Maximizing Impact While Minimizing Common Budget Pitfalls

The first thing event attendees see upon arrival is often the last thing event planners think about – the signage. It’s easy to put signage on the back burner, as so much thought and effort is poured into selecting the best dates, location and venue for the event, not to mention planning the keynote, breakout sessions and booth displays. Our job, as the event producer, is to ensure every piece of custom branded signage, from giant banners to small directional placards, is produced on brand, on time, and on budget. But what happens when you’re forced to use the venue’s in-house signage department?

Some venues mandate the use of internal signage or art departments in their contracts. This seems like a cost-effective path to take, since they’ll be sure to tell you they know every inch of their venue better than anyone else. While there’s nothing worse than seeing a giant “Welcome” banner where the “me” is wrapped around a corner because of an improper measurement or banners that are drooping or appear duct taped to the wall, you don’t need to go in-house to achieve perfect results. A capable event producer can make all the correct measurements and fully explore the creative potential of the space in ways the venue staff never has.

Venue Contract Review

The venue rental contract, one the most important decisions an event planner makes, is often set in stone before the event producer is hired. Often, the event planner is so relieved to secure the venue and date that they gloss over the contract’s fine print the same way we all do with every passing software update. Venue contracts are precisely written to maximize the revenue potential of the event in the venue’s favor, but many of these stipulations are negotiable while you still have leverage to take your business elsewhere. Bellwether’s venue specialists can best help if we’re brought in before a contract is signed. We will happily review your contract before you sign and can help negotiate on your behalf.

The venue is entitled to make a profit on your business, and they should, but there’s a fine line between reasonable profit centers and extraneous fees. If you’re contracting with a hotel, their primary profit centers will be room rentals, parking and catering. What you want to avoid — or at least negotiate in your favor – are auxiliary charges such as venue exclusives, labor restrictions, and hidden fees.

Venue exclusives penalize clients for using outside vendors – this includes obvious services like catering, audio/video equipment rental, and floral and décor; plus event signage and some lesser known services like access to a 24/7 concierge that you may or may not need. Failure to use these services or meet contract minimums can result in costly penalties similar to a restaurant’s corkage fees. Some venues also pad their bottom line with higher than standard gratuity rates, high WI-FI fees, or by charging guests an additional “resort fee” to their bill. Venues have even charged guests extra fees for access to business centers, workout rooms and swimming pools that one might assume are included with each room rental.

If a venue requires you to use union labor, first request proof this is a mandate and not a preference; next, be sure to avoid markups on union rates. You can often negotiate your labor contract directly with the union or at least reduce or eliminate the surcharge.

When you’re forced to use a venue’s audio/video equipment and labor, you’re limited to their in-house capabilities. Bellwether event producers focus instead on what’s best for the event. We have a pulse for the latest technology so that your event is captivating and memorable instead of looking dated or like a rerun of years past. We don’t employ tech simply because it’s cool, we do what’s best to bring your message to life. We take the same approach to signage – working with the best vendors to transform the venue into a fully immersive event, while knowing the venue well enough to produce signage that’s a perfect fit. See also: Impactful Signage Matters

The bottom line is simple; the small print can have a big impact on the quality of your event. To maximize the impact of your budget and creative, bring your event producer to the table to help negotiate your contract and set up your event for lasting success.