Ethics and Etiquette in the Event Planning Industry

Ethics, as defined by Encarta Dictionary, is “a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for a person or group.”


In today’s global economy and diverse cultures, that definition can be interpreted in a multitude of ways which makes it complicated!

But understanding ethics can be relatively simple and easily managed if you govern your decisions and activities by two basic rules:

Understanding Ethics

  • Build and maintain honest, trusting and long-term working relationships.
  • Engage in fair and equitable business practices whether times are good or bad.

The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), a widely recognized authority on convention and meeting management, published PCMA’s Principles of Professional and Ethical Conduct in 2002. It is available here with permission for your reference –

PCMA Code of Ethics | Principles of Professional and Ethical Conduct

Open and trusting relationships with your venues, facilities, vendors and service providers will be priceless over time. Although practising ethical behaviour may not be a matter of law, violation of fair and equitable business practices can be considered illegal.

There is a very long list of ethical issues, but a few of the easiest to violate due to inexperience are mentioned here.


What to practice

  • Full disclosure of any rebates, commissions or incentives accepted for any reason.
    Notice to attendees that a rebate from registration fees will be used to offset an expense; a legitimate example would be shuttle service expense.
  • Fair and equitable negotiations in good times or bad.
  • Confidentiality during the bidding process.
  • Prompt and professional notification when site and vendor selections have been decided.
  • Identify and address unethical behaviour in others that could result in damages to your event, organization or group.
    Ethics is not limited to your own personal behaviour.

Trouble spots to avoid

  • Refrain from accepting or encouraging gifts or accepting promises of gifts from venues or service providers.
    This is particularly an issue prior to making decisions on sites, venues, vendors and other service providers.
  • Refrain from using travel points earned from airlines and hotels during business trips for personal travel.
  • Refrain from conducting site inspections or accepting invitations to Familiarization (FAM) trips sponsored to any location unless your group will seriously consider booking business there.
  • Refrain from any activity that would discredit you or your organization.

Suggested Industry Etiquette (Professional Courtesy)

  • Be prepared, considerate, realistic and factual in all verbal and written communications.
  • Be cognizant of the value of everyone’s time and be timely with all communications and follow-up.
  • Meet Dealines
    Meet your deadlines and keep your promises.
  • Partnership
    Treat venues, facilities, vendors and service providers as partners rather than subordinates. Everyone has a vested interest in your success.
  • Profits
    Understand the need for your event partners to make a reasonable profit.
  • Be Calm
    Maintain a calm and courteous demeanor under pressure.
  • Work diligently toward agreement and solutions that will be mutually beneficial.
  • Don’t criticize. Seek resolution.
  • Respectful communications
    Make every effort to engage in respectful communications in every circumstance.
  • Resort to confrontation
    Resort to confrontation only when there is absolutely no other alternative to fixing an immediate problem.
  • Long-term Approach
    Working relationships as long-term rather than one-time-only. It is likely you will work with the same service provider companies in other locations, or you will rely on their referrals if they do not provide service where your event will be located.
  • Share the glory.
    When your event is successful, praise your partners and the staff who helped produce it.