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If you’ve ever organised an event, you’ll know that not everything goes according to plan. Understatement, right? But, despite that, there are ways to ensure it’s a success. Reabetswe Mooeketsi is the director of IBAR Publicity, a creative communication, PR and events company. She shares her key strategies to make it a show-stopper…

Tap into trade exchanges, or the barter system

Need to pull off an outstanding event on a tiny budget? Join the club. Reabetswe’s advice is to use trade exchanges or the barter system. “[The concept of a barter system] brings me back to ancient times, before money existed and when people exchanged services and goods for other services and goods,” she says. “Although we now have currency, people and businesses are still using barter systems as a form of payment.”

Bottom line: bartering is a great way to secure assets without paying out of pocket. As long as each company has something the other wants and they’re willing to work together, it can work out in both parties’ favour.

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Then make sure your event partners and suppliers are reliable

“The last thing you want in any event is a vendor or supplier that fails to meet their delivery dateline,” says Reabetswe.

Industry standards to use when selecting vendors and suppliers:

Recommendations – a highly recommended vendor or supplier is the most reliable. “This person or company would probably have a good track record and reputation to enable a recommendation,” says Reabetswe. “The chances of non-delivery or performance would be much less as they’d have a reputation to [maintain].” Just keep in mind that this might also mean they’re pricier, she adds.

Referrals – similar to recommendations, referrals would come from online sources. If you’re sourcing suppliers on the internet, it’s best to check if the site has any referrals or testimonials from past clients. (Bear in mind that these referrals and testimonials can also be falsified!) If you’re keen to try an unknown supplier or vendor, says Reabetswe, limit them to smaller responsibilities and gauge their performance before upgrading them on your list.

Reputation – you may not know these suppliers or vendors personally, but they have a good reputation in the market. In most cases, these vendors or suppliers are in the top of their class. They’re well established and have been in the business for a long time. Note: They’re going to be just as wary of you as a client, so in this case the onus is on you to prove you’re a good client and paymaster! Plus: they’re also going to pricey and not that free with their credit terms…

Experience – well, not so fast… You might consider a fledgling company as your vendor or supplier as they’re eager to please and often much cheaper. But we’ll just repeat the point above… “Depending on what we require of them, such companies are best tried out on a small scale, building trust and service reliability over time,” says Reabetswe. You never know – these start-ups may prove to be even better than the big boys!

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And finally, the golden rule about event budgets…

Where exceeding your event budget is concerned, the general rule is “don’t.” Of course, sometimes things happen that are out of your control – maybe a piece of equipment breaks down and you need to replace it in a hurry. Maybe you didn’t sell enough tickets to break even, or maybe the materials and supplies you’re using simply turned out to be more expensive than you expected. Either way, it’s something that needs to be addressed immediately.

“Your first step is working out precisely where you went over your intended spending amount and whether or not there’s anything in your plans that can be removed and/or substituted without having an adverse effect on the experience of attendees,” says Reabetswe. “But don’t skimp on anything people will notice – you want to reduce your spending, not ruin the event,” she adds.

Secondly, negotiating is your friend! “If you can’t see anything you can safely eliminate from your event budget – or you’re still over, even after securing cheaper alternatives – your next step is to contact the vendors,” says Reabetswe.

See if you can negotiate a price that’s lower than their initial quote. (Note: if you’ve already signed on with your vendors and venue, you’re pretty much stuck.) “The key to negotiating a better price is to do so before booking,” she says.

Every event manager has an event that goes over budget at least once in their career. The key is tackling the issue quickly, efficiently and skilfully. If you can do that, then you needn’t worry about falling into the red… and you can get on with the business of creating a spectacular event!

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