The Secret to Successful Event Planning - Episode 6

Organizing any event, from the office party to a major function requires the professional touch, especially when dealing with vendors, and the legal implications and paperwork need careful and detailed attention.

Negotiating with your vendors – suppliers

Obviously, the nature of the event you will be organizing determines the nature and number of vendors you will need to either consult with or obtain the services they provide. To get your act together, it is a good idea to keep them in broad categories:

  • Transport: Air, ground, Rail
  • Catering: Catering/Food, Waitrons, Bartenders
  • Sites/Venues: Hotels, Conference venues, Museums, Zoos, Parks, Game Farms
  • Accommodation: Hotels, Private homes
  • PR: Graphic Design, Printing, Web Site, Photography, Publicity
  • Entertainment: Entertainment/Acts/Dancers, Audio Visual, DJ's
  • Function Room: Lighting, Flowers, Decorations, Trade Exhibitions
  • Technology: Computers, Specialized Software Applications
  • Janitorial: Child Care, Security, Coat Check, Concierge, Valet, Janitorial, Toilets, Gifts

The Paperwork

PaperworkFor the inexperienced event-planner, just the idea of drawing up, and then getting a contract signed can be somewhat unnerving – but to not have any form of agreement is far worse. It is far better to rein in the services of a professional, seasoned in the game, a specialist contracts lawyer – simply because this is a veritable minefield. It is a good idea though, to have a handle on some of the terminology used:

  • The parties involved: both sides of the deal must be identified, ie., YOU (as the organizer) and A.N. Other (the other party/organization)
  • The Offer: Here all the products and services provided by the sponsor or vendor are detailed. Be very careful about missing something here, because it is often a target for costly lawsuits.
  • Consideration: This, of course is the money being paid.
  • Acceptance: This means that the deal must be signed to prove that it has been seen by both parties. The pages where there are no signatures must be initialed by all of the signatories.
  • Terms: This clause in the agreement is meant to spell out WHEN the funds/cash will be paid to the party extending the offer. You are the PAYOR.
  • Cancellation: There is always an element of risk involved in the carrying out of a function or event. That means that all the possibilities must be considered and spelled out, leaving no loopholes for the unscrupulous folk around. This must cater for the payment of financial penalties in the event it does happen.
  • Force-majeure: This is legalese for an “Act of God” - I.e the provision, usually financial, for unexpected or unusual events, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, Tsunamis to allow for either or both parties to cancel without incurring any penalty.
  • Insurance: Here you need to research the nature of Insurance that will be necessary. There are plenty of Short Term Insurance around. Use your discretion.
  • Arbitration: To control any possible legal costs, consider including a clause which allows both parties to resort to using the services of a low-cost mediator to settle any disputes. This is much more cost effective and less costly than going the legal route.
  • Billing: Make sure that if you are dealing with prominent entertainers, that they get the right level of promotion beforehand. Some of them can be real prima donnas.
  • Time: The time element involved in the completion and signing of any contracts is highly important, for one very good reason: The jobs can all start promptly, because the vendors know they have the job, and then that will be paid.

Developing Potential Sponsors

Seasoned event planners have developed some well-tuned strategies for hauling in sponsors that have worked admirably for them. So, if you are new to the event-planning game, it is probably a good idea to use these until you have cut your teeth. Then, that done, you can expand your horizons as you rise in confidence and competence.

Here are the basics around which you can build your strategies:

1. Structure a formal letter of invitation, which addresses your plan, but keep it simple – actually, even old-fashioned by handwriting it. No flashy, expensive brochures. If you have been referred by a mutual acquaintance, use that to your advantage – it weighs heavily in your favor. DO NOT E-mail this type of request EVER – in fact, it runs the risk of being deleted as being SPAM.

2. Invest in some inexpensive Desktop Publishing Software (A good supplier, which I have used successfully for over 6 years: http://www.serif.com use this to make some simple brochures. A printer such as a Canon Pixma IP4200 is good for this aspect, as long as you don't need too many copies. If you invest in an excellent bit of additional software: www.fineprint.com this helps to print the brochures and also booklets if needed. These can be dished out at networking events.

3. Make your follow-up a VOICE call – not a letter or e-mail. When enough time has elapsed after your initial letter, the next, and most effective action is to phone your prospect. Do NOT send a 2nd letter. The timing of your call should not be at a time when you can expect the person concerned to be in meetings, or otherwise engaged. Usually early-morning or late afternoon are the better options.

4. The key is the Gatekeeper: It is very important for you to curry favor (professionally and subtly of course) with the Executive's P.A. This person can often get you through the door if you convince them that what you are doing is worthwhile.

5. Test your mettle: This part is not easy, and certainly not for the faint of heart.

Next Episode 7 : Marketing your event.

Images by courtesy of Stock.xchng

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