Negotiation is a huge part of being an event manager. Contract negotiation is pretty much part of every event manager’s job description and that’s why following proven negotiation strategies will get you far in this business.
In the event management business there’s a price on everything BUT this price is also pretty much always negotiable. Negotiation is really a science, there’s a formula for doing it right and getting the results you want every time.
There are different negotiation strategies that event planners and event managers use across the board and many event management courses offer negotiation and conflict resolution as part of their curriculum. There are very aggressive “divide and conquer” approaches and persuasion techniques and there are more laid back negotiation strategies. There are a number of common points to all negotiation strategies that you must keep in mind to be a top notch negotiator.
When It Is Time for Contract Negotiation:
- Do not, under any circumstances, reveal what your budget is. Telling the other party the amount of money that’s available to you is like playing poker with your cards turned to all the other players – you will loose. Even if you have a great relationship established with the other party their goal is to make money and yours is to spend less of it.
- Do your homework before coming to the meeting. Knowledge is power. Before coming to the meeting you should: 1) Have a bottom line, the price which you are willing to pay, and don’t cross that bottom line! Also don’t start your negotiations with. 2) Have other options – don’t go into contract negotiations with this “deal” being your only option – you should be able to walk away from the negotiation table with other options instead of being stuck negotiating a bad deal.
- Don’t burn your bridges. Focus on creating and maintaining relationships instead of getting what you want from this specific contract. If you’re a corporate event manager chances are that you’ll be doing business with a smaller circle of vendors than other types of event managers but no matter how large or small the vendor is always try to create a valuable business experience on your end.
- Learn your lesson. Analyze the situation you are in before your next negotiation session. It’s extremely important to learn from your own mistakes, first of all to keep your job and also to become better at what you do.
How to Negotiate with…
Negotiating with Hotels and Venues:
If you’re holding an event at a hotel or have quests staying at a hotel there are many details to pay attention to. Hotels might not be flexible on the rate of the rooms you are reserving but they will meet you half way when it comes to waiving fees for meeting rooms, Internet and set up and tear down fees. Make sure to stay firm when it comes to these items of added value because although it means big savings for you, the hotel is virtually not spending any money to make these services available to you.
When discussing liability costs with the venue, most places will demand your full accountability for the venue during the time of your event. This normally isn’t a liability that you can pass on to someone else BUT you should ask to limit the liability cost to the amount of the insurance that you’re going to be required to have. Here are some more useful tips on negotiating with venues.
Negotiating with Caterers:
The current economic market markets it a buyer’s market, which gives you a head start in negotiating contracts with caterers. Come prepared, bring information on competing offers with you to the table and ask to customize some dishes, to save costs.
Be flexible and compromise. If you prepare well and know what is absolutely essential to make your event a success and what’s just a “nice-to-have” then you will be ready to know exactly when you should stick your ground and when you can compromise and let the catering company have their way. By demonstrating flexibility you built rapport with the caterer and once that’s accomplished don’t be afraid to ask for free stuff! Complimentary napkins, decorations, ice etc.
Negotiating with Speakers:
If you are negotiating with a speaker then you are most likely planning a conference. When negotiating with a conference speaker or with their publicist be very specific. Have the date, agenda and preferably location closed. This shows that you are offering them an opportunity and the honor to take part in your event instead of building the event around the speaker and their needs.
On the other hand you should pay close attention to all the information you are being provided so you can use it to make the event speaker feel comfortable and make your offer attractive. More tips on working with celebs, talent and speakers here.
And of course a funny take on negotiations…