The 3 Things Event Planners Wish They’d Known Sooner

When we’re starting out – things can be rough. It always seems like everyone’s ahead of us, there’s something else to learn, or that there’s some secret that everyone is refusing to tell us.

Nothing will ever replace good old-fashioned experience, but we polled some of our favorite event planners to ask what they wish someone would have told them earlier in their careers. We’ve paired those “if only someone had told me” sentiments with solutions from around the web to hopefully preempt some of those delayed learning moments! Getting better every day might take time and hard work, but it doesn’t have to be harder than it already is.

“I wish someone taught me about the best and easiest areas to negotiate on hotel contracts that are fixed or not-fixed costs.”

Contract negotiation can be tricky for anyone. And you never want to walk away from a negotiation feeling like you left money on the table. Hotels are especially notorious for upcharging everything – especially services that are many times 90-100% profit for them (A/V anyone?)

Here’s a great resource from our own blog about negotiating contracts: How Do The Best Planners Negotiate Contracts In Their Favor?

One takeaway: If you don’t ask for something that might elicit a “no”, you’ll never know if you could have asked for more. “But the skill is in knowing what to do with the no,” says our negotiation coach, Craig dos Santos.

Here’s an article from that addresses this very issue. It breaks down all the areas you can negotiate with a hotel when planning your next event: 39 proven event planning strategies for negotiating with venues and hotels

One takeaway: “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.”

“Oftentimes you have to scrap to win clients. There’s lots of self-promotion involved when the competition is so tough.”

Let’s face this head on – it’s A LOT of work being an event planner. But what often gets left out of early conversations about “living the lifestyle” is that in order to plan events in today’s world – there’s a fair amount of marketing strategy build into all of it as well.

Not only are you going to have to market yourself as an event planner (whether you own your own company or not), you’re going to have to market every little aspect of your event to the attendees to get them experiencing it in the way you want.

It all starts with a proposal, so check out our guide to writing killer event proposals that will win you more deals.

One takeaway: Tell a story with your proposal. Humans connect to a beginning, middle and end. Thinking about this will also force you to consider your overall structure.

Introducing any new element to your event will take some sort of marketing campaign on your end to make sure it gets used properly. As an example, here’s a comprehensive guide to promoting your event app.

One takeaway: Start marketing early. People need to be told several times (and in several different ways) if they’re expected to start doing something new.

“Vendors are more than people who sell you services you need. Building strong relationships with them is key. You’ll get ahead, save some money and make some great friends!”

Something that young planners find out quickly is that this is a people business, and that the relationships you’re creating with vendors, hotels, sponsors and the like are huge investments in your future success.

How can you start those relationships off on the right foot? Part of it is seeing things from their perspective. Understanding the jobs of the people you work with with only serve to make you better at your own!

Build strong and efficient relationships with your industry’s vendors! Here’s a look at what questions to ask them when you’re starting out on a project.

One takeaway: If you’re researching several venues you might create a web survey with a tool like Surveymonkey. This way you can easily compare responses, make sure you don’t forget anything and keep everything organized.

Also check out this short piece from the Event Planner’s Association about how to develop and maintain strong vendor relationships.

One takeaway: Create a visual sponsorship agreement so that vendors are seeing value in addition to hearing about it.

Here are some other great responses we got from our crew:

  • “It is ok to say no… I use to volunteer for everything and pitch in whenever anyone in the office needed help.  It is easy to get overwhelmed.  So learn to pick and choose when it is important.”

  • “I wish someone would have advised me early on to actually become a hotel guest myself at a property before I recommend – to get the full experience of their service and amenities.”

  • “Do not stress over the small things. They usually work themselves out. If they don’t, you can get a discount!”

  • “Plan your brains out but there are still going to be hiccups. This doesn’t mean you should try to do everything yourself, it just means you need to give clear directions and trust others.”

  • “In the midst of an event find time to eat something!”

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