Getting a Seat at the Table

The Importance of Involving the Production Team at the Onset of Meeting Planning
By Les M. Goldberg

Recently, I was having a discussion with an event producer about the current state of working within the hotel environment and the challenges of staging live events.  He mentioned to me how the production team really needs to get a seat at the table for the initial contract negotiation between the hotel and the meeting planner or decision maker that is responsible for venue selection. I’ve written many articles in the past on venue contracts and the importance of avoiding the many pitfalls that can take place when negotiating space. The idea of bringing in the producer to this negotiation process seemed like such a simple idea, yet brilliant solution to avoiding the problems that can significantly affect the overall production.

When you go to sign a contract at a venue for an event, there are so many items on the table – the meeting spaces, room blocks, food/beverage, parking, and the list goes on and on. The idea that elements of the meeting production along with the associated costs are important, rarely seem to be at the forefront of the discussion. They want to get you signed up, and then along with that comes these “terms & conditions” or “operational policies,” and agreeing to these items without discussion can have a huge impact on the overall production budget. The devil can be in the details, and often times a meeting planner or end client is not thinking of these matters when selecting a space.

If we reversed the way meetings are normally planned, we could avoid these types of contract issues. Instead of booking a space first, and bringing in a production team second, do this process the other way around. Having a venue is mind is a great start but consider bringing a producer or technical director to the initial site visit. Someone with the experience of producing events within that venue can assist you with understanding the technical challenges, required budgets, potential labor issues, and other myriad of items that the hotel is not going to point out because they really want you to sign on the dotted line. By allowing the producer to act as your advocate regarding the technical and creative elements in the space selection process, you can avoid any potential surprises after the contract has been signed.

It’s very important to understand the rules of the game, and an informed buyer will make better decisions. There are so many important issues that get decided when the contract is signed, and once that occurs, the client has lost their leverage in trying to change any of the restrictive terms and conditions with the hotel.  The terms of the contract become parameters that the production team then needs to live with, and can result in things such as unforeseen fees, dealing with the hotel’s “exclusive” services, exorbitant rigging and power costs, to name a few.  To avoid this, the planner signing a contract should take advantage of the extensive knowledge of the production team at the onset of the space planning process.

I have said this before, but I cannot stress it enough – everything is negotiable. The person going into a hotel/venue looking to book an event holds all the power. They are the ones bringing people to the city and putting heads on the beds in the hotel. That is the main concern of the hotel and everything else is a point of negotiation. The issue is often times the meeting planner is not a technical person and may not recognize what to even look for within the contract in terms of the potential staging requirements. It’s also possible that the type of production is simply not on their minds this early in the process. An experienced producer will know exactly what to ask, what needs to be crossed out of that contract, and what you need to negotiate to avoid any limitations that could arise during the production planning stage.

It’s always a good thing to be with someone that is looking out for your best interests and allowing a producer to have a seat at the table when negotiating a contract for meeting space puts an advocate by your side. By taking this simple step, everyone wins. The planner is better equipped to have a realistic budget and start preparing an execution plan that ensures the venue can meet all the needs of the conference. With the producer onboard already, they know exactly what to expect to begin planning the production side of the show. The idea is so simple: just bring your producer with you for the contract negotiation, and you will have fewer surprises, and a better overall show experience.


About the author

Les Goldberg founded LMG, LLC, a national provider of video, audio, lighting and LED support in 1984 with a small loan from a relative. He also acts as CEO of Entertainment Technology Partners, LLC, the parent company of a collection of exceptional brands within the live event and entertainment technology services industry. He recently published the book, “Don’t Take No for An Answer, Anything is Possible,” available on Amazon and iBooks. For more information, visit www.lmg.net and www.lesgoldberg.com.

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