What is a PCO?
A Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) is a company that specialises in the organisation and administration of conferences. The company will act as a consultant to the conference contact or Organising Committee, using the experience and knowledge it has gained over many years organising events to help you ensure your conference is a great success.
There are many different ranges of services that a PCO can offer. Most will offer a full service and offer a selection of partial services. Some offer advice and consultancy based on much experience within the conference industry whereas others provide only administrative support. It is, therefore, necessary to identify the type and level of service you require to ensure that you do actually need a PCO and that the PCO can meet your needs.
Who needs a PCO?
If there are areas of administration which you cannot provide the resources to manage then a PCO will handle these for you. They will also act as a link between different committees and suppliers. The Committee or Association will normally retain control of the event and set the policy with the PCO acting as Project Manager and ensuring that the administration runs smoothly. In addition they will provide advice on all aspects of conference management and work with you in partnership to ensure the success of your conference.
It is also necessary to ascertain which services, if any, are offered by the international association or by other parties so that you are clear on the service that you require.
When do you need a PCO?
A PCO can be brought in at different stages during the planning process. It is recommended that a PCO be appointed as early as possible, as their experience and expertise can ensure you avoid the many pitfalls and unnecessary expenditure, which are frequently encountered during the early stages of congress planning.
In the earliest stages a PCO will offer help, advice and administrative support in venue research and feasibility, as well as in establishing a preliminary budget, short listing suppliers, negotiationg and contracting on budgetary items, and developing a time line for the planning and organisation of your congress.
Whilst there are fees involved in the work of a PCO some administrative advice and support in the preparation of bids may be offered free of charge provided that the PCO involved is shortlisted or awarded the contract if the bid is successful.
To help you decide if you need a PCO and what responsibilities to assign to them please read the guidelines provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and then contact Convention Edinburgh to discuss further. We can send your requirements to PCOs in our membership and request proposals from them.