career in event planning event coordination with bartender

Planning Tips

How to Find the PERFECT Vendors for Your Event

Are you just beginning a wonderful career in event planning? Finding vendors from scratch can take a lot of trial and error. But you won’t always have the time or room to make mistakes. Especially since you’ll be working with your hired vendors for months until the event is done…it’s a lot of pressure to choose carefully!

But worry not! We’ve put together a list of everything you need to look for when choosing the right vendors for your event. Read on…

1.      Find out the logistics and top priorities for the event

Before you can go searching for vendors, you need to meet with your clients. Your client consultation will be where you start building your ideas for the event you’re planning. Take note of everything they tell you—your vendors will need the same information!

number of guests seating chart for event

Let’s start with the number of guests. This factor will narrow down the range of vendors you’ll even look at. Encourage your clients, if they’re also researching vendors with you, to shy away from looking at vendors beyond their means. The last thing you want is for your clients to fall in love with a luxury venue when they’re already stretching a shoe-string budget.

Next up is the date range for the event. With your clients, come up with a list of dates that will work for their event. Once these are settled, begin searching only for vendors who are free within these ranges. Don’t wait for the off-chance that they have a cancellation! Ensure that this is one of the first topics broached when you make first contact with the potential vendor.

Your clients may not have any concrete ideas set, but they do know the sort of atmosphere and overall theme they want. Vendors with similar tastes can transform a good event into an amazing event. This point is especially important for niche events—someone who has never decorated for a fantasy geek event won’t know how to create nuanced and appropriate event decor choices.

During your client consultation, ensure you have your clients prioritize the elements they absolutely need. That way, you’ll know which aspects of their budget will be flexible.

2.      Is the vendor professional?

professional string musicians for entertainment hire at wedding and events

You can judge a vendor’s professionalism right from the get-go. When they pick up the phone to speak to you, take clues from how they communicate with you. Are they nice and helpful? At the consultation, were they punctual? Do they come prepared? Are they client-service oriented? Here’s the big one: do they listen to you? All these are signs about how they’ll perform during the entire planning process.

3.      Vendor experience level

Find out if your vendor has any prior experience similar to the event you’re planning. Take a look at their portfolio. Look at all the different photos in the photoset of a single event. Does it look cohesive? Does their style coincide with your clients?

For example, if you’re looking for a caterer to do butlered cocktail service, find out if they have trained wait staff with experience serving in this manner. Especially since this is quite a formal service style, great emphasis will also be put on etiquette and the physical presentation of the staff. If they’ve never done this style, find out if they have any relevant experience. Similar experiences in hand service are worth noting.

4.      Are they willing to negotiate?

negotiations between event planner and vendor shaking hands in agreement

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. But treat them with respect when you do—no low balling! Your job is to ensure your clients are getting the most out of their budget. But your vendors will also need to be paid. If they are experienced professionals in the industry, they’ll know the benefits of being good to others in the field and will negotiate accordingly.

5.      Contingency planning

The interview is a great time to find out if they are ready to jump into action if something goes wrong. While it’s important for you to cover your clients (and yourself) in the event of an emergency, they, too, should have a risk management plan. If they don’t have a good answer ready, this is a big red flag.

6.      Client referrals or reviews

Do thorough research on the vendor for hire. Don’t just look at what they’re saying about themselves. Look at what their previous clients and planners have said about them. Are they singing their praises? Specific reviews that go into detail about the quality of the vendor’s services are what you’re looking for. High quality reviews written with care are a reflection of the care and attention the vendor reciprocated to them during the event. There’s nothing more valuable than an honest testimony!

7.      Do you like them?

vendor and event manager speaking with live events planner about the venue

Sometimes, you just know. Remember that you will be working with a vendor for several months to over a year. A great working relationship is built on mutual respect and easy-going rapport. Everyone should be excited to work with one another—that’s where the best ideas are born! If they have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, and tick off all the other boxes, you’re pretty much set.

You want to do good by your clients, but you also want build on your relationships with your vendors. Establishing a preferred vendors list allows you to grow your business by mutual referrals. Not to mention the discounts and special price packages clients to their event planner to secure.

Do you have any tips for choosing the best vendors? Leave us a comment!

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