t able to compete with, because again, this is what we do, and our entire team contributes to success. We understand that there is power in numbers and so, we pool our resources; we double-check one another’s work; and we are all committed to a standard of preparation and execution that is unmatched.

We are also equipped to furnish an entirely different perspective that a client may have overlooked. As a former in-house planner, I knew my company like the back of my hand, but I wasn’t able to compare our incentive programs against others in the same sector or even in other industries, which limited our programs in the long run.


And last—but certainly not least: Expertise

Would you try to perform your own root canal?  Would you pick up a hammer and try to build your own house from the ground up?  If you answered, “no,” why not?  I would venture to guess that you don’t have the specific know-how and tools to do those things.  No shame in that—it’s likely that your dentist and your contractor don’t know the first thing about your business either.  Employee engagement and incentive travel programs are our business at Dittman.  While our clients are focusing on their business, we will be working hard at theirs—making sure everything goes off without a hitch and that employees who earn the opportunity for incentive travel are rewarded with an unforgettable experience.

I wrote a personal blog article on LinkedIn about a month before I joined Dittman, wherein I warned about the risks of following practices that are “same old, same old.”  The thrust of my position was summarized in the line, “Personally, I want nothing to do with sufficient.”  Ultimately, that is what attracted me to Dittman—their penchant for creating programs and experiences that are memorable and of the highest caliber.

If it sounds like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, it’s because I am.  But don’t take my word for it.  Allow us to prove it to you.

And allow me to reintroduce myself.  My name is Kolleen Whitley—and I am a proud incentive company planner.