It’s the event manager’s job to ensure every vendor contracted for an event is capable to get the job done - not only complete the job, but most importantly to get it done on time, within budget and have a backup plan in case issues arise. Here’s how to find the best vendors in the events space.
Events of all sizes rely on trustworthy, organized and positive vendors to keep the event afloat. If one vendor makes a mistake, more than likely it can have a ripple effect across every vendor working at the event.
Vetting vendors can be tough, especially for newbie event managers. It takes time and knowledge to find the best vendors out there. Once you dig through the weeds, you will begin to find your groove and understand which vendors you want to build long-term relationships with. Here are some things to think about.
Look at the Whole Picture
The first thing all event planners should do is sit with their team and brainstorm the entire event plan. What’s the budget? What’s the theme? Do you need an events contractor to help you find the right venue? Make a list of every single touch point included in your event plan that you will need a vendor to help you with. Most planners overlook areas where they may need a vendor to help, and this can hurt you in the long-run. For example, you may not think to work with a contracted vendor on something as simple as paperwork. There are tons and tons of forms that have to be filled out for events. Items such as hotel registrations, name badges, making sure all attendees get registered correctly, contracts, etc - all of these are usually on a sensitive timeframe to get signed and back to where they need to go, so by working with a contracted vendor on these items it can help smooth this process out for you.
This brainstorming session will make or break your entire event. Do not risk not thinking through every single area of an event that you may not be able to manage as the event planner. The more help you have, the merrier!
Put it in Writing
After you have your overall event plan mapped out and ready to place into action, start asking for recommendations from trusted colleagues who are veterans in the space. Most veterans have their “go-to” vendors they love to work with event after event. You want to make a list of creditable vendors you know you will be able to rely on. Begin by talking to them and feel out which ones mesh well with your event style and personality. A great way to reel in the best vendors is by showing them you know your stuff!
For example, as you send out proposal requests to vendors, provide them with a list of requirements you have, what the budget is and due dates. You want to know your requirements well before you begin bothering vendors. If they can see your ultimate list of what you need done, this will help them truly understand the goals of the event and even perhaps offer some advice on ways you can tweak event details so that the event is a hit! The best vendors will always bring suggestions to the table - if you find yourself doing all of the work for them, you have picked the wrong vendor to work with!
Do a Background Check
Another key area to review as you begin to vet vendors is their body of work. They may come recommended to you, but have YOU really looked at what they can do? Your event may be the biggest event any vendor has ever been asked to help with - what if they don’t know where to start to gather materials such as lighting or sound for a massively large event? When speaking to all vendors, be sure to ask them what types of events they have done in the past, or most recently. What do they feel most comfortable doing at events? Do they feel nervous about handling what you’re asking them to do?
These types of conversations are best to have in-person or over the phone. Take a look at photos and ideas vendors may have and see if they work for your plan. If not, on to the next one! You will know when you find the right vendor to work with!
Ask for the RIGHT Things
It’s important to remember that you need to keep things under budget. At the end of the day you want to make sure your event looks amazing, and has a successful turnout. There are certain areas within an event that you will notice are the most important such as lighting, food and beverage, sound, internet and entertainment. These are the biggest areas event attendees tend to rave or dish on. Selecting the right vendors to manage these areas will really help your event be a success. Keep in mind though, you don’t want to break the bank with vendors - if one is too expensive, move on to your backup. You may be able to trim costs here and there, but don’t risk your overall budget being blown by one or two vendors who have high dollar signs in their contracts.
You will know which vendors are the ones you want to work with and establish long-term relationships with as you meet them and review their body of work. Just like any other major decision where you need to hire someone for help, you will get a gut feeling when you meet the best vendor. Don’t sell yourself short just to get the job done - you want to take the time and commitment to finding the best of the best vendors out there to work with - they should feel like an extension of your team, and after a couple of events having worked together, will feel like family!