Blimey… contracts! Negotiating contracts may not be as much fun as orchestrating the show or planning the cocktail reception, but getting contracts buttoned-up with event vendors is a critical part of event planning.
Over the years, I’ve learned some strategies that make the process smoother and better for the bottom line, and always working to make the contract a win-win with vendors.
Most important: get out your magnifying glass and scrutinize every word in the fine print. If necessary, get help from a contract specialist, perhaps your CFO or legal department, to go through it with you. As an events manager, I pride myself on dissecting the contract for clients, working out all the details and getting the best possible deals. But I’m always happy to have the client also go through contracts. Two sets of eyes are better than one and the devil is truly in the details.
For all contracts, make sure you know the deadlines for deposits and balances; late fees will wreak havoc with your budget. Know the cancellation policy, dates, and charges (even if your boss swears that the event dates are set in stone…)
Admittedly, it’s one thing to read the contract, it’s another to negotiate the terms. I’ve seen event planners leave value on the table by not asking for things to be included in the contact and fee. Don’t hesitate to ask. The vendor might say no, but my motto is, “If you don’t ask, you will never know.”
Here are some things to consider asking for from your venue:
• Reduced accommodation rates: If your event attendees will stay in the hotel where the conference is held, you should be able to get a good rate on rooms. Ask for the room rate to include continental breakfast.
• Perks for event staff: Ask for further reduced room rates for the events team. If the venue charges for parking, ask for parking pass for event staff. Any other perks you can think of for your event team will be worth it—you know how hard they’ll be working.
• Flexible beverage arrangements: If you’re holding a cocktail reception, ask if the venue offers an “Open Bar” rate. Open Bar charges a set fee per person offering no limit on drinks for a certain period time and will save you money over per-drink charges. Ask to have urns of drinks provided when possible rather than individual servings, such as an urn of ice tea or lemonade, rather than cans.
The key to contracting successfully for an event is to ensure all terms and charges are in writing and crystal clear, before works starts. This is true with partners you’ve worked with for ages or a new vendor. Don’t let your “buddy” status mislead you – get everything in writing. As movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”