So you’ve done your homework, researched the market, cut a great deal and are so proud of yourself. Then, six, eight or 18 months later, your conference or event starts to fall apart because of market uncertainty, losses in sponsorship or, in the case of a first time event, your marketing machine is too slow or weak to attract those you need to “feed the machine.”
So what do you do? What is the best way to minimize the exposure, save money or reduce risk? The answer is renegotiate.
Being able to recut a deal comes with a couple of caveats. To quote my lawyer, “When you ask before you sign, it’s negotiating. When you ask after, it’s begging.” Also, if your initial negotiations involved any arm twisting, don’t expect anyone to do any favors for you when you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. I hope you never have to experience this type of situation. But if you do, here’s a few things that will help:
- Be proactive. Bad news does not get better with age. As soon as you think or feel that there is a problem, there is a problem. Pick up the phone (don’t e-mail), and share your situation as best as you can. Make sure you convey the seriousness of the situation. If possible, meet face-to-face.
- Have your preferred solution in mind. Don’t think that you won’t get asked “What are you looking for?” Be prepared to start with a fair request. This isn’t a used car. You aren’t the buyer anymore; you’ve become the seller — selling the venue or your supplier on why they should assist you.
- Identify any opportunity to “make it up” to the venue or supplier. Are you doing another meeting that can offset the shortfall? If you are a third party, do you have another client that you can contract at that venue? If this is an annual and you are not already utilizing this supplier or venue, rebooking with them could be a major card to play.
- Identify any negotiated items that you can “give back” at no penalty. Look at all the freebies and discounted items your group was given and offer them before the supplier tells you they will be taken or re-priced.
- Ask if you can move or change dates without a penalty (or at a significantly less penalty that what is contained within the contract). Having additional time to accomplish your attendance or sponsorship goals is in everyone’s best interest.
- Know that if you’re fair at the front end, you will be treated fairly at the back end. The days of qualifying how great a deal is by how much you “stuck it to them” are over. People do business with people they like and people they trust. When things get tough, you need your suppliers to be partners and want to help you because they value your working relationship as much as the business you represent.
All the best!