How to choose the right supplier for your next event | The Planner

No matter how you swing it, the importance of event suppliers can’t be understated. They are critical to the success of any and all events, whether they are caterers, stand builders, decor and furniture suppliers or audiovisual.

Speak to any event planner and they’ll confirm that, on average, for every 150-guest event, there will be about 40 people involved in supplying everything for that event (this includes set-up and deliveries). This increases, even more, when you host larger events or conferences.

As you may very well know, the hand-full of people you have on site doesn’t come close to the number of people employed by your suppliers. This essentially means that you’re dependent on your suppliers’ staff members to make sure everything happens in accordance to what you and your client envisioned.

It’s very important for you, as the event planner, to be able to trust these suppliers and the people who work for/with them. As I mentioned, suppliers are integral to the success of your event and not only is your reputation on the line with every decision made, but you need to know that when things go wrong, and they very often do, that the people who act as your support system (the suppliers), will follow through and be able to improvise.Because vendors are so integral to the success of your events, it’s important that you can trust them and select the event vendors who will follow through as well as make things right when things don’t go as planned. Here are 4 things you can do to help ensure the event vendors you hire will be there for you:

So how do you ensure you choose suppliers who fit these criteria? Here are 4 ways to evaluate event suppliers before you sign them up:

1. Ask your fellow planners for their feedback on suppliers they’ve used

Have you ever wondered why word-of-mouth advertising is such a sought-after form of advertising? It’s quite simple – it’s more trustworthy when it comes from a client versus a supplier. Also, people love to complain, so if you give them half a chance, they will. What this all comes down to, is that simply asking another event planner about a specific supplier, will give you a very good indication of whether they’re worth your money.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to network with your competitors in this industry. Relationships with your fellow event planners can be priceless for many reasons, in this case specifically because it gives you honest feedback about certain service providers. Sometimes these relationships can also assist in finding reliable vendors. Rumours about suppliers who go above and beyond is always useful for current and future events.

2. Inspect the suppliers’ capabilities and operations

Most service providers ask for a deposit prior to the event. This is completely understandable and very much a standard in the industry, but would you want to put down a sizeable deposit without knowing what you’re paying for? Of course not. And neither will your client. It is thus very important to know as much as you possibly can about your suppliers’ capabilities and stability of their operations, before putting down the deposit.

The most important thing to find out, right from the start, is whether the supplier can actually deliver. The best way to do this is to get a sense of what they’ve done in the past or how their delivery compares to your expectations. Some suppliers like photographers, videographers, marketers and designers will have portfolios for you to look at, while other suppliers may be willing to invite you to their next event as an observer to see what they can do. Talking to staff members may also be helpful, but it really depends on what that staff member is responsible for and how long they’ve been with the company.

Financial stability is another important factor. You’re paying a large amount of money into their bank account long before they actually have to incur costs to deliver, so is this supplier going to be able to fulfil their promise when the time comes to incur the costs? This is a hard thing to determine, but if there is any way that the supplier can prove their financial stability to you, all the better. You simply need a guarantee that they won’t become insolvent before you need them to deliver, but after you’ve already put down a deposit.

3. Run through hypothetical problems with your supplier and find mutually satisfactory solutions

One of the most important traits an event planner can possess is handling a crisis effectively. There are few places (other than the medical profession), where so many different things can go wrong. It may be due to the many different factors that put together an event, or the number of outsiders that play major roles. Regardless of the reason, your suppliers and their staff should be able to think on their feet just as much as you should. A supplier should have such a grasp on their area of expertise, that if faced with a crisis, they can immediately find an alternative solution.

For this reason, it is an excellent idea to set up a series of scenarios of what could potentially go wrong at the event, pertaining to their role of course. Go through these scenarios with them and ask them how they would address and solve each problem. If you are happy with their response and the time they take to respond to each scenario, then you know you’re dealing with the right kind of person.

4. Address potential concerns in the contract

No matter how sure you are of a supplier’s competence and trustworthiness, it’s always a good idea to include penalties in case of missed deadlines or failure to perform. This applies even more so if you or your client has any concerns about whether a supplier will be able to perform.

To incentivise the supplier, you can also counter these penalties with extra compensation if a certain target is achieved. This helps to build your relationship with the supplier and pushes them to go the extra mile and make your event a success.

The most important thing to remember is that you have a responsibility towards your client to protect their investment and to do your utmost to make sure their event is a success. Of course, the success of the event also has a major impact on your career and reputation, so everything is always on the line. Do your research, go the extra mile for your client, and your well-chosen suppliers will go the extra mile for you.