While some event professionals may gleefully embrace the prospect of negotiating contracts for large events, many would rather run for the hills. To make the process less daunting, here are six tactics to strengthen your hand at the bargaining table:
1. Consider multi-year agreements
In many instances, event professionals can land sweet deals if they consider a multi-year agreement for annual events. For instance, if you like a certain hotel chain, consider approaching them about a yearly commitment. It can save time and effort, but just make sure you understand the value of your event for better negotiations, and include protection clauses in case you’re not satisfied with the first years’ experience.
2. Obtain multiple bids
It’s important to get bids from at least three vendors to ensure you’re getting the best value. This will help you understand how the vendor will enhance your event, and what additional items you may need to negotiate. For instance, one vendor might include certain amenities, while another might charge you for them. Do your due diligence to secure the best overall service.
3. Read the fine print
You would be surprised at how many people do not actually read every line in a contract. That’s where many items are missed such as additional fees, one-sided protections, and inadequate security, among other terms. While time consuming, but it’s worth it to ensure your event is properly protected.
4. Secure the prior year’s pricing
One thing you can expect is for prices to increase each year. However, you might consider negotiating the prior year’s rates for services such as food and beverage. Just make sure the vendor doesn’t overcompensate in other areas, such as rental fees, to cover these costs.
5. Take your time
Some vendors give unreasonably short time frames to review a contract. Don’t be pressured into a quick review. Let the contact know the amount of time you and/or others in your organization need to review the terms. If they do not budge, then reconsider whether it’s in your best interest to pursue this vendor. Why is it that they are making you sign so quickly? Could this be a foreshadowing of what it would be like to work with them? This should be a mutually-beneficial relationship, so be careful when it’s all about them.
6. Remember…everything is negotiable!
The old adage remains true…you don’t ask, you don’t get. Whether working with a venue, caterer, rental company or other vendor, know your program and understand what you need. Don’t assume, just present your case and work with the vendor on the best way to make it happen.
Negotiating event contracts is a great exercise in compromise. There’s something in the negotiations for both parties, and working collaboratively toward that goal will yield the best results.
Jennifer D. Collins, CMP is the President & CEO of JDC Events, an award-winning Washington, DC area event design company, and author of the book, Events Spark Change, scheduled for release in early 2018.