By Mattie Yallaly
There are five primary steps to the event planning process: objective, venue, vendors, branding, and budget. Of these, the budget drives much of the planning and outcome of the event. Meeting and event funds have taken a hit recently with the increased cost of flights, venues, food and beverage as well as technology and entertainment. Planners work hard to squeeze every benefit from their allotted amounts while ensuring a successful result. Suppliers also want these events to be successful as they mutually benefit.
The Standard – Flights and Venue
The major air carriers offer meeting programs that will provide discounts on flights for designated events. The meeting location, number of attendees, and dates are typically needed to set up the agreement. Often the carrier will provide a link or a code that can be used by either the attendees or the designated coordinator. Reach out to the account manager for additional information and assistance.
When it comes to the event venue, bundling is often a good choice. Choosing a property that provides not only the meeting space and rooms for overnight stays but also the food, beverage, and ground transportation allow plenty of room for negotiation. Depending on the number of nights coupled with the number of rooms, the property should include additional rooms at no charge. These “comped” rooms can be used for upgrades or as staff and staging areas for the event. Work with the property sales director and be sure to ask for discounted or comped parking, breakfast, etc. If the property has a shuttle available, be sure to discuss its inclusion in the event agreement. This can help cut costs of taxis and ride shares as well as provide a more seamless transition for the traveler.
Additionally, be sure to negotiate the meeting room charges with the food and beverage obligation. If the F&B commitment is sufficient, the sales director can typically comp the meeting room. Frequently, other events are happening concurrently or within the same general time span allowing the property to leverage their discounts with food suppliers by purchasing in greater bulk. By being flexible with meal options, the sales director can work with the catering department to help decrease food pricing.
Properties often require that only their Audio/Visual suppliers can be used, or they will apply a charge if an outside source is used. This aspect can also be leveraged in the pricing negotiation. If the event is a regular occurrence, event planners may have the A/V equipment and can save on what can grow to be a rather significant amount in A/V supplies. If this is not an option, be sure to work with the A/V company directly and monitor pricing. For example, the cost of the batteries to power the lavalier or other such equipment may be shocking.
The Extra – Promoting the Brand
Suppliers and merchants pay good money for their logos to be memorable and impactful. They want to get it in front of as many people as possible because they know that the next big deal is just around the corner. One never knows where that branded stress ball may land and if the person wringing the life out of it needs those particular services. By coordinating with suppliers to establish them as sponsors for various aspects of the event, planners can create their own discounts by sharing some of the event costs.
Even internal meetings such as regional leadership events can benefit from a few targeted sponsorships. For instance, an air carrier partner may be willing to cover the cost of the opening reception if allowed 10 minutes of speaking time and exclusive branding for that occasion. Not only is your supplier promoting their company, but they are able to inform and educate the attendees helping to drive loyalty. Once again, leveraging a mutually beneficial arrangement.
By keeping these opportunities lucrative and focused, sponsorships are not only a valuable opening for suppliers but also work to deepen the business partnership. More communication results in better understanding. Work with the account managers to discuss interests and options that will best facilitate the needs of the event participants.
Remember it is always worth the ask. Discounts and additional benefits are available but rarely openly offered. Planners need to ask for the best room rates, flight discounts, and bundling advantages. Be creative with sponsorship opportunities so that participants stay engaged and the supplier receives a solid return on their investment. This interaction with the suppliers profits the event and the business relationship.