You can be the best event planner in the world and have wonderful clients who love you, but none of that will matter if you don’t have a solid team of vendors to work with. Vendors and planners need each other.
A planner without a vendor cannot produce an event. Period. We each play our role to bring an event to life so we need to be on good terms and work well together for the sake of the client’s event and our industry as a whole.
Here are my top five tips for ensuring you have great relationships with your vendors for mutually beneficial success.
1. Stay true to who you are. It’s important to be genuine in the way you interact with vendors and show you real personality versus trying to be someone you are not for the sake of “networking.” If they truly like you and respect who you are they will push beyond to make things happen for your event, which can be necessary when/if things go awry or we have shorter deadlines like now and still need to make an event happen.
2. Be honest and make them feel they are a real partner and member of your team, not just a hired hand. Show them you are a professional who knows the event industry, see their role in your overall production and you are someone who will make their workload easier by working together. They need to feel like you are there to be their advocate towards the client if the latter goes around you at any point directly to the client. As the planner you are there to manage the show and stand up for your vendors as part of the team.
One of the ways I do this is by adding them to ClickUp, a project management software my team and I use to keep everything straight for an event. I can track all vendor statuses and deliverables and then I can invite each of them to see where they fit into the event and update their section accordingly.
3. Include them in your pre-event meeting schedule. A kickoff meeting is very important to set that bar and expectations from the very beginning as well. Then you can have your regular check-ins throughout the process and update them accordingly on both where their role stands, then how it fits into the whole (if they have the time available) so they can see they are truly part of a larger team and production.
4. Always be sure to pay on time! That will help solidify that relationship for the future. We all have shorter deadlines but the better you can keep on top of things the more they’ll want to work with you again and go out of their way when needed.
And finally, if things do not go to plan onsite and it seems a vendor may have made an error or failed to deliver on something they promised…
5. Gather information before pointing fingers if things go wrong. Ask them what has happened that affected their performance and try to understand rather than point the finger. Based on what they tell you, you can make the decision to either stop the relationship if you don’t understand each other, or you can come up with a plan together to fix it and move forward if it’s a one-off instance.
The key is not to try and blame but truly attempt to understand what failed in the process overall. There may be, or have been if it’s over, a circumstance at play you didn’t know affecting them either from your team or an outside source. By asking and trying to understand first you are able to show again you see them as part of the team and are trying to work through it. You may not be able to but it’s worth trying.
Valerie Bihet is director for VIBE Agency, producer of in-person, virtual, hybrid and metaverse events, and a 2021 Smart Women in Meetings Award winner.