"Show me the money" is no longer the event host's call, as the sour economy makes lavish events obsolete. Today, "save me the money" is the event professional's new mantra.
For Claire Stroope, senior manager of global meeting services for Rocklin, Calif.-based Oracle's U.S. operations, this means relying on a network of preferred vendors. "We have approximately eight preferred suppliers for meetings and events in the Americas region that have been put in place over the past two years," she explains. "We work with our internal requestors to drive their event bookings to these suppliers so that we can maximize the discounts, which have been negotiated in advance. These discounts consist of a baseline discount to Oracle and then additional savings based upon revenue thresholds being met."
PARTNERING PAYS OFF
Especially today, many event planners are taking on a consulting role with clients, partnering to help clients find their event "musts" and paring away nonessentials. Event pros are also leaning on their own creative skills to make the most of each budget dollar.
Stacey Paul Barabe, CSEP, head of Orlando, Fla.-based Exhilarate Events, had a liquor client who wanted a lounge for an upcoming event and a supplier who was looking for a liquor sponsor for its own grand opening. "I negotiated a win-win trade-out," she says. For another client, "We made sure we met a deadline in contract negotiations so they could take advantage of the free shipping incentive provided by Pink Inc.," she adds.
Discounting is coming to the fore. Toronto-based rental company Chair-Man Mills is offering a 10 percent discount to clients who pick up their own orders, notes president Mary Crothers, who adds, "In January, we may raise that to 15 percent. By doing this a client gets the discount, plus saves on the delivery charge. It is helpful to smaller private orders, and at least makes it look like we are trying to help the consumer."
The pressure on vendors to discount seems relentless, even for social events. Barbara Wallace, CSEP, head of Corona del Mar, Calif.-based Barbara Wallace Weddings, says some clients are asking their venues to reduce food prices or minimums even after the client signed the contract months earlier. "They are even bargaining with the large hotels before booking, which has the same price-war effect," she says. "Honestly, it seems too much like buying a used car to me." She expects many vendors to cut prices just to keep business. But, she warns, "It will take years for the industry us to get back to where we were."
For the full story, see the February issue of Special Events Magazine.
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