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Event Planning

5 Tips for Negotiating Event Contracts in 2023

Daria Knupp Avatar Daria Knupp March 14, 2022
Table of Contents
5 min read

Event contract negotiations are, without a doubt, one of the most feared activities for event professionals. On the other hand, negotiation is one of the essential skills to have as an event planner. 

Working with partners helps organizers stay on budget and get more value for money. 

Negotiation is critical for an event’s success, allowing organizers to increase their return on investment. 

Nonetheless, negotiations may be a problematic issue since they impact event partners’ relationships during the early phases of event planning. 

It’s conceivable that some aspects of a contract may be tough to negotiate, especially when there are complicated legalities to consider, particularly following the pandemic. 

Contracts are tricky, and the negotiation process may appear daunting, but some tactics can help you negotiate like a pro. 

1. Budget First 

When creating your RFP (Request for Proposal), ask to view the venue’s menus, AV pricing, and outside vendor and production standards. Use them to compile a budget and figure out where you stand. 

After you’ve decided on a budget for the event, begin by generating event-budget figures for each category and item. This will assist you in beginning discussions with event partners that you can afford. 

Many event professionals are hesitant to share budget information with vendors, yet being open will result in advantages, especially if trusting leads to a stronger business relationship. 

Be clear and concise with your RFP, listing all of your needs at the beginning of the process starts communication off on the right foot,” explains Tanna Pearman, Meeting Broker from Meetings Made Easy.  “When organizers return to the table with added concession requests, it is frustrating to the vendor, who provided their best offer based on the original request for proposal.  Being up-front with all your needs, expectations, must haves and likes will provide the best offer as a foundation to the contracting process.” 

2. Multiple Quotes Are Encouraged & Can Be Leveraged 

Even if you have a top-rated supplier or venue in mind with an outstanding track record and client feedback, get quotes from multiple suppliers. 

Having a variety of options on the table will give you more leverage when negotiating with suppliers and locations, as you’ll be able to compare prices and proposals and choose which vendor or venue best suits your needs. 

Michael Guillory, VP of Marketing and Communications from The Expo Group added some thoughts on this topic.  “You should always include comparative pricing when searching for venues and suppliers”, Guillory said. “However, make sure you are comparing apples to apples.  For example, you would never compare the price of a Honda Civic to a Mercedes S Class, but both vehicles can get you to your destination.  You just have to weigh the importance of the differences to make a smart decision on whether or not the added cost is worth it.” 

You may receive bids from three comparable locations or suppliers, each with a different price and level of service. In that scenario, your “preferred” partner may be able to match pricing or provide a benefit they wouldn’t have if you went with them first. 

3. Flexibility is your Friend 

When you begin a negotiation, it’s easy to understand that you may have non-negotiables that you’re unwilling to compromise on. It’s critical not to have any mismatches or misunderstandings due to knowing and communicating your non-negotiables with your prospective partner.  

However, being flexible will reap benefits; you’ll get better terms in return for something the vendor wants if you demonstrate some flexibility. 

Consider elements of your event that you may be willing to modify without jeopardizing the value of the event. Make these known to the vendor ahead of time so you can receive price or service concessions. 

For example, you might suggest that the event’s date be changed to non-peak dates when the vendor or location is not expected to be busy. 

It’s all about having what the venue wants (an event to fill those dates) and seeing what they are willing to give for it (discounts, favorable terms, etc.). 

4. Think Long-Term Strategy 

Consider a multi-event agreement as another approach to assist you in event planning contract negotiations. It’s a win-win situation for both parties since it guarantees repeat business for suppliers and allows planners to get better rates. 

You might, for example, negotiate a multi-event contract with an audio-visual production partner or an event venue that you plan to utilize frequently. 

It can save time and effort, but just make sure you understand the value of your event for better negotiations and include protection provisions in case you’re not satisfied with the first years’ service. 

5. Remember Everything Is Negotiable & Know When to Walk Away 

The adage is still valid…you don’t ask; you don’t get. Know your program and what you need before approaching a venue, caterer, rental firm, or any other vendor. Just make your case and work with the provider to make it happen in the best way possible. 

Don’t assume that anything in the contract is off-limits because it is there. It’s up to you whether you want to make a change, but if something in there bothers you, put it in your own words.  

It’s a negotiation, so make your case. However, no matter how hard you try, it might just not be a good fit – and that’s OK. Know when it’s appropriate to walk away from a location or vendor to find something more suitable for you. 

“Negotiating is just that, an opportunity for both parties to discuss needs or expectations,” says Pearman.  “Realize you are not at odds in this process, just making things work for your individual companies.  In doing this, sometimes the negotiations are not optimal and either party may choose to walk away from the deal.  Ending a negotiation does not need to be sticky, be clear about why and respect the individual you are working with.  On the flip side, understand their limitations if an agreement cannot be reached and end with an “agree to disagree” nature.”   

In Conclusion 

The art of compromise is demonstrated in negotiating event contracts. There’s something for both parties and working together to achieve a common goal will produce the best results. 

When negotiating contracts for event professionals, remember to stay flexible while keeping your priorities straight, be open with budget information, and think long-term. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to negotiate the best possible deal for your next event successfully!