Contract Tips to Save Money on Your Event

June 6th, 2017

Business Partners Shaking Hands

With a good plan, you are able to know how much your event is going to cost months in advance—down to the dollar. With this plan, you must have a commitment from those charging you. Contracts are these commitments to ensure that your event does not go over budget. 

You have the ability to propose amendments to any contract you receive before signing—this includes venues, speakers, A/V, catering, etc…

Early in my career, I received a contract from a Speaker’s Bureau for a keynote who asked me to have a certain brand of bottled water available at a certain degree. (Really? Does someone really know if whether or not the water is 73 or 74 degrees?) Before signing anything, I went through the entire contract and proposed my revisions. They accepted every single one. After that, I learned to question everything!

The key thing to note in regard to contracts is that as long as you are being respectful of the other person and the request being asked, people tend to be very open to discussion. Be available and reasonable in a loving way and you will probably get what you want in your contract. That said, go in knowing that you might need to be flexible. You are asking them to be flexible with you, so it is only appropriate that you treat them as you want to be treated.

Budget

Before signing any contracts for your event, you MUST know your total budget and have an idea of how to allocate those funds.

Once you have your overall budget, break it down into line items.

Man working with financial dataFirst, note your fixed costs on your budget. Your Venue, Entertainment (Music & Keynote Speakers), and A/V should have a fixed cost attached. Of course, if you make changes after you sign the contract, additional costs will incur. Your fixed costs may not be negotiable, but in my experience, it never hurts to ask.

Next, note your variable costs in your budget. Your Event Management Software, Food & Beverage (F&B), gifts, and printing costs will change depending on the number of registrants, but you will be able to plan for the cost of each item.

Tip! If you are at a loss for how to start for creating a budget, click here —> Budget Planning Templates

If your organization is tax-exempt, be certain to provide this information with all the vendors with which you work. It does not apply in all states, but for those it does, you will save a lot of money.

Fixed Costs

Venue

Ask the venue to allow you to pay for the event via Direct Bill. With Direct Bill payment, the venue will either invoice you after the event or you may have a credit card on file that they run charges against per your agreement with them. This allows you the opportunity to raise funds at the event to cover the costs and relieves a little stress from having to have all the bills pre-paid. They may ask for a deposit, but this amount will be far less than the full event cost.

Tip! In many cases, if you are using the venue’s catering services, you can negotiate the cost of the venue into the contract (i.e. waive the room rental fee), saving you hundreds, if not thousands!

Entertainment

pretty woman singing

If you have a local speaker in mind, great! This eliminates travel costs from the get-go. Some situations, however, call for bringing a speaker in so don’t fear this. Simply be certain (as with the hotel) that you know all the costs up-front.

If you have a big-name speaker in mind with no connections, I highly recommend using a Speaker’s Bureau as you are able to see preferred topics and their speaking rate. Don’t hesitate to work with the Bureaus as well if the cost appears to be beyond your budget—their job is to work with you to find the right speaker at the right price for your event. Sometimes, the speakers have a heart for exactly what you do and/or can add it onto another commitment in your area. As with venue contracts, it never hurts to ask for exactly what you want.

Tip! For Christian Speakers, I love Ambassador Speaker’s Bureau and I Need a Pro-Life Speaker. I worked with both for years and they always worked with me and my budget. I have recommended them to several friends who have used them as well over the years with the same positive experiences.

Audio & Visual (A/V)

What do you need for your event? Are you showing a video? Would you like to project the speaker so all can easily see him? Do you have the items or will you need to rent them? Does the venue have what you need?

These are important questions to ask (again) before you sign a contract with the venue. You may be able to work some key items such as microphones, speakers (yes, these are sometimes two separate costs), projectors, and screens. Be certain you also budget for someone to run this equipment as well or have someone on hand who understands A/V so you are not left without support. If you have someone on staff or a ministry partner who is a genius when it comes to technology, utilize this person’s skills either for the event itself, or for a discussion before the A/V meeting. Trust me, their knowledge will save you a lot of time and a potential headache.

Some venues, however, do not have access to A/V on-site and therefore outsource this with a partner A/V company. If possible, price compare. In some cases, these partner companies over-charge and you need to know your options before signing. If you come to them with a quote from another company, they may match it. The best way to avoid overpaying for anything is to be informed.

And again, if you have a partnership with a local church that has amazing technology, talk with them and see if they would be willing to either donate their equipment and services or rent them out at far less than the A/V company would charge. Be certain to know the professionalism of the equipment first, however, as you don’t want to sacrifice quality. Don’t settle for cheap A/V to save a few dollars, your dinner will suffer.

Variable Costs

Event Management Software

A great way to streamline registration and consolidate information is to use an Event Management Software like AttendEasy. Your attendees register online and you control all facets of your registration through a web-based program. AttendEasy allows you to manage groups of people, create a table chart, print name tags, and more.

Tip! This software investment actually ends up saving your organization a lot of time and work, releasing you to tend to other important tasks.

Your total cost will depend on the size of your event and the number of registrants. Your sales representative will work with you to help provide a quote based on your event expectations. (Don’t forget to ask about discount plans.)

Food & Beverage (F&B)

Depending on the location, plan to add 20 percent for service charges and a percentage for taxes as well (this changes city to city). Know this amount up front. (It may be indicated on the contract as a dollar amount ++ (or $50++) — these pluses are the indicator that more money is expected than what is listed.

Example: Cost of Coffee + service charge + tax. This can take one gallon of coffee from costing $50 to $67.50 [$50+10+7.5=$67.50]. If you are unprepared for this, your bill may provide you with a good case of sticker shock. Always be certain to account for taxes and service charges as well as it could easily add thousands to your final bill. 

Wine glass

Regarding F&B, NEVER sign a contract without negotiating your F&B. Since you have prepared your budget before making these decisions, you know that you can afford a $35 meal per person. However, the location you love has meals starting at $34++ (or $47.60 with tax and service charge). Combat this by asking the venue for all-inclusive meal pricing (cost of meal including the tax and service charge). This ultimately helps you plan and shows the venue that you are prepared for these charges. In some cases, this can help stop the nickel & dime game some venues play.

If the venue comes back to you with that $47.60 all-inclusive price, I guarantee that if you go in knowing that you are able to spend $35 per person for a three-course meal with drinks, they will work with you. The key is to stay in communication with them and (of course!) always be cordial. 

Tip! Negotiate a higher number of preset salads and desserts and a fewer number of full course meals. This helps account for no-shows and walk-ins while charging $12 per empty seat as opposed to $35.

Also, go in knowing that menus are not set in stone. I have never had an issue working with the chef to come up with a nice menu for my guests at the cost I determine. You may need to be flexible, but you will be able to find a nice beef dinner for your guests, even if it is a lunch portion. 😊

Gifts

This same method works with gifts. There are so many promotional services and online gift shops that if you go in with a set amount in mind per guest, you will find a nice item to honor them. The key is to be intentional and realistic. 

If you want to provide an engraved photo frame for each guest and your budget is $5 per person, you may need to re-evaluate your expectations. 

Note: Gifts and giveaways are completely optional at dinners. Something meaningful such as a scripture card, a magnet with your organization’s contact info, or a calendar with ministry photos is appropriate and in some cases, may be able to be negotiated into the printing contract. See below for more about that.

Printing

While printing items in-house may save money, the final product is not always the best. Don’t sacrifice quality when hosting current and potential ministry partners. This is your time to show your community how professional you are and the positive outcomes that occur when they invest in your organization.

Many organizations have a good relationship with a local printer. Use this relationship wisely to ensure that you receive high-quality programs, brochures, etc. at a reasonable price. Every few years, price a project out to a couple of printers to ensure that you are still receiving the best price.

Always price things out

This way, you can make an educated decision about each aspect of your event. It is helpful that before you commit to any of these elements, compare at least three options.

Closeup of business woman hand typing on laptop keyboardI always prepare an Event Summary before beginning my search. In it, I put all the key information about my event and I send it out to my top-3 choices. From here, they respond with their pricing and I am able to compare apples to apples and make the best choice. This way, if there is a printer you really want to use but they are too high, you can let them know what the competitors are charging and give them the opportunity to match it.

I know that budgets and contracts may seem daunting, but understand that knowledge truly is power in the contract game. The best way to be good stewards of your organization’s event budget is to be prepared. I hope this helps you as you plan!

Have a great day!!!

 

Andrea Trudden
Andrea Trudden

 
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Photo attributions:
Business Meeting – Designed by Katemangostar
Bookkeeping – Designed by katemangostar
Woman Singing – Designed by Asier_relampagoestudio
Dinner – Designed by Mrsiraphol
Laptop – Designed by Jannoon028

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