As we all know being an assistant means that our super organised skills are second to none. Fact! We are the most organised profession there is available to the working world and our skills can be transferable to many different tasks, including managing an event from start to finish. Like most assistants I’ve organised quite a few in my time and have felt quite comfortable managing all aspects of the event, for example I know how to arrange a conference room, I know which AV equipment to book, I know which food to order and I know which venue to hire… And I know how to do all of this while still maintaining my normal nine to five executive assistant job!
I sound marvellous don’t I!? Well to be honest there is a slight chink in my event armour; I’m not the best at negotiating. There I said it – I struggle to haggle with pretty much anyone, even when I go to exotic far flung markets where you are supposed to haggle I get a bit light headed. So how did I overcome this weakness when I first started to organise events? Well I didn’t, I hired a fantastic events co-ordinator to do all of the negotiating with the venue and suppliers on my behalf. I cannot sing her praises enough! We worked together on lots of successful events and she always knew what I would prefer and how I liked my events organised. She was fabulous! I have picked up so many tips from her on how to negotiate and get your way with suppliers that I wanted to share them with you. Here are just a few:
- Make a list of your priorities; from your absolute must haves through to the things that might be a nice added extra. Complimentary items from the supplier are great but if they don’t fit in with your priorities then don’t let the venue use this as a bargaining tool.
- Don’t let the supplier rush you into making any decisions. You have to make sure you get everything you want and need from that venue. A provisional booking can remain provisional for quite some time especially if you are hiring the venue during their quiet season. If you remain undecided for a while and appear to be looking at other options the supplier may offer you a further discount to secure the business.
- Hotel venues profit from the rooms you book for delegates so it is possible to negotiate on other aspects of the event such as the conference rooms or the catering. The more bedrooms you book the more you can negotiate and get free of charge.
- Venues have a high and low season. If you have a venue near the beach expect it to be busier in the summer and the same goes for winter resorts. If you have your event at the venue while it is quieter you can again discuss a cheaper rate with them as you know they will need your business.
- Although catering is an important money maker for most venues you can negotiate on costs here. Always try to organise catering per head rather than in bulk so that you are not paying for food and drink that your guests do not use. You should also have breakfast and lunch included in the delegate rate package rather than pay for this separately. Try and get a fixed percentage off of the overall cost and remember you should be working with the catering team to design a menu that works well for your budget.
- Catering service charges can be a bit of a sting when you get the bill. Make sure you negotiate for exactly what you need so that you don’t end up with too many additional costs. Roughly for a sit down meal you should have one waiter for every 20 guests and for a buffet it should be one waiter for every 30 guests. If you are putting together a lavish formal dinner then one waiter to every 15 guests is enough. A flat service charge is a big no no and make sure the venue doesn’t charge you for any additional labour costs.
- Will your guests be making use of the spa or other facilities that are normally at an additional cost? If so, you should be able to get a discount for them. Quite often these facilities are underused my hotel guests (particularly in business venues) and you should be able to haggle on the standard prices.
- If you use the same supplier all the time and are constantly providing them with repeat business this is the easiest negotiation around. It is fair that you get the best service at the lowest prices as you should be considered a valued customer.
- It is always worth mentioning that you are looking at other suppliers. You should be looking at other suppliers! Healthy and fair competition between contractors will ultimately mean you will get a competitive rate.
If you are just starting out with event organisation I highly recommend finding yourself a good external events coordinator to help you with the initial stages such as finding a venue and negotiating with suppliers. Remember that you will not be charged for this service, the venue ultimately pays this cost as commission to the coordinator. Once you are more comfortable organising the event on your own a last negotiating tool is to remind the venue that they aren’t paying commission to an agency and so they should reimburse you for this cost!
Are there any other negotiating tips you can share?