Although the need for negotiating skill may appear obvious to many, my over three decades in the event management and organization industry has clearly demonstrated that nearly every event would benefit if properly and beneficially negotiated. However, before someone can effectively negotiate, they must be superbly prepared, as a result of paying attention and doing one’s homework. That homework must include understanding and identifying the needs of the event, what the optimum goal (and any secondary ones, as well) would be, and the intent of that event. This can then lead one to the creation of a meaningful and well designed budget, a marketing plan, and a venue needs assessment. In addition, a professional negotiator understands, from the onset both his client’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the venues, as they relate to negotiations.
1. The first step is doing one’s homework. Do you, as a negotiator understand what the organization (your client) wants to achieve from this event? What has been done historically? Is this a recurrent event? Are both the event and the organizations in an upswing scenario, or have they been dwindling and becoming less relevant? What are the needs? Will food and beverage be a consideration? Are you also attracting people to the event by including an attractive hotel room rate? Why are you using this location? What are the audio- visual needs of the group? What historic data will benefit the group’s negotiating position, and what will be derogatory? Is the group flexible regarding dates, and if so, how might that impact negotiating strength? What can the group offer the venue that would make it more attractive and enhance negotiating? What impact do “comps” or free things have on the groups bottom line? Is the group open to making certain structural or how things are done modifications, in order to get more for their money? What savings might be offered the venue, that can then be passed along as savings to the group? What authority does the negotiator have?
2. After the homework has been done, a true and meaningful budget must be created. This budget must not simply be an exercise, but must become the guiding document for planning and negotiations. All revenues must be considered in a conservative, worst case scenario, while possible costs must be stated in a manner that reduces the possibility of unanticipated, unplanned for costs after the fact. Included in the budget must be a marketing plan that creates the maximum benefit for the organization, by planning wisely and using all productive resources, while emphasizing the most bang- for- the- buck.
3. Request for Proposals (RFPs) must be used as a preliminary part of the negotiations process. These must spell out needs and demands, and must create some sort of competitive environment to get the most for the group. A negotiator, however must always proceed using a win- win philosophy, so as to not only get a great price and cost structure, but also to create a venue- planner relationship that is mutually cooperative and that both sides consider lucrative and advantageous/ beneficial.
Too many organizations proceed without a professional negotiating process in place. This is one of the primary reasons that so many events under- achieve.