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Event Management: How to Negotiate a Better Price with In-House Vendors

This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Executive Director, the Event Leadership Institute.

You’ve booked the perfect venue for your event.

It’s a beautiful space that’s just the right size, in a great location, and at a price that fits your budget.

Everything seems to be falling into place–that is until you get the proposal back from the in-house audio visual vendor.

You budgeted money for the projector and screen, sound system, and microphones, but the number at the bottom of their proposal makes you fall out of your chair.

Being the resourceful event planner you are, you get a quote from another a/v company that is a good 35% lower, only to be told from the venue that, unfortunately, you are required to use their in-house vendor.

If pressed, there are several reasons they’re likely to give you as explanations for why they’re forcing you to use an overpriced provider, and some of them may actually make sense, but for the purposes of this scenario, they are irrelevant. You are stuck.

The truth is this battle was over before it was fought

The planner made the novice mistake of booking the venue without considering ancillary costs related to it. It’s critical to evaluate venues by looking at what the entire event would cost at a given property. Some, like many nightclubs, come with built in lighting, staging, and other cost-saving elements, while others come with restrictive vendor covenants.

In return for being granted “required” status, a vendor will pay the venue anywhere from 20-50% commission on every dollar they get from you, the client, most of which results in higher prices to you.

What’s the key to negotiating a better price?

The key to negotiating a better price with a required in-house vendor is to do so BEFORE booking the venue. Know what your needs will be from that vendor and get a quote from them, as well as from a competitor. Then present the two quotes to your venue contact, letting them know that you’re ready to book their space but the above-market price from the vendor is holding you back.

Now the venue is in a position to apply pressure to their in-house partner to lower their pricing. The venue doesn’t want to lose your business, and that’s pretty much the only thing that will get you a fair price from the vendor.

[One caveat to this is that you’ve got to be able to decipher that audio visual proposal. Each vendor is likely to quote you different projectors, for example, with different lumens, lenses, and the like. Same might go for speakers and microphones. Otherwise the in-house vendor can explain the price difference by saying they’re providing different gear. For a primer on this topic, check out our classes on Audio 101 and Projection & Display Technology.]

For additional tips on this topic, watch the following clip or visit our website to watch the complete video.

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