In my over thirty years of planning many hundreds of events, conferences and conventions, I have discovered, often the hard way, many of the pitfalls and potential pitfalls involved in successfully planning effectively. One of the areas that has the greatest amount of ramifications involves meaningful budgeting, so as not to be unhappily surprised during the event. While there are many other factors that a professional event planner with negotiating expertise plans for during the early and continuing budget phases, these eight seem to be perhaps the most continuously overlooked.
1. Never assume anything will be done, unless it has been specifically agreed to. While you might assume that something is obvious and necessary, when it comes to event planning, doing so is often dangerous and potentially disastrous. One example is many inexperienced planners assume that if their contract reads that there is a complimentary microphone, that means there is no cost for audio- visuals related to the microphone. In most cases, that is anything but true, and organizations find themselves billed for microphone hookups, audio- visual personnel monitoring, hookups to central system, etc. Make sure the language in the contract is crystal clear, even if it might otherwise seem unnecessary. Another example may come from the area of bringing in outside contractors versus using the hotels services. While the rate may appear lower, the add- on charges imposed may end up not making it worthwhile.
2. Planners must evaluate data from previous events, to enhance their understanding of what they need. What does this group use a lot of, and what seems less important? By doing so, a planner and negotiator may effectively prioritize their demands/ requests.
3. Remember that everything is negotiable. Always ask because either you may get it, or if not, you can treat it as a giveback that then permits you to let the other side feel like they've won one!
4. You must take into account breakage/ attrition. While effective event planners usually end up with considerably less attrition than inexperienced ones do, because they take measures to address that area (and are better at accurately forecasting and estimating), professionals always budget for attrition to be on the safe/ conservative side when it comes to their budget. In the industry, the rule of thumb is generally to budget with a ten percent (10%) attrition rate built into the numbers.
5. Negotiate to pay for actual usage or consumption in areas where there is generally high costs and ways to actually measure. Pouring iced tea or lemonade at the table (or having pitchers available on the table) can often be negotiated, either as a complimentary item, or minimal cost. On the other hand, when sodas are included, costs go up quite a bit. In that case, organizations should create a system and a pre- negotiated discounted rate per soda, and a measuring system in place.
6. Beware of over charges or surprises. If a contract has not been properly negotiated, there is often a flurry of little unexpected charges. In a multi- day event, event organizers should have a review system in place on a minimum of a daily basis, to review the previous days charges. Never be afraid./ embarrassed to ask for details/ explanations about any charge you may not understand.
7. Expect contingencies and plan for them. There is always something that comes up, so the better prepared and ready for them, the better off you are. I generally recommend at least a five to ten (5- 10%) "fudge factor" to be prepared from a financial/ budgetary perspective.
8. Remember those extra/ additional charges that hotels invariably charge. Have all additional charges spelled out in detail in the contract, and have language prepared that these are the only additional charges that will apply for this event/ conference. Often, taxes and service charges alone, for example may account for close to 30%. Be sure to adjust your budget to include those costs, because imagine how difficult it is to address that amount of unexpected costs.
These are only the very basic types of items to consider in preparing a budget for an event. Those planners who create a meaningful budget consistently have more successful end results!
With over 30 years consultative sales, marketing, training, managerial, and operations experience, Richard Brody has trained sales and marketing people in numerous industries, given hundreds of seminars, appeared as company spokesperson on over 200 radio and television programs. He's negotiated, arranged and organized hundreds of events.