Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) and Destination Management Companies (DMCs)


Organising a conference is a fairly time-consuming and demanding process. Fortunately, help is at hand! Some of the world’s most professional service providers, offering invaluable support for the success of your event.

Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) are companies that specialized in conference organization and administration. They have a vast experience and knowledge in planning meetings and are vital for the management of budgets and the securing of sponsorship opportunities.

Destination Management Companies (DMCs) specialise in the design and delivery of events, activities, tours, staffing and transport, utilizing extensive local knowledge, expertise and resources. Some of leading DMCs are descendants of the early tour guides – they know the city inside out and there’s rarely any request that cannot be advised upon.

Visit the desitnation will assist you with the process of deciding which of these is the best route to take. We will explore your requirements and organize appointments for you to meet with these service providers.


What is a PCO?
A PCO (Professional Conference Organiser) is a company which specializes in the management of conferences and congresses. The company will work with the association or the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) from the initial feasibility study and bid process through to final conference delivery.

What services will a PCO be able to provide?
PCOs can look after all aspects of the conference or specific elements depending on your requirements. Below is a typical list of the types of services offered by a PCO:
| Assistance with congress bids
| Venue research and feasibility
| Advice and consultancy services
| Help in defining objectives
| Guidance on tax issues
| Project planning
| Draft income and expenditure budget preparation
| Financial consultancy
| Book keeping
| Control of bank accounts
| Negotiation with suppliers and venues
| Meetings with organizing committees
| Risk assessments | Liaison with production companies
| Conference registration
| Delegate management
| Scientific programme development
| Abstract handling
| Exhibition & sales management
| Web design & management
| Speaker liaison & support
| Marketing and public relations
| Venue management
| Staffing on site
| Social event management
| Liaison with airlines & convention bureaus
| Transportation management
| Event evaluations
| Closure of accounts
| Design & print services
| Insurance advice
| Simultaneous interpretation
| Translation of congress documentation
| Accommodation management
| Tour programmes
| Study tours

What is the difference between a PCO and a DMC?
A Destination Management Company specializes in local logistical support for meetings in a specific location, however they do not tend to offer the full range of conference services provided by a PCO.

Why would an association need to engage a PCO?
Producing a successful conference takes experience, knowledge, and resources both in terms of time and technical facilities. A committee or association holding the conference may not have these resources internally. The PCO will act as a partner to the association and will provide expertise on all aspects of conference management.

How does a PCO contribute to the conference success?
There are often large financial commitments required to produce a conference and an element of risk involved. The PCO will work with you to develop a detailed conference budget to ensure the right level of income from registration, exhibition and sponsorship is achieved to make your event a commercial success. This is also balanced with a consistent professional approach to all elements of the conference delivery.

When should a PCO be appointed?
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 conference planning. What support can a PCO offer in the early stages of planning a conference? By engaging a PCO from the outset they can help by conducting a feasibility study, providing venue research, establishing a preliminary budget, short listing suppliers and developing a time line for the planning and organising of your conference.

Can a PCO help with the bid process?
A PCO can work in conjunction with Visit destination to ensure that the bid requirements are met. A conference budget is often required for a destination bid document and this can be supplied by the PCO along with experience and expertise to maximize your chances of winning the bid.

Will there be a charge to work on the bid?
There is a lot of work that goes into preparing a bid to win a congress for a particular destination. There is no fixed rule whereby PCOs will or will not charge for their services to prepare a bid. Generally there is an understanding that if you engage a PCO to prepare your bid to win the conference for your association and the bid is successful, you agree to appoint that PCO to work along side you with the management of your conference. If you wish to use a PCO to work on your bid alone and not to engage them if your bid is successful this should be made clear at the outset and a decision of whether or not to charge will be made at that stage.

How do I choose the right PCO for my conference?
Choosing the right PCO for your conference is very important. You could approach your selection of a PCO by inviting them to pitch for your business by way of a tender document. It would be prudent to check past client references for the PCO and to verify if the company that you are engaging is an active member of some of he many professional conference associations such as ICCA, IAPCO, MPI or ABPCO.

How much does it cost to employ a PCO?
PCOs charge for their services in different ways. At the outset of agreeing to work with a PCO you should agree how much they will charge you. It is normal for a PCO to charge a combination of fixed fees for the administration and handling of logistics and variable fees relating to delegate management, abstract handling and exhibition support.

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