Ask your question
Give a brief description of your objective.
We will contact you soon
In our previous article we told you how to choose the best concept from those the event agencies offer to you. We also reviewed the modern trends, so you can choose the most novel ones. By now, you have chosen your agency, approved the budget estimate and signed the contract. Let us now unpack how you can best interact with and control the event organization process.
Which major problems you might encounter
You may encounter a host of issues while communicating with your event agency. Let us consider the most widespread ones, so you can avoid those while preparing for your event.
Your requirements do not conform to your budget
You have to understand the real cost of your event. Not all your wishes are possible to implement, given your budget constraints. Often corporate representatives give a long list of requirements to an event agency, and then get surprised when they see the bill. It would be far better for you to get a rough estimate and clarify with the agency, what can be done given your budget.
The approval process for the agency proposals might draw out, especially in large companies. It might happen that the discussions related to project realization options threaten the event itself. For example, the event agency has already chosen the sites, but while you were discussing them, the sites got booked. You have to avoid situations like these.
The client’s responsibility
The clients of the event agencies do not always understand that they are also responsible for the successful realization of the project. They see no need in discussing certain issues, making a choice out of the options offered to them. It might happen that the client pays for the services, and then withdraws completely. A few reasons for that are possible: not understanding the event mechanism, lack of resources, unwillingness to interfere with the work of professionals. You should not think that the agency will arrange everything on their own; we need you to participate in the process. Our professionals cannot make an unforgettable event for you, if they are unable to understand the corporate culture and the wishes of your staff.
Neither the agency, nor the clients like emergency expenses, but the entire cost of the event could not always be foreseen. The experienced event organizers endeavor to drive the emergency expenses down: they can see the force majeure events beforehand, they can advise you what to include into the estimate when the budget is formed.
However, it might so happen, that to optimize the costs, the client assumes some functions or assigns them to their partners. For example, the client might take charge of the site hunting, catering or printing services. In such cases, if the client’s employees or partners are inexperienced, the arising issues might take them by surprise.
For example, you haven’t thought about or agreed that there are going to be no other clients on site on the day of the event. Now you should pay extra for the partition walls/screens/props for a separate entrance, so that you will be separated from strangers. Or it comes up a day before your conference that you didn’t clarify the actual number of participants and ordered an insufficient amount of handout material to be printed; now you lack materials to distribute among all the guests.
Force majeure events
Force majeure events are common, but an experienced agency usually responds to them with ease. However, if you take charge of some functions, you should be prepared to solve certain situations on the fly.
For example, one or two days before the event the number of guests might increase by a hundred or two. Now you should negotiate with the caterers to increase the amount of food ingredients bought and find extra staff to handle that. An experienced agency will be able to solve this issue, even if there’s only 1 or 2 days left before the event. A third party partner or the customer, however, is not always able to handle that.
It is possible to avoid possible force majeure circumstances, which may negatively affect your event. To do that think through the areas of responsibility, and assign the key functions to professionals.
10 managers, 1 responsible person
Sometimes, the company’s organizational setup us such that there is one person responsible for the event, and dozens of managers supervising him or her. Each of them is trying to comment and give instructions on how to execute the project better.
The responsible employee, who values his or her job, tries to please everyone. He or she relays wave after the wave of comments, requests, orders and ideas from their seniors to the agency. As a result, the preparation for the event boils down to daily discussions of new input data, with no time left for proper implementation of the project. When the agency asks to appoint one project manager, or at least specify a deadline for any additional changes, the corporate management makes it known that they are not pleased with their contractor.
You have to understand that the quality and time of the event implementation depend on how quickly the client approves all the details. Don’t complicate the decision making process needlessly.
The accounting and management reporting exist in two parallel universes. The customers are forced to ask the agency to change some parts of the contract wording to those less risky, to avoid extra taxes provided by the laws. As soon as the agency’s contract changes, the agency asks their contractors to change their contracts accordingly. That leads to discrepancies and complications in closing documents and reports under acceptance acts.
This problem is especially common for government structures, who ask for pop stars and alcohol, then demand to draw up the acceptance statement for a business conference and related organizational services. Sometimes entire teams of lawyers, accountants, auditors, financiers, etc. on both ends are busy drawing up multi-volume reports, annexes and addenda, so that they don’t throw the contractors under the bus, while still abiding by the laws.
How to structure the communication process
When you communicate with the agency representatives, it’s important to remember a few issues, which will make your cooperation significantly more efficient.
First of all, you need to relay your requirements to the agency in a clear and detailed manner, outlining fully how you envision your event. That will not only help the professionals clear up all the details, it will also shorten the preparation time, because less changes will be needed during the process itself.
Be partners, not competitors
Communicate with the company representatives as you do with your equals, your partners. However, do not forget that you are the paying customer, therefore your interests must be ensured and your suggestions taken into account. You have to understand that when we deal with complex professional services, the “customer is always right” rule does not apply. Making the agency accommodate your every whim is not feasible. You have to find the best solution together, not just give instructions. The situation, when both parties actively participate in the process, would be the most beneficial for a successful event.
Some clients show strong distrust to the agency - they fear that they will be swindled out of their money, or misled into unplanned expenses. That approach leads to excessive control and arguing over each decision made by professionals. In such cases, effective cooperation is unlikely. You can avoid a situation such as that if you clearly agree the budget before the works start, and if you chose only those professionals whom you trust.
Immerse yourself in the process
It is important to remember that you don’t have to understand all the aspects of an event agency work. However, you should try understanding the process to make sure that your expectations were made clear to the agency and are possible to implement on your budget. It may also be worthwhile to control the intermittent stages of the process, so you can see that preparation to the event is going on in your desired direction.
Give the agency feedback on the event preparation process. It’s not possible to make a perfect plan from the get-go; you will need to correct it on the fly. In such cases, your feedback is going to be invaluable to the agency. Without that feedback your event would be one-size-fits-all, regardless of the audience, company and the industry specifics.
Document your arrangements
It would be better to document the decisions made during negotiations, for example in a brief summary. All changes to the concept or the documents should also be documented in writing; the parties do not always perceive oral agreements in the same way.
However, it is not advisable to make your relationship with the agency excessively formal and document every single minute detail. The best way would be to develop an algorithm for your cooperation, and stick to it.
Optimize your decisions
Optimize the decisions made on your end. Assign a staff member responsible for communications between your company and the agency. The management should also meet the agency halfway and consider the pressing issues promptly, without undue delays.
Additionally, avoid excessive discussions; long and careful deliberations should be reserved only for the most important issues; throw all the extraneous steps out of the approval process. For example, you might ask the staff of your department, what kind of a cuisine they prefer; engaging them in making the list of all performers, or choosing the color solution for the site is not needed.
Control the project status
You have to understand that the agency is not one professional person, who does all the work. We have a team working on each project. The result depends, among other things, on how the agency’s internal processes function.
Evaluate the results, not words
You can’t really assess, how the preparations for your event are going, if you go only by the word from the manager or the project coordinator. The common situation is that the manager passes the issue down to the employees, but the employees allow a force majeure event to happen. As a result, you may hear that an issue has been resolved, while in reality the work has barely started.
Think about the interim milestones, and ask the agency for a tangible result after achieving each of them. For example, after they select the sites, they should provide you with a list specifying the exact prices and conditions. After they book the site, you should see the contract. Ideally, during the event organization process, you should monitor status of various project aspects weekly.
Analyze the agency’s operation processes
A good agency assigns a dedicated team for each of their projects. This allows the agency staff to thoroughly understand the process, promptly solve all occurring issues and avoid force majeure events.
On the other hand, if there’s no dedicated team, none of the agency staff make an effort to understand the project as something they have a stake in, so you might as well not expect good results. That’s because there’s a continuous stream of objectives that each employee must handle every day without understanding them deeply, which means the results are going to be below average.
You can see such agencies at a glance: often they have difficulties providing a detailed list of project jobs for the reporting period, and can’t give an exact deadline for each task.
Identify the decision makers
To solve the key issues quickly, you need to talk not to an administrator, who simply passes the information up along the chain of command, but with a person, who makes the decisions. Usually, it’s the project leader. The middle-level manager doesn’t always have a necessary level of the project understanding and are often unable to formulate objectives correctly. Even worse is if you are contacted by a low level administrator, who only writes your questions down to pass them up to the professionals.
As a customer, you have the right to demand a direct line of contact to your project leader. You can tell that the person you’re talking to is the project leader, judging by his or her awareness of the project’s operational status.
The project leader must be aware of all comings and goings, and know at which stage the project implementation is currently at. Besides that, he or she must be privy to all the information that the agency has on your company. If the employee you’re taking with does not know all the details and is forces to constantly clarify things with someone else, it’s likely that such person is only tangentially related to the project.
Avoid the “broken phone” effect
It is extremely advisable that the key employees responsible for the most important project objectives, be present at discussions related to their areas of responsibility. Otherwise, they won’t be able to ask the necessary questions on the spot, and will get all the information through someone else. Naturally, that information might be distorted.
If all information is passed exclusively through agency managers, the employees might not be sufficiently immersed and engaged on the process, which will negatively impact the project quality.
Choose the most convenient communication tools
Agree with your contractor, which ways are the most convenient for you to communicate and solve any current issues. For example, you might experience the issue of rising costs. Making amendments to the contract every time is impracticable; you must make purchases and implement solutions quickly. That’s why you might agree to keep estimates file, updated each time the prices or the contractors change.
The most convenient way to track your arrangements is via e-mail: you always can go back over a message chain, and everyone has all earlier arrangements at hand.
Approve the cost estimate for the event
After you set up your communications with your agency, you should start negotiating the cost estimate. It’s important for you to track and control the cost estimate not only while you’re choosing your agency, but also while you’re organizing your event.
Discuss every line
It is imperative to discuss every detail, as well as any possible deviation from your budget, whether up or down, with your agency. An experienced agency knows all about the market prices and can provide you with a ballpark estimate, as well as inform you of any “snags”, where unforeseen costs or force majeure circumstances might arise. If you discuss all the details on advance, you will avoid any unpleasant surprises during the process itself.
Be prepared to change your budget
In any case, the final budget for your event should have room to spare. Sometimes even the most experienced professionals could not foresee certain situations. Provide a certain reserve amount (about 2-3% of the total event budget) for emergency expenses. If any unforeseen costs turn up, assess how necessary they are and request a detailed justification for the cost estimate changes from your agency.
Do not allow bloating the cost estimate
A good agency makes an estimate to cover all costs from the start, and allows for any unforeseen expenses only if necessary. Control you contractor’s work, demand the interim reports and watch them for any extra costs not provided in the estimate.
Any case, when the cost estimate provides for one cost of a certain service, but the actual cost of that service turns out to be higher, should raise your suspicions. A professional agency knows the prices of their contractors beforehand, so cases such as that are extremely rare: for example, something like that might happen when the agency changes a company it’s working with. Clear up the situation: you are entitled to demand that the service in question be provided at the initially approved cost, if possible.
Watch your agency’s hands
Some agencies, acting in bad faith, might state the prospective costs as higher than they really are, and pocket the difference left after they pay their contractors.
Pay attention to the following details:
- If an agency uses opaque wordings to formulate a cost estimate, or enters positions into a cost estimate by large blocks, without giving details, it’s likely that they aim to mislead you. Demand a detailed breakdown of each item in the cost estimate. When it comes to technical equipment, for example, light or sound equipment, request its specifications, stating exactly, which equipment that would be, what units or components it would include. A good agency makes a detailed estimate for every item; a bad one will combine items to make it easier to manipulate the price.
- Pay attention to any extra items in the estimate, or to conflicting item parameters. For example a site needs a certain level of sound power, but the agency orders equipment, which is twice as powerful. You pay extra, while only 50% of the sound capacity is used at your event.
Remember, that if an agency does not satisfy you, you have the right to refuse its services. The reasonable time for such refusal depends on the scope of the event. If a proposed event is limited in scope, you can change your contractor a month before its date. For large-scale events, however, it would be better to change your mind three months in advance. Otherwise, your new agency would not have time to organize anything.
Keep to deadlines
Let’s say, the time of the event is near, and nothing is ready yet. In such cases you should start demanded that the agency keep to deadlines, which should have been agreed in the contract, of course.
Do not panic: usually, if something goes wrong, a professional contractor always has some alternative options to offer. You should not allow delays yourself, the closer the event day is, the quicker you should make decisions on any current issues. Always control the milestones, do not leave the proceedings run unchecked, that way you can see the deadline breaking in advance, and if necessary start thinking about changing your contractor.
Watch the status of each project function, ask for interim documents: script drafts, spatial organization plan, the equipment contractor’s assembly schedule, approved menu and the catering service arrival schedule. If you see that your agency is overwhelmed, ask them to assign more staff and reallocate the responsibilities. The agency is obligated to do that at no additional cost.
To sum up, to ensure efficient partnership with an event agency, you should:
- Be prepared beforehand to situations such as emergency costs, changes in cost estimates and force majeure events.
- Set up the process of your interactions with your agency: be clear while setting up the objectives, give the professionals the necessary level of freedom, don’t forget to control the works and participate in the project implementation.
- Optimize the decision approval process: make sure that the agency has a team dedicated to your project, and that you’re communicating with that team’s leader; remove the unnecessary links from the approval chain on your side.
- Be thorough when preparing the cost estimate, discuss every item before the works start and control how your agency spends your money.
- Control the deadlines, don’t panic when they are approaching and be prepared in advance to participate in the process.
If you have chosen your agency correctly, and you contractor really is a professional operator in their field, you shouldn’t expect any major problems during the event preparation. Your event will start on time, and you should be able to handle force majeure events, which are possible during and after it.
One of the important and very sensitive issues is: how the top managers should behave at an event? How should they relax and entertain themselves in a way that is not damaging to their reputation and makes a necessary impression on their staff? We will talk about that in our next article.
Правила поведения на корпоративном мероприятии. Как справиться с неожиданностями
Corporate event brief. How to fill it in without dying