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Agency vs DIY: The art of negotiating venue find and event contracts

negotiating venue find and event contracts

Negotiating venue find and event contracts can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not well-versed in the nuances of contracts. They can come laden with jargon and unfavourable terms that can leave you feeling uncertain about the value you’re getting or stuck with terms you didn’t fully understand. It’s moments like these when you wish you had an event management company on speed dial.

But why rely on the pros at agencies like Agiito instead of attempting a DIY approach? Let’s take a look at what knowledge and experience get you in event contracts, and why trusting experts can save you headaches down the road.

The value of experience

Years of experience is an exceptional asset when it comes to reviewing and negotiating venue find and event contracts. Venue find and event agencies are equipped with the mileage to know the ins and outs of the industry and can spot the problems and loopholes that can get lost in sometimes lengthy contracts.

It’s not that venues are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of event planners. It’s that they’ll often start with a boilerplate contract that protects their interests. But event management companies are in the business of making it a level playing field to protect our customer’s interests too. For example, identifying clauses that limit a venues liability or allow a venue to cancel the contract at any time. The latter, in particular, can be commonplace at sporting venues where fixture changes mean dates are no longer available. But finding this out after the fact won’t help source another venue when your annual team meeting, conference or awards dinner needs to relocate.

Reading between the lines

Our experts tell us that no two venue contracts are the same – they’ve even got a good story about a time the venue dress code almost put the brakes on an event that we can tell you sometime. Our point is that the multitude of different terms and conditions that have appeared or been missing from contracts over the years are so much easier to spot when you’ve had something to compare against. Costs, lead times, cancellation charges and liabilities are just a few of the areas that require a dusting of industry expertise and understanding of the market.

We’ve learned that it’s just as important to pay attention to what’s omitted from a contract as what’s included. We’ve developed a knack for picking through the fine print – the essential details that can make or break a contract, like unclear payment terms or missing indemnification and force majeure clauses. Negotiating even small changes, like some wiggle room on attendee numbers, can have a significant impact if you need to adjust your event numbers. Even by dropping 5 to 10 attendees, organisers could have to foot significant costs toward unused food and beverages, accommodation, parking, stationary and more. But by negotiating some flexibility on cut-off dates and charges, you can limit these risks.

At Agiito, venue contract checking and signing services ensure that any T&Cs from your potential venues are fully audited against customer expectations and negotiated downwards when appropriate.

If you’re going down the DIY route, our biggest piece of advice is to give yourself time to really pick through the fine print and ask questions of the venue if there’s anything unclear.

Unlocking added value

Gaining extra value from your negotiations can come from a few different areas. Before we go to that, consider what added value aligns with your event needs. This could mean negotiating complimentary upgrades for event facilitators or VIP attendees, free parking, organising complementary site visits or some of the clauses mentioned earlier like amendments to cancellation terms or attrition. But the more leverage you have, the better your negotiating position. Here are a few areas that can often give venue finders the edge:

  • Buying power – Agencies often use their consolidated buying power to secure better rates, added value benefits and lower cancellation charges.
  • Supplier relationships – Establishing good relationships with suppliers can be invaluable. You might learn where some venues are able to give a little more, lower their rates, or at the other end of the event, help mitigate charges if contracts didn’t cover certain clauses.
  • Timing – Negotiations thrive on time and agencies can often have great understanding and oversight of busy periods in the calendar to give that time to negotiate. If you’re rushing to secure a venue for an upcoming event, securing savings or added value can be challenging – plus, you’re limiting your time to review contracts and reduce risks.

Negotiating venue find and events contracts doesn’t have to be daunting but having the skills and experience of an agency in the bank can add value, reduce risks, and make your event the best it can be. That’s not to say we’ve not come across some tough negotiating PAs over the years, but the joys of an agency are that we do what we’re great at, so you can concentrate on what you do best.

You might also enjoy reading our exclusive interview with Caroline Medcalf, Director of Venue Find and Events at Agiito.