39 proven event planning strategies for negotiating with venues and hotels - Part 2

How to Negotiate with Hotels and VenuesNote: This post is the second of a two-part series on event venue negotiation strategies.

Continuing where we left off....

#21 - Customize your event menu
Don't just accept the pre-set menu from the venue. Sub out certain items that are less expensive (like in-season local vegetables instead of out-of-season vegetables that must be shipped in), or build your own menu by focusing on less expensive options.

#22 - Bonus insider tip: Piggy back onto an event that the venue has already booked by using the same menu as the other event. This can help you negotiate lower F&B costs because the kitchen does not have to prepare multiple menus; you can also use this tactic to minimize or eliminate any minimum F&B spend requirements.

#23 - Always negotiate for free meeting / event space
Many venues will provide complimentary event space if you meet your minimum spends for F&B and guest rooms. If you aren't booking rooms (or if your venue is not a hotel but is a meeting/convention center or reception hall) but are still spending money on F&B at the venue, use this spend to negotiate a discounted event room rate, if possible.

#24 - Repurpose your event / meeting space(s)
If you are paying for your event space, you can potentially save money by using the same rooms for different purposes. For example, if you have an event with multiple sessions going on at the same time followed by a big session with a keynote speaker, you could look for a venue where a large ballroom can be partitioned. That way you can hold your breakout sessions first followed by an hour-long networking session in the lobby while the hotel staff sets up the ballroom for the big session. If you go this route, you should confirm with the hotel that they have adequate staff and resources to do a quick reset of the space.

#25 - Negotiate for a free hospitality room
If you meet minimum spends for F&B and guest rooms, negotiate with the hotel for a free hospitality room that you can use as a VIP suite, a lounge for your sponsors or an on-site office for you and your event management staff.

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#26 - Maximize your comped room ratio
Many venues have a standard ratio of one comped guest room for every 50 rooms booked, but often you can negotiate this down to 1:40, 1:30 or possibly lower based on your overall spend on the event.

#27 - Negotiate all minimum requirements and cutoff dates
Hotels want to ensure that, if they set aside guest rooms, event rooms and kitchen/staff resources for your event, they will make a certain amount of profit; hence their desire to have you guarantee a minimum spend for F&B and guest rooms, their most profitable items.

The guest room attrition rate clause in the event contract usually states that you will guarantee a certain percentage of the rooms in your reserved block will be booked by your guests; otherwise you will pay a penalty for the unbooked rooms. Standard attrition rates start at 10%-15% (meaning that you must book 85%-90% of the reserved room block to avoid penalties). You can fairly easily negotiate this to 20% or possibly 30% based on the total value of the event.

Your goal is to negotiate the lowest minimum F&B spend and guest room pick-ups as possible, as this will protect you against incurring penalties if your guest / attendee numbers aren't as high as anticipated.

When negotiating attrition rates, set a date before which you can reduce or increase the size of the room block without penalty. In addition, have the attrition rate be based on total room nights and not rooms per night, and have the hotel work with you to conduct a post-event audit to identify attendees who booked rooms at the hotel but not in the designated room block. These room nights should also count towards your total.

#28 - Ask how flexible their service charges are
You can't really negotiate sales taxes or tourism taxes, but you can often negotiate a venue's service charges, which sometimes simply adds net profit on top of all the items in the proposal. Again the higher your total spend, the more you can probably negotiate the service charges.

#29 - Beware of the required vendor list
Some venues have a list of vendors that you must choose from, and these vendors' prices tend to be much higher than if you used your own, non-approved vendors because the approved vendors are often paying for the privilege of being "approved" by the venue.

Negotiate to be able to use your own vendors, and if the facility will not negotiate on this, get pricing from outside vendors to negotiate with the venue to drive down the costs of their approved vendors. A venue doesn't want to lose your business because their approved lighting vendor is double the price of a non-approved vendor; they would rather negotiate with the approved vendor to get the price down and keep your business.

#30 - Always negotiate the audio/visual rentals
A/V rentals are often the most marked-up item in a venue's proposal, as up to 90% of the A/V cost is pure profit to the venue. Because this item isn't tied to a fixed cost (like labor) and because the hotel is making most of its profits on rooms and F&B, they will be more likely to negotiate on this.

#31 - Bonus insider tip: Use a third-party A/V rental service to drive this cost down even further.

#32 - Ask for free in-room WiFi (and free WiFi in the event space, if possible)
Most hotel rooms already come with free WiFi, so your guests shouldn't have to pay extra for it. However, some hotels charge as much as $5-$15/day for guest WiFi access, so use your total event spend to negotiate this down.

In addition, many venues have free WiFi throughout the venue, and you should also negotiate for free WiFi at your event. If you are holding a larger event where hundreds of attendees will all be on their smart phones/tablets, or if you are holding a high-tech event, you may need a lot more bandwith and the venue might not be as willing to comp this, so use your guest room and F&B spend to negotiate this down.

#33 - Negotiate both parking and transportation
If many of your attendees will be driving to the event, ask the venue to provide free or discounted parking for your event guests.

If your guests will be flying into town, see if your guests can use the venue's transportation options (limos, vans, buses, etc.) at no extra cost.

#34 - Make sure you have a favorable payment schedule
Whenever possible, never pay the full amount upfront. Negotiate so you pay a fixed percentage up front and then backload the rest of the payments. This counts double for any registration or ticketed events, when you will be seeing most of your revenues in the weeks leading up to the event. You want to float as little as possible in covering the hard costs (like food, room rentals, etc.) of your event.

#35 - Amend the cancellation clause
If you have to cancel your event, you don't want to lose your deposit or be on the hook for all kinds of cancellation fees. So add a clause that lets you change the date to hold the same or another event at the venue within a certain amount of time of the original event date.

Also, have the cancellation clause be on a sliding scale so that the further out you cancel the event, the lower the cancellation fee. And make sure the cancellation clause works both ways so that you are protected if the venue can't host your event after the contract is signed.

#36 - Consider booking new venues
New venues are often hungrier than established ones, and they are often more willing to negotiate and provide discounts. Just make sure that the venue will be ready for your event (this is where the venue inspection is very important) and that you have a cancellation clause that protects both you and the venue.

#37 - Bonus insider tip: Venues with bad or fair social media reviews may also be hungry to book your business and could be more willing to negotiate. Read the reviews to see specifically what people are complaining about and make sure that you inspect these items on your site visit and have the venue address these concerns and correct any issues prior to your event (and put all this in the contract).

#38 - Make sure everything you discussed is in the contract
Promises are great, but people don't always follow through on their promises, especially if they aren't compelled to. But if every item makes it into the contract, then promises aren't necessary because the venue is contractually required to carry out what is in the contract.

#39 - Sign the contract at the end of the month or quarter
Venue managers are often working to meet quotas, and often those quotas end at the end of a month or a quarter. You can even ask the manager, "Would I get a break on pricing if I signed this before the end of the month?"


39 proven event planning strategies for negotiating with venues and hotels - Part 1

Strategies for Negotiating With Venues and HotelsNote: This post is the first of a two-part series on event venue negotiation strategies. Click here to read part 2 of this article.

Not only is finding a venue the biggest decision you will make for your events, but it is also usually the biggest line item expense in your event budget. So it's critical that you know all the tips and tricks for negotiating with event venues and hotels.

We talked with dozens of event planners about their venue / hotel negotiation process and wanted to share 40 of their best practices.

Note that you should approach venues with the understanding that EVERYTHING is negotiable. Never accept the first price you are given, and never sign a contract until you have read all the fine print and are comfortable with what is on paper. So without further ado...

#1 - Start with your 4 big requirements
At minimum, the four pieces of information that are most critical in starting venue negotiations are:

  • Budget
  • Event dates
  • Head count
  • Space requirements (occupancy, accessibility, electrical, A/V, etc.)

Of course if you are working up a comprehensive RFP to send to prospective event venues, you will include more requirements than these four, but often these are enough to get negotiations started.

#2 - Bonus insider tip: Many planners feel that initially divulging your budget puts you at a disadvantage in hotel negotiations, so you can always say something like "We are still working on our budget so just give me your standard rates for now." At that point, the venue will probably show you their top pricing, and you can negotiate down from there and potentially share your budget numbers with them as negotiations proceed.

However, if you have worked with the venue before and have a comfortable working relationship with them, then sharing your budget out of the gate may enable them to help you work within it better and get more for your money. This all depends on your comfort level with the person and venue you are negotiating with.

#3 - Be realistic about your head count
Don't estimate high when it comes to your head count. A high head count will lead to a high estimate for food and beverage and a larger reserved room block, and since most hotels will ask for minimums for both of these (more on this later), you don't want to lock yourself into guaranteeing a high minimum spend for catering and rooms (which leaves you vulnerable to paying penalties if you don't meet your minimums).

#4 - Provide clear timelines and expectations
We have seen event lead times shorten dramatically in the last 5-6 years, and as event turnaround times get shorter, you may have less time to negotiate. So when you start the process, provide the venue with a timeline that includes the date when you need a proposal; when you will provide a counter-proposal or feedback; and your target date for signing a contract with a venue. This makes your timeline and intentions clear to all parties from the start.

#5 - Get quotes from multiple venues
Even if you already know the venue you want to use, get multiple quotes from comparable venues so you can compare costs and make sure you are getting a good value. In addition, you can use negotiations with one venue to drive the costs down with another venue by playing them against each other.

#6 - Don't be pressured by sales tactics
Once you have set your budget and your schedule for booking a venue, you should not let any sales ploys move you off course. Often venues will say that they have another party that is interested in booking the same space as you for the same time period. Or that their special pricing will expire after a certain day. Or that they don't typically lower their prices because they have a premium venue that is in high demand.

Any or all of these may or may not be true, but you have no idea of the validity of them, and besides, you should not be rushed to make a decision based on their business motivations. Don't take the bait ... these are pretty standard sales tactics, and if the venue really wants your business, they will work with your budget and timeline. And if they don't, then you can quickly eliminate them as a candidate and focus on other venues.

#7 - Consider non-hotel venues
Food and beverage and other ancillary costs are often much higher at hotels, and even though non-hotel venues may charge you for the event space, the savings you will see from using an outside caterer and other vendors may make it worth it to hold the event away from a hotel.

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#8 - Treat the venue manager as your partner (not an adversary)
The venue staff will be one of your biggest assets in making sure your event is a success, so why antagonize them out of the gate? In addition, you may want to book future events with the venue and so you want to establish a good working relationship with the venue manager. Approach everything as a negotiation and don't make unreasonable demands or ultimatums that make them reluctant to work with you. The golden rule applies here, in that you should treat them in the manner in which you would like to be treated.

#9 - Look at things from the venue's perspective
The decisions that venue or hotel managers make are often driven by two primary considerations:

  1. Booking the venue full every day of the year.
  2. Gaining maximum revenue from every event they host.

You should not fault them for these goals but should instead understand that this is their starting position and use these things to your advantage (more to come on this front).

#10 - Show proof of your value to the venue
If you have held similar events in the past at other venues, provide proof to the venue you are currently negotiating with that you regularly meet your food and beverage and guest room minimums. If you can provide a tally of your total spend for past events, this is a bonus, as the hotel will feel more confident that your event will provide the revenue and profits they need, and they may be more willing to negotiate on a number of fronts if they know you are a reliable source of revenue.

#11 - Have 2-3 date options in mind (and be flexible on the date)
Because venues want to be booked solid all the time (see #9 above), they may have open dates on their calendar that they want to fill. By providing the venue with 2-3 date options and being open minded about the event date, you are more likely to get discounted pricing for the dates they want to fill.

#12 - Bonus insider tip: Provide 2-3 date options around or near your desired date to see if the venue is starting to get booked up for that stretch of time. If they are, you know they may not be as flexible on price; if they aren't, they may be more flexible.

#13 - Consider supply v. demand
Certain types of venues may simply be in higher demand than other venues and so they can command higher prices and aren't as likely to negotiate.

Certain times of year (like May-June and September-October) are popular for scheduling events in the Northern Hemisphere, and many venues will charge premium rates for those months. Also, certain week parts may be in more demand depending on the venue (Tuesday-Thursday for business groups, Friday-Sunday for leisure travel), and those days may also be more expensive due to demand. Talk with the venue and see if you can get discounted rates by working around their peak demand seasons and times. Again, venue managers want the venue filled up on as many dates as possible, so a Sunday board meeting or a Friday wedding may be much less expensive to hold at the venue.

#14 - Book multiple events with the same venue or chain/brand
A great way to lower your event venue costs is to agree to host some or all of your yearly events or meetings at a single venue. Or you could book your annual event for multiple years at a single venue. Or you could book multiple events at different hotels under the same brand umbrella. Inquire to see what breaks or spiffs you can get for bulk bookings.

#15 - Clarify what you and your staff can and can't do
Many venues have contracts with third-party companies or unions to carry out certain duties (like carrying luggage, building stages/displays, setting up meeting rooms, etc.). All these items will impact the pricing, so as part of your discovery process, find out what you will be paying extra for when it comes to staffing on the venue's side.

#16 - Bonus insider tip: Find out if your staff can take some responsibilities off the plate of the venue staff. For example, if one of your staff members can be posted in the venue lobby to direct your attendees and answer their questions, this might save the venue from having to station a representative or concierge there, and they may be more likely to discount your fees elsewhere because you saved them staffing overhead.

#17 - Use guest room bookings as leverage
With net profit margins as high as 70%, guest rooms are the most profitable source of revenue for hotels. As such, the more guest room bookings you can guarantee, the more likely the hotel will negotiate on other items.

Venues typically require a minimum number of guest rooms booked and will include an attrition rate as well as a cutoff date for bookings in their standard contract (more on these later).

#18 - Negotiate for discounted guest room rates
Make sure that you aren't paying list rates for the rooms in your hotel block. Ask for the hotel's group rates and then compare these to their rates posted on popular sites like Hotels.com, Travelocity, TripAdvisor, etc. Also consider negotiating for discounts for shoulder rates (the day or two before and after the event for which some guests might want to book nights).

#19 - Use food and beverage (F&B) spend as leverage
The second biggest profit center for many hotels is food and beverage (F&B) revenues for events, and so a larger spend here can also help you negotiate on other expenses.

F&B can include plated or buffet meals (note that plated dinners can often cost less because there is a finite amount of food on each plate that the kitchen has to prepare) as well as snacks, happy hours, coffee breaks and continental breakfasts. All of these can increase your total spend, and the higher your spend on these items, the more leverage this gives you to negotiate on other things.

Note that many venues will want to include a minimum F&B spend in the contract, so be very realistic about your number of anticipated attendees, and push back the deadline for being able to change the attendee head count and F&B minimum as far as possible.

#20 - Use your total spend numbers to negotiate
The venue manager knows how much profit they need to make for each event and is always aware of the overall value of each event. They break down all this into line items because it's frankly harder for you to negotiate item by item than it is the overall cost.

So you should add up all the costs in the estimate as well as consider the venue's other potential revenue sources (like guest expenditures at the hotel bar/restaurant, in-room video rentals, gift shop purchases, spa treatments, etc.) when you calculate the overall value of your event to the venue. This way you are both working with similar numbers and you can use this overall amount to negotiate.


How to avoid event disasters: 8 risk management principles to add to your event management practices

Avoid Event Disasters With 8 Risk Management PracticesI was talking the other day with my good friend Terry Hardy, a highly respected system safety and risk management consultant who has worked for NASA and the FAA, and we were discussing a system safety book he was reading. He mentioned an example from the book about a 2005 amphibious plane crash in Miami that was caused by wing failure, precipitated very small fatigue cracks in the plane's wing that were not noticed by maintenance personnel or detected by FAA inspectors.

My first thought was "I'm never getting on a water plane ever again."

My second thought was how similar flying an airplane is to planning and managing events. Each has thousands of moving parts and processes and potentially dozens of team members, and all these elements and systems must work together properly to ensure a safe landing (literally for the plane, figuratively for your events). And sometimes it only takes a loose bolt or a small oversight by a tired employee or contractor to start a disastrous and irreversible domino effect.

So I read through some of Terry's insightful risk management articles and found eight principles that every event professional should apply to your event management practices.

1. Reducing risk is a team effort
Just as amazing events are not produced and pulled off by a single person, reducing risk is also a team endeavor. Each person has a set of responsibilities that must be clearly spelled out from the outset of the planning process. And one of those responsibilities is to look for potential flaws or issues and account for them in their preparations.

2. Your team is only as strong as its weakest link
You may be great at seeing flaws in your plans and sniffing out potential disasters. But how about that intern who you put in charge of the entertainment and lighting? Or the new caterer you just hired because they were the low bid?

You must be aware of where your weak links may potentially reside; give extra attention to these areas; and even create contingency plans in case those people or processes don't come through. And speaking of contingency plans...

3. Build in redundancy and backups wherever possible
Every experienced event planner knows the value of backup plans. If you're managing an outdoor event, have a plan for inclement weather. If the keynote speaker is sick, have a backup in town who can more than adequately cover for them.

Planning Pod can help you reduce risk for your events by helping you create a streamlined system for your planning process and giving you and your team a place to collaborate, share insights and provide feedback.

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You can even create redundancy in your planning processes, like backing up your event planning details online in case your computer crashes (shameless plug alert ... this is never an issue if you use Planning Pod) or having two or more co-workers check each other's work or be involved in planning important details.

4. Look for holes in your plans, systems and logic
A great point in one of Terry's risk management posts  is about approaching your work with a healthy skepticism. Skepticism in this respect does not mean being negative or pessimistic. Rather, it means that you should be inquisitive and not accept simple answers.

Asking lots of questions and digging deeper makes your team members will consider alternatives and reflect on their own assumptions and processes, which hopefully will mitigate risks. But it also gets you in the mode of being constantly on guard and reluctant to assume things will just go smoothly. They will only go smoothly once you have identified all the potential flaws in your event planning processes and systems and addressed them adequately.

5. Set priorities and focus on high-risk items
Granted, in some cases it may not be feasible to create a backup plan for every little thing that can go wrong in an event. So it's also important in your event management processes to identify two types of items:

  1. Those items that would cause the biggest impact if they were to go south. For example, spoiled food from a subpar caterer would be more detrimental to the success of an event than if the venue had dirty restrooms. Neither is desirable, but one is dramatically worse than the other; people won't remember the dirty bathrooms (and most guys won't even notice), but they will all remember getting sick on the bad shrimp at the Acme company picnic.
  2. Those items that are most likely to cause problems. The entertainment vendor that your client wanted but who is known to hit the bar one too many times before performing is a much higher risk than the stable DJ you have hired over and over again because of his reliability.

6. Beware of the expert
Yes, that's you. You are an expert at what you do, which can also make you a risk factor. How? For starters, experts in all professions can get complacent. You have planned loads of events and have seen "practically everything," so you know what to expect and know what will probably go wrong. Until the unexpected suddenly happens and you have no backup or contingency because you never planned on it. This is where success can actually work against you.

Experts also rely on our own internal processing and often do not ask for outside input because we know what we are doing and our approach has pretty much always worked (I'm guilty of this myself). This internal processing may in fact have flaws or be incomplete, but we aren't aware of it because we haven't asked for feedback. And maybe things have worked out in the past because we've just been fortunate. As Terry says, "Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're lucky or smart."

The moral here is to never assume you know everything and expect - and plan for - the unexpected.

7. Take care of the small things
Nary a year goes by when one or more plane crashes are attributed to a loose bolt somewhere on the plane that fell out and caused a domino effect leading to engine failure or prop or flap malfunction.

Likewise in event planning, small errors or omissions can bring everything to a screeching halt, from a malfunctioning projector to a misplaced car key that significantly delays delivery of food or people.

Event planners almost always sweat the details; that is why people hire you and why you are great at what you do. But like all of us, it's easy to get swept up in the rush of work, especially when your lead times are getting shorter and you have less time to plan. So while the rest of the world wants you to speed up, you need to remind yourself to slow down enough to make sure you are attending to the small things.

8. There is no boilerplate approach to reducing risk
Every event is different and has different variables. Different client, different attendees, different venue, different vendors. And although it is good practice to have lots of templated checklists and processes to guide you in managing the event (which you can create and manage with Planning Pod), you should be aware that risks and potential issues will also be unique to each event.

When we need to be, human beings are rather adaptive creatures, and your approach to managing risk at your events should also be adaptive and take into consideration all the variables at play. So if a certain event has more transportation requirements for moving guests from venue to venue, then devote more of your time to ensure that that process and those vendors are prepared for anything.

Thanks to Terry for all his great ideas, and feel free to provide your feedback and insights in the comments below.

How to overcome short event lead times in 8 steps

Short Event Lead Times Best PracticesThe Great Recession started a trend that has caused many sleepless nights and short fingernails for event planners and event venue managers alike. Because revenues and income dropped for many companies and individuals, event budgets got a lot tighter and people were reluctant to commit to a big event 8-18 months out. Instead, they often waited to the very last minute to call their event planning professional to start the planning process.

The positive that came out of this was that event planners and managers came through for their clients in a very big way, proving they can amazing things with short event lead times. The negative was that this practice has become business as usual, and so now, after the economy has recovered, clients continue to give planners as little as 4-8 weeks of lead time to pull together events.

Although there is some disagreement as to whether lead times for big events has gotten longer , the general consensus among event planners is that event lead times for all events - and especially medium to smaller events of short duration (1-2 days) - are dramatically shorter than they were 6 years ago.

There are certainly many disadvantages to shorter event lead times - including higher printing costs, higher last-minute airfares, difficulties of getting group rates at hotels, fewer venue options and a smaller pool of speakers and entertainers (many of whom are already booked). But these drawbacks have not deterred clients from waiting to get the ball rolling (and sometimes for very legitimate reasons).

So what is an event planner to do? Try to change client behavior by educating them on the drawbacks of short event lead times (and possibly lose clients to other planners who will gladly work with short lead times)? Or find better ways to deliver on short-turn events without having an anxiety attack every time?

Our opinion is that the horse has left the barn on this one, so here are 10 proven tips for overcoming short event lead times.

#1 - Get budget sign-off early
The minute a client calls, your first objective is to get them to commit to a overall budget and sign off on it. That way you know what you have to work with and can break down the budget into line items that they can then sign off on in short order.

#2 - Push clients to make big decisions upfront
With a short deadline, there's really little to no time to mull over big things like geographical location, theme, keynote speaker, entertainment, meal options, etc. So sit down with your client and have them commit to these big ticket items early so you can start the research and RFP process immediately.

#3 - Streamline your proposal process
Now is also not the time to send out 50-page proposals to your venues and vendors that could take them weeks to reply to. You need their proposals in your hands in a matter of days, not weeks, so shorten your RFPs so that vendors can read them in one quick sitting and be very specific about your requirements so they can formulate a reply fast.

Oh, and since you will have very little time to negotiate, ask for their best price out of the gate.

#4 - Clearly define roles and responsibilities in your internal kickoff meeting
Your team needs to function like a Swiss watch for short-turn events, so from the first meeting each team member needs to clearly know what areas of the event they are responsible for, what their goals/objectives are and who they report to. Confusion and fuzzy processes are your enemy, so eliminate them whenever and wherever possible.

Another best practice for overcoming short event lead times is having the right tools to help you streamline your processes. Planning Pod event management software lets you build templates for task lists, contracts, proposals, itineraries/schedules and much more so you can be pre-prepared for all your short-turn events.

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#5 - Templatize as much as you can beforehand
Yes, there are certainly tasks and processes that cannot be known until you begin the planning process. But there are many other tasks and to-do's that can be put into a template beforehand so that when the event starts, you aren't building a task list, you are simply assigning due dates and people to tasks.

#6 - Focus on securing a venue first
With short-turn events, everything starts with the venue. If your event is happening within 4-8 weeks, many venues will be booked up already, so you may need to broaden your search to alternative venues if more traditional settings don't pan out.

Event venues have also become accustomed to short lead times, so most of them understand the pressure you are under and will work with you to expedite the process. But be prepared to send out more RFPs - especially if your event is a larger one with many attendees - because you will most likely receive more "no bid" replies than you would if you were booking an event 12 months out.

#7 - Prioritize and compromise
Even for events with short lead times, some clients expect the world, so you will have to disabuse them of this notion and manage their expectations. They will have to make some tough decisions and they certainly will not get everything that they wish for. So have a frank discussion with them on things that they are willing to sacrifice and other things that they must have. And for their must-haves, let them know that they may have to compromise on many of those, too, if they want their event to happen at all.

By working with them to prioritize their wish list, this helps you know what you can negotiate with vendors and venues. You will have to make more compromises when you are given a short event lead time, so know beforehand your minimum requirements before you start negotiations.

#8 - Establish a "hot line" with your client
Games of phone tag and long email chains regarding event decisions will work against you with short-turn events, so make it clear to your client that you need to be able to access them and get a fairly immediate reply regarding critical decisions. Decision makers cannot simply "disappear" for hours or days, and you need to establish a way to reach them to get immediate responses.

In addition, many clients often have multiple decision makers for their events (this is especially true for non-profits, which often have to run event decisions by an entire committee), and this arrangement is counterproductive for events with shorter lead times. In these instances, the client needs to appoint a single decision maker who has the authority to make decisions for the group.

Many of the above best practices involve the participation of your client, but if you clearly document their responsibilities upfront and make them aware of every contingency, it will make your and their lives easier so you can provide them and their attendees the best experience possible.

Average event budget eclipses $20K; minimum budgets becoming more popular with event planners

Event Budget 2014 Study -Event PlannersAccording to a recent study conducted by Planning Pod event management software, 69% of the 218 independent event planners who responded said that their average event budget exceeded $20,000 (U.S.). The events they planned ranged from small parties and weddings to meetings and corporate events.

Among these respondents, 20% said that their average budget fell between $20K-$30K, 24% stated between $30K-$50K and 11% between $50K-$75K.

In addition, almost two-thirds of the professional event planners polled (62%) now require at least a $5,000 budget to take on the event, with 24% reporting that the minimum budget they would work with is between $10K-$20K and 11% stating the minimum budget falls somewhere between $20K-$30K.

“This is all very interesting news, mainly because we have seen the average event budget increase by several thousand dollars over the last 12 months,” said Jeff Kear, co-owner and founder of Planning Pod. “We have had thousands of events planned with our software over the last year, and the rising budgets we have seen are promising for both event planners and for the industry.”

What truly bodes well is that many event planners are now able to turn down smaller jobs with smaller margins and are picking up larger jobs and clients. “That minimum budget requirement is a very telling statistic because it gives you a good sense of how much more selective event planners are becoming, and you can only be selective when business and budgets are on the rise.”

And when it comes to large budgets? For 36% of planners, their largest event budget over the last 12 months was more than $100K, with 18% saying their largest budget fell between $100K-$199K, 16% between $75K-$100K and 14% between $50K-$75K.

“Yes, there are some event planners who manage multimillion dollar event budgets, but the wide majority of event professionals plan lots of smaller events,” said Kear. “In fact, 57% of the people we polled were planning at least 15 events at any given time over the last year, and average attendance at those events was between 100-300 guests.”

Over the last year or so, much has been written about the events industry trending towards smaller, local events. In addition, more than a few studies have shown how optimistic events professionals are about rising event budgets and revenues. This study reflects these trends but also offers a valuable perspective from the professionals who manage event budgets and are responsible for coordinating every type of event vendor and contractor.
Want a better way to manage your event budgets and vendor payments? Try Planning Pod’s online event budget software tool along with our 25+ additional event management tools for professional. Sign up for the 30-day free trial here.

43 critical items in event planners' on-site kits

Event Planner On-Site Kit for Day-Of-EventEvent planners are supremely prepared people, so it didn't surprise us that many of the hundreds of event planners we spoke with have a handy on-site kit that they bring with them every time they are on location at an event.

The average number of items in an on-site kit was 15-20 items. I guess the only thing we didn't ask was "What do you carry all these items in?" ... although whatever it is, I'm sure it's very stylish ;)

Here is the list in its entirety, broken down into categories ... if we are missing an item that you think is vital to pack for your on-site days, just provide it in the comments below.

Tools, Etc.

  • Allen wrenches
  • Box cutter
  • Duct tape
  • Extra hooks
  • Gaff tape
  • Glue gun
  • Hammer
  • Leatherman / Swiss Army Knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire

Office Supplies

  • Double sided tape
  • Extra nametag stock
  • FedEx envelopes
  • FedEx labels
  • Hole puncher
  • Paperclips
  • Post-Its
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie
  • Stapler
  • String

Medical Stuff

  • Aspirin
  • First aid kit

Personal Hygiene / Cleanliness

  • Baby wipes
  • Bug spray
  • Clear nail polish
  • Cough drops
  • Mints
  • Stain stick

Electronic Stuff

  • Batteries
  • Extension cords
  • Flash drive / USB sticks
  • Laser pointers
  • Mini flashlight
  • Mobile charger
  • Power strip
  • Printer cartridges


  • Bottled water
  • Snacks
  • Tea


When you use Planning Pod event management software to manage all your event details, it always travels with you because our software is compatible with all tablets and mobile devices.

Try Planning Pod for free and discover why thousands of event planners don't go anywhere without it.

Top 8 Traits of Successful Event Planners

Top Traits of Successful Event PlannersIn the last few years we have met many event planners who have recently started an event management business, and often we wondered if some of these people knew the rollercoaster ride they were in for. We love event planners and admire what you do, mainly because most people can't do what you do and don't have the unique skill set required to accomplish what you do every day. Which got us thinking ... what do event planners themselves think are the most important traits for an event planner.

So we quizzed our customer base of thousands of event planners as well as quite a few event planning and event management groups on LinkedIn about what are the most important traits that an event planner can possess. Without further ado, here are those traits...

#1 Being prepared and planning for contingencies
I can only name a few events off the top of my head - Woodstock and the New Testament Loaves-and-Fishes thing - that were huge successes without adequate planning. Truly the success of every event is in the details, and the best event planners are also the ones who have a complete system for how they go about preparing for events and that accounts for absolutely everything.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Staying one step ahead"
  • "Having a Plan B, C and D"
  • "Foreseeing potential threats and risks"
  • "Confirmation of details and vendors"
  • "Triple check everything"

#2 Having passion for what you do
Event management can be massively stressful and require loads of overtime, and event planners are not nearly as well compensated as they should be for dealing with the all-too-frequent penny-pinching clients and sometimes overly petulant attendees. So you better be passionate about your profession and thrive on all the challenges that stand between you and a successful event. Event planners just starting out need to be aware of all the pressures involved and be certain that this is what they love to do, because it can be hard and trying at times.

#3 Flexibility
In an era of shrinking budgets and shorter lead times, event planners must be very agile of mind and be able to put things together fast as well as change course quickly. I like to think of event planning as trying to build a house on a beach with shifting sands. Things are always moving under you and changing constantly, and your challenge is to build this amazing experience amidst constant change and often turmoil.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Adaptability"
  • "Resourcefulness"

#4 Staying level headed while under fire
This is an extension of the previous trait. Event planning is not for those who are quick to freak out or panic. Clients, vendors and attendees are all looking to you for guidance and to set the tone of the event, and those who can smile through adversity and stay calm while scrambling to fix things make the best event planners.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Keeping your composure"
  • "Looking and remaining calm"
  • "Thinking on your feet when the unexpected happens"
  • "Being calm and collected"
  • "Patience to put all the pieces together"

#5 Having a vision
Most people think that, when it comes to event planning, having a vision applies mainly to event design, but in truth this applies to the entire gestalt of the event. Vision in event planning includes being able to see all the disparate elements of an event coming together, including the event theme, targeted attendees, venue, city, design/decor, speakers, entertainment, cuisine, sponsors ... the list goes on and on. And the key here is having a vision that delivers on what attendees want and expect.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Envisioning how the event positively impacts those benefiting from the experience"
  • "Focus on the experience of the attendee"
  • "Ability to see the big picture"

#6 Attention to detail
Even the smallest events have hundreds of details, and for large events I have seen event budgets that spill into thousands of details by themselves. As an event manager, you have to not only track all these details but know when they change and know how one change in one area affects things in other areas of the event. When building our event management software tools, we talked with hundreds of event planners and built the tools they said they needed, and even now we are amazed at the sheer number of details entered into our event software every day.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Understanding how the little pieces fit together"
  • "Thinking about all the small items involved"

#7 Ability to listen and understand your clients' goals
Many people think that a great event planner is one who is very vocal and barks out orders constantly, but in fact the opposite is true: the best event planners are great listeners who take in lots of ideas, input and advice and then act on this. Great event planners also realize that the true purpose of an event is to achieve your client's goals and deliver the best experience to the intended audience.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Ability to read clients and determine their true goals"
  • "Understand client needs and wants"
  • "Giving total confidence to your clients"
  • "Selflessness - it's about what the client wants, not you"
  • "Listening - to your clients and to your audience"

#8 Humility
We were initially surprised when this one ended up in the top 8, but after you think about it this makes sense. A savvy event planner understands that the event isn't about them, their needs or their ego ... it's all about the client and the audience and delivering the best experience to them. In fact, ego and drama and showboating only get in the way of planning and managing a successful event because they make the event about you, not about the client or the audience.

Other mentions in this category included:

  • "Honesty and sincerity"
  • "No hidden agendas"
  • "No information hoarding"
  • "No grandstanding or drama"

Do you have any event planner traits to add? Make sure to include them in the comments below.
The best event planners also use the best tools to help them stay prepared and on top of all the little details. Try Planning Pod's 26+ event management software tools today and see why thousands of event professionals rely on us every day.

Top 13 factors for choosing an event venue

Event Venue Selection TipsPossibly the most important decision an event planner can make that will affect the outcome of your event would be the venue that you choose. Yes, cuisine and entertainment are also important factors, but the venue sets the scene; dictates many choices related to the event; and influences the experiences of your guests probably more than any other factor.

In addition, when looking at the thousands of events already planned using the Planning Pod event management software, for a wide majority of events, the venue is either the #1 or #2 expense (food and drink being the other). So not only will the venue influence many decisions and affect attendees' experiences, but it also consumes a large portion of most event budgets, adding more pressure to making the right decision.

We asked hundreds of event professionals on LinkedIn what they would consider the most important criteria for choosing a venue for their events, and here are the most frequent responses.

1. Budget - Cost is often the main factor people use when considering or ruling out venues, and of course the price tag of renting out the venue must fit within your event budget.

2. Space specifications - This would include things like space/room capacity (including lobby and exhibitor space if you are planning a meeting or convention); load in/out amenities; and technical capabilities (like lighting, electrical, A/V, etc.).

3. Day/time availability - This factor almost goes without saying, but it's a good rule of thumb to have several day/time options in mind (or at least be somewhat flexible with day/time of the event) before you start reviewing venues so you don't immediately limit the number of venues you can consider.

4. Appropriateness for type of event and client goals - This may be the most subjective feature listed here, but it may well be the most important. And it first requires you to know precisely the needs and goals of your client so you can match up a venue with those specifications.

5. Security - An often overlooked but very important factor, this includes not only a venue's security personnel but also things like security doors and limiting venue access to only guests/attendees (because who really needs event crashers).

6. Other groups using the venue at the same time as your event - If you are planning a sit-down conference with speakers, you probably don't want a loud wedding reception next door disrupting your event. So make sure any simultaneous events at the venue (or even nearby) won't conflict with or interrupt yours.

7. Customer service - Not only does the venue need to be responsive to your needs prior to the event, but it also needs to have adequate support staff on site during the event to respond to the needs and requests of you, your staff and your attendees.

8. Travel convenience - The location of the venue needs to be conveniently located for your attendees and within a reasonable distance so as not to require excessive travel; otherwise your attendance may suffer.

9. Parking and proximity to transportation options - On-site or nearby parking options for your guests are important (and cost of parking for your guests can be a deciding factor here). In addition, proximity to airports and public transit is also important if you have many guests who aren't driving their own car to the event.

10. Accessible for persons with disabilities - This would include ramps, elevators and other amenities for those guests with physical disabilities as well as older guests who aren't as mobile.

11. Nearby amenities and entertainment options - Attendees often need or want to partake in fun activities outside of the main event, so finding a venue that has entertainment and recreation options in house or nearby can be critical to your attendance numbers.

12. Reputation - Ask other event planners and vendors regarding their experiences with the venues you are considering. In addition, look at online reviews in forums and on sites like Yelp, Wedding Wire and Trip Advisor to round out your assessment of a venue's reputation and track record.

13. Vendor restrictions - Some venues have a list of exclusive vendors that they will allow to perform work in their venue, so make sure if you are using outside vendors that you can bring them into the venue and that the venue will amicably work alongside them.
Track all your venue details - including budgets and amenities - as well as hundreds of other details with Planning Pod's 26+ easy-to-use event management software tools. Try them free today!

10 Best Practices for Building Event Websites - INFOGRAPHIC

When it comes to building an event web site, everything you do should be focused on 1) maximizing traffic to your site and 2) maximizing the number of registrations or RSVPs via the site.

With those two goals in mind, here is an infographic that lays out 10 best practices for building event websites for all your events.

Feel free to post this infographic on your site by cutting and pasting the code below into one of your Web pages:

<a href="https://www.planningpod.com/"><img alt="Infographic on building event websites from Planning Pod" src="http://blog.planningpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Event-Website-Best-Practices.png" /></a>

Event Websites Best Practices

Build attention-grabbing event web sites for all your events with Planning Pod's event website builder tool ... plus use or 26+ other tools for managing your event details. Try Planning Pod free today!

31 Must-Follow Event Planners and Event Bloggers on Twitter

Must-Follow-Event-Planners-BloggersPart of being a professional in the events industry is staying up-to-date on the latest trends, innovations, technologies and best practices. Thankfully for all of us, many event management pros and publications give liberally of their time and advice and make it easy for the rest of us by sharing this information on a daily basis.

Here are 31 event industry influencers and event bloggers who we follow regularly and who we recommend you follow, too.

Note: The event planners, event professionals and event publications below are put in order based on number of Twitter followers as of May 1, 2014.

Dina Manzo
Twitter followers - 379K
Blog | @dinamanzo
Highly sought after interior designer and now event planner offers all sorts of great tips and advice (plus you can catch her HGTV show “Dina’s Party”). Excellent eye for style.

David Tutera
Twitter followers - 124K
Blog | @DavidTutera
David is practically an industry in and of himself, with a TV show, books, product lines (including his own wedding dress collection) and, yes, even an event planning/production business. He guides where the industry goes, so his words carry considerable of weight, especially in the wedding industry. A must follow.

Mindy Weiss
Twitter followers - 87.8K
Blog | @mindyweiss
A true renaissance woman, Mindy does it all - plan amazing parties, write books on event planning and design, even create great event decor products. Lots of great design ideas every week on her blog.

Leila Lewis
Twitter followers - 47.2K
Blog | @weddingPR
One of the few PR professionals who specializes in promoting event and wedding planning firms. Totally worth checking out if you are looking for a great person to help you build your business ... or if you're simply looking for great tips and ideas for promoting your business.

Colin Cowie
Twitter followers - 44.9K
Blog | @colincowie
A superstar event and wedding designer and a man with exquisite taste. Worth following just to see his designs alone, and he is always on the leading edge of event design.

Preston Bailey
Twitter followers - 40K
Blog | @prestonrbailey
If you have been in the events industry for any length of time, this man needs no introduction. Exquisite event designer, and he provides very down-to-earth, practical advice.

Event Industry News
Twitter followers - 25.3K
Blog | @EventNewsBlog
Based in the UK, this online magazine give you the latest news on the events industry on both sides of the pond and covers a wide variety of issues. If you want the latest or want a different take on pressing issues, you need to check them out.

Jordan Ferney
Twitter followers - 25K
Blog | @ohhappyday
You won't find a brighter, happier, spunkier, more DIY event and party blog on the Web. Jordan has so many crafty, fun ideas for decor, gifts, table accouterments, etc. that it's amazing to think she has at least one great post a day.

Marley Majcher
Twitter followers - 19.7K
Blog | @ThePartyGoddess
Marley has a great business head about her, and her blog and social media posts offer a wealth of excellent insights and ideas about running a small business (and especially an events business).

Plan Your Meetings
Twitter followers - 16K
Blog | @PlanYrMeetings
From industry news and best practices to advice from planners, this online magazine keeps the ideas flowing on a daily basis. Great takes on what's happening in the industry and also a nice directory for finding vendors. Always a helpful resource.

Camille Styles
Twitter followers - 15.7K
Blog | @camillestyles
From deep in the heart of Texas, Camille offers up great ideas on entertaining, parties and much more, and she and her staff are always coming up with tasty tidbits on food, decor, style and much more. Great ideas here for all you event design pros.

Kristin Banta
Twitter followers - 15.3K
Blog | @KristinBanta
Kristin is tireless, or at least she seems to be, with all her TV appearances, gorgeous weddings and film industry fetes. But the driving force behind this is her creative vision, and you can take it all in via her Twitter feed.

Saundra Hadley
Twitter followers - 13.7K
Blog | @planningforever
Hello, Midwest. I like Saundra's style (Chuck Taylors and all) and her blog is so down to earth and practical when it comes to event planning, decor and life. When you want a calm, collected voice of reason who offers great insights into the business, tune into Saundra.

Endless Entertainment
Twitter followers - 13.4K
Blog | @helloendless
... has endless guidance, tips and insights into the nuts and bolts of pulling off great events. They are an event production company, but the breadth of their posts span everything from do's and dont's of event tech to how to build an itinerary. And their marketing manager Kaitlin Colston is their social media guru who always has interesting information to share.

David Adler
Twitter followers - 13.1K
Blog | @davidadler
As founder and CEO of BizBash, David is always on top of the events industry and always has something interesting and creative to say. I've got BizBash on my Digg reader and it is always reliable for great updates on the latest in event design and industry news.

Jeff Hurt
Twitter followers - 12.3K
Blog | @JeffHurt
Conferences and meetings are Jeff's forte, and his breadth of knowledge in this area is amazing. If you want to know the latest conference and meeting planning trends as well as best practices, look to Jeff first (cause everyone else follows him).

Liz King
Twitter followers - 11.2K
Blog | @lizkingevents
Liz is the queen of event social media and the person to talk to about all thing regarding event technology. She's based in the big apple, and her Twitter feed offers a plethora of great links and tips on how to best use technology for your events and event business.

Nikki Finnie-Slater
Twitter followers - 10.7K
Blog | @NikkiRecherche1
Sharp, classy event planner from the UK, Nikki provides a great running summary of what's hot and interesting with weddings and corporate events in both her tweets and her blog. Check in on her frequently.

Julius Solaris
Twitter followers - 9.5K
Blog | @EventMB
Julius is the mastermind behind the Event Manager Blog and responsible for some of the best, most focused content on the Web regarding event management and planning. You should bookmark his blog and read it every week ... because all your peers are doing the same.

Kasey Skobel-Conyers
Twitter followers - 8.9K
Blog | @blissevents
Another planner from the heartland, Kasey shows you how all the details matter in her posts. Great sense of style as well as a good balance of insights for both wedding and event planning.

Special Events
Twitter followers - 7.9K
Blog | @special_events
Full of the latest events industry news as well as features on best practices and trends, this magazine is another source you should consult regularly to see what's happening and what your peers are up to.

Jill La Fleur
Twitter followers - 7.8K
Blog | @lafleurweddings
When it comes to destination weddings and events, this is the person to follow. Jill offers up lots of tasty morsels of information regarding managing, planning and designing events all over the world.

Smart Meetings
Twitter followers - 7.2K
Blog | @SmartMeetings
Not just a source of industry news, the Smart Meetings blog also has great posts from industry insiders who offer up ideas and opinions on everything related to meetings and conferences. A great source to consult for anything related to corporate meetings and events.

Meetings + Events Media
Twitter followers - 6.8K
Blog | @meetingsmags
The tweets and posts coming from M+E are excellent and go far beyond the comprehensive resource directories the company provides in terms of industry news and event planning tips. And whoever posts for them on Twitter is excellent at finding nuggets of wisdom on the Web.

Meetings and Conventions Magazine
Twitter followers - 6.8K
Blog | @mcmagtweet
An industry mag that is always on top of the meetings scene, providing timely news, guidance and insights. Add to that an active Twitter account and a number of great bloggers, and this is a source of information you can't ignore.

Keith Johnston
Twitter followers - 6.6K
Blog | @PlannerWire
An avowed coffee and event tech junkie, Keith is an event industry veteran who has pretty much seen and done it all. His posts give you a good sense of what is truly worth reading in the industry, and he approaches his craft with a great sense of humility and joy. Fun to follow.

David Stark
Twitter followers - 6.5K
Blog | @davidstarkinc
... is crazy creative. Just one visit to his Web site and you will see what I mean. And that creative passion flows through his posts and blog. Excellent ideas and tips for both social and corporate events.

Adrian Segar
Twitter followers - 5.3K
Blog | @ASegar
A true innovator in the conferences space, Adrian is at the forefront of attendee-driven conferences and meetings. His blog posts are extremely insightful and incorporate ideas and tactics from other disciplines (like physics and psychology) to shed light on how to better plan and manage meetings. His blog is required reading for this industry.

Jerri Woolworth
Twitter followers - 4.4K
Blog | @JerriWoolworth
VEGAS, baby! Jerri is a bona fide luxury planner putting together stunning events in Las Vegas and beyond. Her honest, direct advice is backed by many years planning intricate, complex events, and when it comes to high-end bashes, she has ideas galore.

Nicole Jensen
Twitter followers - 4.3K
Blog | @NicoleJensen
A social media maven with a love of events (and soccer, to boot), Nicole shows what it's all about when it comes to social media marketing. Follow her lead and learn how to use social media to both market your events as well as your event management business.

PCMA Convene
Twitter followers - 4.2K
Blog | @pcmaconvene
From the experts who bring you Convene magazine are these tasty morsels the offer via Twitter and their Web site. Perfect for the meeting planner, their posts and articles provide interesting insights into both the industry as well as on planning meetings and running a meeting planning business.
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