This The Event Expert event planning article focuses on the occasionally problematic world of finding and working with great event contractors and suppliers. Getting this right is a key event planning skill. So how do you ensure you select great event contractors? All of us, including myself, will have stories to tell about contractors that haven’t quite delivered!!
The ‘how to’ of event contractor heaven
There is every chance you’ll need to hire contractors (suppliers/vendors: stages, venues, Audiovisuals, Lighting, Stewards, Marquees etc.) to complete your events. They are part of your event team. The relationships you have with them will be absolutely fundamental to the ultimate success of your event.
So how do you ensure your contractors will play nicely, respect your wishes and know that you can really trust them? You will also want to know they have got your back, should you need a last minute revision. It is worth considering the following points:
- Look for specialists in their field – why because they will ‘get’ your event much quicker and understand exactly what’s it takes to delight your audience – saving time and money. You can find these contractors in the normal way through search engines, specialist event sites and sector-specific trade associations. However, if you know of colleagues who have put on events before, they may be able to suggest reliable contractors.
- Follow them on social media: check out their reviews: share their content and pass on their details. Be helpful. This level of support for them will reap rewards in due course.
- Don’t seek a victory at the negotiating table. Nobody is happy believing they have been ‘done over’. If they feel this way, your relationship with them will suffer and service levels will reflect the new deal and not in a good way! You can of course tell them your budget and ask them what they can do within that figure. This also works well but do remember you must have to have done your research first, to ensure your budgeted figure is in fact…realistic!
- Pay the bills. Contractors will have already incurred costs delivering your event so please pay them as quickly as you can and certainly within the agree payment schedule. Smaller business need to be paid on time to help ease cash flow problems. You could also agree to pay a deposit.
- All good relationships are built on openness and honesty. Why not take the same ethos into your contractor relationships. It works.
- If it seems a good idea; why not improve contractor ‘buy in’ by letting them meet the client. They will feel more valued
Key contractors are an important part of your team. They are in effect stakeholders in your event. If everyone works well together – everyone wins….and you get a great event.
Do you know if your prospective contractor is competent?
I recommend you have a ‘competent contractor checklist’. Each contractor needs to complete every part of the process. This then allows them the right to bid for and offer their event services to you. As part of your ‘competent contractor checklist’ you will need to ask them the following to establish their competence and experience:
- Has the company written a risk assessment for the services they provide and have they implemented any necessary control measures?
- Do they have a current health and safety policy?
You should also ask them to be able to provide:
- The name, company, addresses and telephone numbers of two ‘relevant’ references. NB: for events like yours.
- A copy of the company Public Liability Insurance Certificate
- A copy of the company Employers’ Liability Insurance Policy
- A copy of the company Product Liability Insurance Policy
- An example of a risk assessment they completed for a similar event. NB: If you do end up using them then you must demand a risk assessment that specifically covers the services being provided to your event. Please ensure you do not accept a generic company risk assessment.
- A copy of their Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy
Whilst you might think this process is a little over the top, consider the consequential loss of money and reputation if you do not undertake some basic checks and then there is an accident, a no show or just a poor on the day service. Once you are happy with the paperwork then some of the other factors previously mentioned also come into play. When you speak to them are they genuinely interested in your events: do they offer solutions: return calls and emails in a timely fashion. You must find, and only work with, competent contractors. They should have all of the above paperwork to hand. In short if they are reluctant or don’t send it to you…then they simply don’t get to play!
Thinking of Hiring event contractors? Consider writing a Request for Proposal (RFP)
The larger your event the more likely you are to be hiring a range of venues and suppliers. To help you obtain quotes and choose the best suppliers you should consider formalising the process by drawing up and sending out an official tendering document: a request for proposal (or RFP). The document sets out your requirements and asks suppliers to respond. You can send out an RFP for any number of services such as venue and room hire requirements, catering, audio visual production, speakers, registration systems, stand design and build, website development…etc. The bigger the event the more comprehensive the proposal document is likely to be and the more important it is to get in right.
Where do you start?
Start with the end in mind. What is it you need to successfully achieve your events’ goals and objectives? Stipulate what you are looking for and provide some background detail to help the supplier get behind your thinking. I would also add information about the size of the event, the date of the event, timing, duration, audience profile, whether it’s a recurring event or an external event for a client. On a practical note you can add details about how long a contractor may have to deliver the service (get in times) and specify a RFP return deadline. You would of course them to provide any relevant information as part of your competent contractor checklist. Please do however give suppliers a reasonable time to respond in full. If you want good contractors; they will be in demand and need to time to respond.
A completed RFP will be a formal document outlining the breakdown of what you’re looking for, with each element itemized and costed. It may also suggest alternatives and highlight better solutions or indicate things you hadn’t thought about.
Typically you would request or seek three RFPs per item, as this enables you to properly compare them. When comparing them go back to your original requirements and see how they match up? You would also compare price, quality, and value for money, supplier reputation, relevant experience and if you have used them before: How did they do?
My final points are to do a little pre-RFP research to ensure each allocated budget is roughly around what the supplier costs may be: don’t keep changing your mind and record everything on a spreadsheet.
Author Chris Powell, Director The Event Expert
I run an event management training and consultancy company delivering in-house and on-line bespoke event training courses and consultancy services to accidental, occasional and professional event managers.
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