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How to speak “Event Contract” in a post-pandemic world

For many, it seems odd to be “still navigating” the lingering impact of a three-year-old pandemic, but event planners and venues are mutually engaged in the unanticipated conundrum of market compression — that crunching combination of high demand and high occupancy. It’s like trying to tango between the proverbial rock and hard place. Add in rising costs, staffing shortages, narrowed options, and attendee wariness, and the very idea of contract negotiations becomes a dance no one is excited about.

But there are good choices that can encourage all parties to stay on task and on budget. (Really!)

Remember: event planners and venues share the same objective to create a meaningful, memorable experience while remaining respectful of each organization’s mission and bottom line. Focusing on creating effective, efficient contracts starts by covering a few basics with an open, clear conversation. Here are a few key “starts”:

1.  Start with a solid RFP that spells out the required and negotiable specifics.

The lowly RFP is the very foundation of every negotiation and contract. An effective RFP answers the venue’s core questions without the constant back-and-forth clarifications just to start the negotiation and contract processes. The old adage of “put it on paper” applies here — the clearer and more specific, the better:

  • Share your organization’s purpose and event history.
  • Identify past and expected attendance and accommodations.
  • Describe your attendees (demographics) and general needs.
  • Define the necessary meeting spaces and setups.
  • Provide budget guidelines for room nights and food & beverage.
  • Give a deadline when you need the proposal for a final decision.

SUGGESTION:  Start with this completely customizable RFP Form. It was designed by event managers for event planners to help simplify and streamline the process!

Contract Event Manager 1

2. Start a conversation about what’s important.

Begin negotiations early with the elements most critical to your venue selection:

  • Staffing and service levels: Many facilities are still struggling to fill and train open positions, so it’s perfectly fair to ask about the venue’s current, accurate catering staff ratio and what housekeeping services are provided. Check in two or three months ahead so you’ll know what to expect and can address any issues.
  • Experience: Seek out established venues that tout their tenured staffs — properties with loyalty and longevity running the ship often have a legacy of working through challenges with event planners to create the most mutually rewarding event. Do the site inspection; ask about their rebooking rate, available service, staff’s experience, and client references.
  • Higher costs: Inflation is the ultimate influencer. Pre-pandemic budgets are no longer relevant, particularly for F&B costs. Ask for details on F&B options and pricing ahead of the contract and consider adding cost clauses within the contract to help contain prices with a two-year window. Ask about hidden fees and what can be included at no charge.
  • Attrition: Your contract should include a clause that allows you to audit and evaluate the room block and discuss what penalties or variables might apply.

3. Start with an open, flexible mindset.

As with all contractual discussions and documents, be honest and upfront from the outset and expect the same from every party involved. Transparency is for everyone’s benefit — perhaps more than ever in a compressed environment — and flexibility is essential.

All of these shifts in event planning and management are pushing some event planners to look outside of first-tier cities. In comparison, midsize cities often offer more affordability in room rates, space availability and flexibility. If your top choice(s) are edging out of your price range or unable to offer a suitable contract, it may be time to become the “big fish” in a smaller yet accessible second tier destination.

We’re fortunate to offer event planners with expertise and enviable pricing and experiences. We have a motto at the core for every event hosted at Grand Wayne Convention Center: “Make Good Memories.” It’s what we do, and we’re happy to help event planners attract attendees, both in-person and remotely.

Let’s talk about how we can help you create an amazing event. Contact one of our Sales Managers and tell us about your event!