Planning events are stressful enough without the added “what can go wrong, will go wrong” rule. That’s why it’s important to “dot your i’s and cross your t’s” when it comes to vendors. Despite the negative experiences, most vendors aren’t malicious. They’ve just been in the industry for a while, and sometimes forget that clients don’t speak “production”.
So whether they’re being difficult or it’s just an innocent misunderstanding, these 5 points should decrease your chances of having important details fall through the cracks, and get in the way of a successful event.
1. Sign Something
Some vendors are very laid back and prefer to keep it informal. DON’T.
In those cases, they may insist that a verbal agreement, or email, is good enough to confirm. NOPE! Create a simple one-page service agreement, for both parties to sign, to avoid misunderstanding. No need to reinvent the wheel, there are plenty of sites that have free template forms. Some important info to include are date, time, location, service and fees.
2. Always know what you're signing
People, read your contracts! I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a client accidentally sign a contract with the wrong event date.
Even if you have a procurement or legal team, there are certain parts of a contract that you want to read and understand. Of course, there are the standard points included on any service agreement, but make sure to also look at the cancellation policy. Also, if your contract is with a venue, pay special attention to the house rules such as guest count regulations, volume, load-in, load-out and most importantly overtime fees. Speaking of fees...
3. Overtime will kill your budget
The worst thing to do is have a set budget for your event, only to discover overtime costs and labor fees you failed to calculate.
Understanding all fees beforehand is extremely important, and will make a huge difference between maintaining and blowing your budget. Some important questions to ask yourself are (a) have you accounted for setup and teardown? (b) how is trash removal and cleaning being handled? (c) have you budgeted for the often forgotten elements, such as coat check, registration, bathroom attendants and elevator operators?
4. Be honest about your needs
Budgets should not be a huge secret. Disclosing your parameters, especially the max you’re willing to spend, can save you time and guess what… money.
Sure, you don’t want to give your “real” event budget, just in case there’s room to negotiate. If it makes you feel better shave off a reasonable amount, but be upfront about your needs and expectations (spatial, culinary, budgetary, etc.). It empowers vendors to be creative with their solutions, and sometimes you end up with more value for your buck.
5. Look at their previous work
If you’re really at odds about choosing a venue or hiring a vendor, take a look at similar work they’ve done.
Always ask vendors and venues for references. For venues, also ask for a walkthrough. For caterers, also ask for a tasting. Most caterers will charge for the tasting, if you do not contract them. This is expected. However, you can always ask them to credit the cost of the tasting, should you choose to contract their services.