Vendor Management: tips and hints for event planners
Planning an event is not a one person gig. No matter how big the event, from a small corporate retreat to a big conference, you cannot micromanage. You need to deliver tasks and find good vendors and contractors that help you.You need great support, excellent staff and trustworthy vendors.
But do you know who are you hiring?
My first suggestion is to be very careful with your choice, especially when we are talking about DMC (Destination Management Companies). Usually, these companies offer many different services and will end up taking a major component of your event, from socials to off-sites, and sometimes even transportation. This is great. It’s definitely better to deal with one vendor instead of 10, but you do need to be sure you have made the right choice. Collect all your references, openly compare vendors proposals, make them visible to all parties and put them in competition. And remember, do not accept anything that comes off of a shelf. Push them to tweak their ‘package itinerary’ to add your own unique elements. They need to personalize their offer and work around your needs.
Negotiating with vendors
It’s not always easy. When you’re planning an event, you need to be ready to demand, deliver, understand and communicate. Most of the time, major issues come up when you didn’t establish a correct relationship with you vendor. Vendors are partners and you need to be upfront, honest and transparent. I always try to have all my major vendors’ as part of all the strategic meetings. I try to make them feel special and part of the team. Be very clear in your expectation and be sure they understand what you have in mind. Finally, put everything in writing from the paying services and terms of payment, to the complimentary items and services.
Briefing and Debriefing
No doubts here because to run a flawless event you need to have all the teams groups and people working with you, for you, on the same page. Most of the time we do not dedicate enough time to properly brief our staff and the result is a few hiccups. If you run a MOS (master operational schedule) you may want to give a copy to everybody working on the event, from the DMC to the photographer. Even if someone works on a simple part, they still need to have a global view of the program to better understand and deliver what you need. The debriefing is essential as well, every day is different, and most of the time you can still modify and improve what you do behind the scenes with a clear debrief.
Use your vendors
They have signed onto your event and you are paying them – insist on their expertise and leverage it fully! If you need a different plan, check with your vendor and see if they have a other options. Sometimes it is worthwhile just to change instead of modifying and your partners are there just for this. Remember, they are the experts in that area and you can tap into that expertise anytime. You both are also probably looking for a long-term partnership and over the short term a winning game and marginal cost savings.
Keep the vendors energized
Most of the time we have a good team in our hands, but we may be still missing something that that brings enthusiasm and a high level of energy. A professional team translates your vision into actual movement and it’s extremely important to keep the group energized and focused. When things are not running well, or the event is running low of registration and you need to reduce or cancel few things, you and your team start to move into a depressed mode. This is the time to react and stand up. Remember, you are the leader and you want their best, so you have to touch their hearts. You can’t buy it with a paycheck. You have to earn it: Listen intently and ask thoughtful questions, acknowledge the sacrifices they have made on your behalf, and express gratitude for their efforts.