When it comes to choosing show-stopping event vendors and suppliers, it can be difficult to know where to start. But it doesn’t have to be.
Finding the right event vendor—like finding the right event sponsor—can be the difference between event success or failure. If a vendor makes a mistake, it can reflect poorly on you in the minds of your attendees. In brief, the stakes are high.
When you begin your search, the sheer amount of choices out there can make finding the right event vendor for your needs a monumental task. If you’re lucky, you will have a network of other event professionals who you can consult to narrow down your options. If you’re not so lucky, there still is hope!
We’ve put together this handy list of key factors to consider when picking event vendors and suppliers so that you can find the ones that are right for you and—most importantly—create an event that your guests won’t forget.
1) Initial Planning: Key Requirements
Before you begin your search, you need to lay down some ground work. Think about what kinds of vendors you’ll need for your event: AV suppliers, caterers, production, entertainment, bars etc.
The next step is to outline your budget and requirements. With your budget plan, be sure to set an ideal budget and a maximum budget so that you can negotiate when it comes to discussing pricing.
When you’re approaching event suppliers, ask for a number of quotes for their services so you have the option to scale up or scale down your plans. For example, if you’re approaching a caterer, you could ask for a quotes for a sit down meal, bowl food and a buffet to present your client with options.
2) Compile a Preliminary List
Once you have set your key requirements, gather a preliminary list of vendors. If you have a network of other event planners, ask for their personal recommendations to help garner these initial options. If not, make sure you compile a list of suppliers that fit your basic requirements.
Take a look at their websites and ascertain whether they have experience in the kind of event you’re producing. Then, send all the vendors the same brief so you can compare the quotes they come back with. Calling vendors and suppliers to get financial information isn’t always the quickest process but will give you a much more accurate idea of what they will charge.
Create a spreadsheet to document all of this information so you can easily eliminate ones that do not suit your budget plan. Make sure the vendor includes any additional costs like gratuities, service fees or tax so that there will be no hidden surprises when you decide to book.
Once you’ve compiled your initial list, contact the vendors to check their availability and ask them any key questions you have pertaining to your event needs. This way you narrow down your list and exclude those who won’t be suitable and those who are unavailable to avoid wasting time in the long run.
Once you have your shortened list you can get in touch with a comprehensive brief. The more detail you offer the vendors, the better they can tailor their proposal to your specific requirements.
Remember: often these vendors will have a far better knowledge of what you’ll need than even you will as they are the experts within their field—ask them for suggestions and recommendations during this initial phase and draw on their expertise. Those who are more receptive to giving suggestions and those were are most responsive are likely to go the extra mile on the day of your event.
3) How to Spot a GREAT Event Vendor or Supplier
Now that you have refined your list down to a select number of vendors, it’s time to really look into the specifics of each potential company to find the best possible supplier for your event.
You need to ensure that the vendors you’re looking into have a proven track record with events like yours.
As is the case when buying event software, ask for testimonials from previous happy clients and examples of past work. Especially important here is that they the event vendor in question examples of problem management, and contingencies in place for if something goes wrong. You want to be sure that everything goes smoothly on the day and confirming backup plans is an important step in this process.
You’ll also want to determine how their company works and if they have experience working with your chosen venue or venues that are similar to it. Do they have all their own equipment and staffing in-house or do they hire their kit and bring in new hires for each event? Outsourcing kit and crew can build up extra costs so make sure you’re being given a quote for the full services they provide including the cost of equipment hire and staffing.
If they outsource their crew, how do they hire their team? You want to make sure that the staff on site will cooperate with the venue’s own requirements so you need to know if they have an existing relationship with their freelancers to ensure the quality of the services they provide. Can they guarantee that their team will be punctual, polite and clean up after themselves?
(If need be you can find your own event staff through an event industry job board.)
Remember: depending on the size of the company, you may be communicating with a salesperson in these initial phases. Try to speak with the individual who will be managing the service at your event when asking these questions. A sales person can be very charismatic, but may not be clued up on the finer details and you don’t want to have signed a contract and then be stuck with a manager with little idea of the details of your event.
Next up, organise a site visit with your shortlisted vendors. See how they respond the the layout of the venue and if they can help you actualise your vision.
This is another opportunity to assess their receptiveness to working with the venue. Building a relationship between the vendor and venue is incredibly important to the smooth running of your event. When venues and vendors have a great relationship, with effective communication, it will be evident on the day of your event.
If you’re dealing with caterers, organise a tasting. A good indicator of a great catering vendor is whether they are flexible with the menu and receptive to your suggestions. Booking a caterer without a tasting is a risky move. Whilst you’re choosing your menu, it’s important that you try the options available to you.
We’ve all been in a restaurant at one point or another where we’ve ordered something that looks delicious on the menu and doesn’t quite meet our standards when it arrives. Organise tastings with your shortlisted three catering suppliers and make an informed decision from there.
Finally, don’t neglect the details. When you come to signing any contacts, be sure to read the small print. Do the vendors have the appropriate insurance or is that something you’ll need to provide (and thus factor into your budget)? Do they have a comprehensive cancellation policy? Do they have terms set in the instance that they don’t deliver what has been agreed upon? If all seems in order, then it looks like you’ve found a fantastic vendor. You may find it helpful to use a contract management software, like PandaDoc or DocuSign, to seal the deal.
Wrapping Up: Finding the Right Event Vendor For You
So there you have it, our top tips for finding and picking amazing event suppliers and vendors. Make sure you keep the above in mind when selecting your event vendors and we’re sure you’ll find the perfect suppliers to make your event a roaring success!