Vendors can make or break your event. Ask any seasoned event planner and they'll tell you that a reliable, reputable vendor is at the heart of all your hard work. Whether you're organising a charitable fundraiser, corporate meeting, or a wedding, it's a well-established fact that you'll need to be armed with access to a small army of caterers and equipment and decoration vendors to make it all come together.
The stakes are incredibly high. One bad vendor experience can leave a lasting negative image with your client. Perhaps you requested strictly vegetarian canapés, but the caterer arrives with an array of meaty hors d'oeuvres. Or, maybe, you requested the furniture vendor deliver forty-five luxury banquet chairs, but upon arrival, you realise the quality of the chairs is sub-par at best. You certainly wouldn't want your detail-oriented client seeing them in your otherwise perfect set-up.
The list of things that could go wrong are virtually endless, and vendor let-down scenarios are every event planner's worst nightmare. After all, it is your reputation that's on the line here -- not theirs. And, try hard as you might, you simply can't erase the memory of a collapsing tent or an abominable DJ from your client's and the guest's minds. Your client couldn't care less about the nitty-gritty details of why something went wrong -- the fact is that it did, and your job was to make sure that it didn't.
It is thus incredibly important you do your due diligence to find those top-rate vendors that won't let you down. When it comes to finding the best vendors, successful event planners say that the best way forward is to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Ask other event planners and clients about their experiences with vendors. Chances are, the names of the best—and worst—vendors will be mentioned repeatedly. Make a note of this list. Referrals are, pure and simple, the most reliable way to find reputable vendors.
You might be surprised, but having access to tried and tested vendors at your fingertips is not the end all and be all of your work. Every client has unique demands, and thus, every event planner has unique problems they're looking to solve. A one-size-fits-all approach in the event rental industry is no longer enough. In fact, the industry is ripe for disruption, and here's why.
Imagine you're a young event planner in your mid-twenties. You've just left your corporate job and launched your very own wedding planning agency. You're not vastly experienced in your job, but are willing to make up for it by working really, really hard. Now, imagine a seasoned event planner in their 40's: they've got twenty years' worth of experience in events of all shapes and sizes, and need little in the way of guidance when it comes to figuring out what kind of equipment they need for various venues.
These are just two different types of personas in the event planning world. There are, of course, many, many more, and their needs vary widely.
'I was recommended a supplier for DJ equipment from a close friend. They'd been in the music event planning scene for years, so I trusted their judgment,' says Amy*, a freelance event planner from London.
'I didn't think I'd have such a negative experience with the whole thing. I later realised that the problem wasn't with the supplier per se, but the fact that I needed a little more guidance on the equipment. My friend, having planned dozens of music events, knew exactly what she needed, and when she needed it for. I, on the other hand, would have appreciated more insight,' she says.
The planner-vendor relationship is key to the success of both organizations and, ultimately, a positive impact on meetings and events. Here are four easy ways to make a more personalised experience possible.
1. Connect by phone, not just email
In our digital world, it's easy to over-rely on email as your go-to method of communication. The problem is that emails -- no matter how friendly -- are largely impersonal. If you're looking for a more personalised service, a ten minute phone call is likely to yield better results than an endless exchange of e-mails.
2. Know what questions to ask -- and be specific
Make the most of your suppliers' knowledge of their products and past experience with similar events. Do they think you need an extra cable? What feedback have they had on the different types of tents they supply for wedding parties? Don't be shy to milk their knowledge. Asking questions is part of relationship building, and will make your job a hell of a lot easier.
3. Treat all contacts as individuals
Be courteous, kind, and thankful. The industry is all about hospitality, and a good relationship with vendors will make them want to work harder for you.
4. Nurture a positive relationship
This relates to the point above: a positive connection driven by mutual understanding and trust means that everybody wins: it increases the likelihood of good communication and thus heightens chances of a more successful event. You are, after all, in this together.
A personalised supplier service is incredibly important for event planners. Not only can it help save an incredible amount of time and stress, but it can also help deliver a seamlessly planned, five star event. Relationship building and nurturing helps both parties succeed in this common goal.