Many planners hold the misconception that their planning team only consists of coworkers. Your event’s success depends on tons of moving parts, whether it’s coordinating a delivery of cookies from a pastry vendor or ensuring a smooth event app experience with your event software vendor, the success of your event hinges on these relationships.
In the neverending pursuit of event greatness the importance of communication can’t be overstated. In this post I want to focus on how you as a planner can leverage great communication with your vendors for success in your planning process.
1. Early and Often
Regular communication well ahead of your deadlines reduces and creates a better event experience because you’ve had time to workout any kinks with your vendors ahead of time. For vendors, nothing is worse than trying to clarify something as a vendor and getting late responses. Because the timeline is so tight quality may be compromised, and both you and the vendor will be stressed out trying to reach the deadline
Don’t get me wrong, I know you’re already juggling too many balls as it is, but that’s even more reason to try your best to get out ahead of the chaos and let your group of vendors work with you to put on a great event. Your vendors, the good ones anyway, take a stake in the success of your event too. Your event reflects on their products & services, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep in touch. Regular communication ensures that nothing gets lost by the wayside when some form of chaos strikes.. Because something always manages to go awry.
2. Set Clear Goals and Standards
I know, I know you’ve read enough about goals, standards, best practices, blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to go in depth here about the proper way to set goals because there are tons of great resources that cover the topic, I simply want to discuss the value of working with your vendors to set clear expectations and goals.
Let’s disregard vendors for a moment. The exercise of creating a clear vision in your head of what a successful event looks like, and how each piece of the experience contributes to that vision, is so empowering when it comes time to make decisions. You may consider things you’d usually take for granted like why a tray of cookies in the check-in area is necessary in the first place, or if an event app is even the best option for the event you’re planning. Take a moment, think about why you want to do certain things and how they'll create a better event experience.
So back to your vendor relationships, it’s amazing how much communicating your goals for the event as they relate to that vendor helps. Say, for example, you want to increase your survey response rates 20%. Communicate this clearly to your software vendor and they’ll know that this is important to you for this event, they may even be able to offer some tips or best practices you can utilize to reach that goal!
The more thinking you do ahead of time of the ideal outcomes you want from your event and the services you get from vendors, the better you’ll be able to work with them and the more you’ll get out of the relationship.
How often do you take time out to truly reflect on your event? This may be a bit out of the box for some of you out there, and may seem completely undoable for most others, but I urge you to consider it.
Speaking for myself, we love to schedule post-event debriefs with the teams we work with while the event is fresh in their minds. Like I said, we have a stake in your event’s success too and getting together to discuss how things went gives us a chance to improve.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to meet with every vendor!” to which I’d argue you’re missing out on great value by not doing so, but let’s say that is the case. Ask yourself who your 3 key vendors were for the event, the ones you think are most instrumental to the attendee experience. Those are the meetings you should set up. If you can section off 30 minutes to an hour to meet with those key vendors you’ll reap major benefits: you’ll be able to express frustrations with how things went, you can let them know what you liked about their service, and you both can work together to make things even better next time. And if you don’t plan on working with that vendor again at least you’ll have a clearer picture of what you hope to get out of your next vendor relationship.
Early consistent communication, clear goals and standards, and taking time out to debrief after your event, that’s it. You’ll be surprised at the benefits of implementing even just one of these ideas into your vendor management process. I’d love to hear what you think about this article, what are some other tactics you have for maintaining great vendor relationships? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!