Has your organization ever flawlessly executed an event? Has your annual meeting ever gone off without a hitch? Hopefully you can answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions, if not both. For the non-meeting planners out there, have you considered what goes on behind the scenes in order to make that happen?
Planners know all too well that meetings and events don’t just magically come together at the last minute. There are many aspects to planning and booking an event or vendor; it’s often quite a process. Listed below is a sample lifecycle of securing the perfect venue, band, caterer, transportation company, etc.
Research and Due Diligence. Even with a clear vision of what you’re looking for, much research will need to be conducted. Are you familiar with the area? A great place to start is with the convention and visitors bureau or even better, with local trusted contacts. Once a few options have been gathered, be sure to look into their history. Have they received positive testimonials from previous clients? Do they have a good reputation?
The Ask. Depending on what type of vendor you are booking, you might be able to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP). If not, I always like to make ‘the ask’ via email first and then follow-up with a phone call. If you have an “in” from a reputable contact, don’t be afraid to name drop. Often times a vendor will be more prone to issuing a quicker response if they have already established the rapport with your contact.
Negotiation. Remember, you are allowed to question and ask for more. What will your organization value and what can be given up? If complimentary room rental is an absolute must, then make sure that it is included in the contract. And don’t forget about important clauses, such as attrition, force majeure, and insurance.
Approval and Acceptance. Once both parties have agreed to the terms, proper approval and signature must be received. If resources are available, I highly recommend having a lawyer or someone with a legal background review the contract.
Planning. This part of the process will vary depending on the scale of the event. If you are planning for an annual meeting, you will need to be in constant communication with your contacts, discussing a multitude of details. On the flip side, if you have booked a DJ for an opening reception, one or two email or phone conversations might suffice. Either way, you should always make sure that all details are confirmed the week prior to the event, scheduling pre-conference meetings where applicable.
Execution. Often the scariest part for a planner, this is where everything is out of your hands. Hopefully all the planning and preparation will produce a successful event, but it is always best to have a contingency plan in place.
Follow-Up. Perhaps the most important and sometimes overlooked part of the process, you should always follow-up with your contact. Communicate both successes and constructive criticism, especially if you plan to use this vendor in the future. A thank you note of appreciation can often go a long way.
Of course these are just a few of the many aspects that go into the full life cycle of booking a vendor. What would you add to the list?