It takes a village to create an event that is more than just a meeting. Participants expect a curated and customized experience, but unfortunately budgets don’t always reflect that level of luxury. Leveling up your meeting can feel like an overwhelming task, but you don’t have to tackle this all on your own. One of the greatest resources you have at your disposal is your meeting vendors.
Your meeting vendors are just as invested in the success of your event as you. Your AV/production company, venue, city and general session speakers, etc. want the event to go off without a hitch. When they shine, so do you. And, you will more than likely work with each of these vendors in the future. When you start to look at your vendors as stakeholders, true partners in your events success, you will find that they have great ideas to share. Here are five simple asks of your partners to take your event to the next level:
- Be curious. Let’s face it, meetings have been taking place since the beginning of time, so yours isn’t the first nor will it be the last. Your vendors have helped to produce countless conferences, meetings, forums and trade shows every year. So, why not ask them about some of the most unique event concepts they have seen? Maybe your AV partner invested in a new backdrop for a client earlier this year, so they now have it in their inventory and available for your event. Sometimes it is just as easy as asking what your vendor partners have seen or done recently that could be applied to your event. But you won’t ever know if you don’t ask.
- Be flexible. In the association world, often times we are constrained by our budgets. If I had a dime for every committee meeting where someone thought we should have Brene Brown as a keynote speaker, we could actually afford Brene Brown as a keynote speaker. Luckily there are plenty of talented speakers that can fit within your budget, especially if you are willing to be flexible. Would you be willing to allow the speaker to sell their books to your attendees? Let them have a free booth at the trade show? Or how about introducing the speaker to some other local association planners to maximize the speakers time while they are in town? If you are open to these conversations, your speakers may be open to working within your budget.
- Get creative. Similar to the flexible part, be open to trying something different. Your event may suffer from a common association problem – champagne tastes on a beer budget (see Brene Brown note above). If this describes your event, then call on your very own culinary magician – your Food and Beverage Manager! Ask what they have done recently that could translate well to your event. Maybe there is another group at the same property and you can benefit from some of their menu choices. Let your Food and Beverage partner be creative!
- Think smarter. We do this all the time in our jobs as association professionals by taking advantage of economies of scale. Before you finalize your meeting dates, reach out to the local CVB. We all know that associations are space hogs and sometimes don’t have the room block to justify the space requirements. Ask your CVB partners if there is a citywide event that needs the room inventory but not the ballroom space – can you piggyback onto their dates? Your event may be the missing puzzle piece.
- Be inclusive. Ask your partners to get involved early, as in before you even book a venue. Include them on site visits and welcome their input as you build your program. They will be more than happy to provide creative assistance as well as save you from potential roadblocks. And don’t forget to include them in the post-con as well. Remember that part about forming long-term relationships? Your success is their success, so make sure to debrief and talk about how you can work together in the future.
It’s all about the relationships – invest the time to nurture and build these partnerships with your meeting vendors. When you stop treating your vendors as transactional relationships and start including them as partners, leveling up your meeting is as easy as asking a few key questions.
To learn more about taking your events to the next level, download our free e-book: Step-By-Step Event Marketing Template.