Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to Plan a Gala - Outsourcing for Vendors

I recently finished planning a 28th annual gala in San Diego for one of our clients. About a year ago, I wrote a blog about how to plan a gala, using the same client’s event as the example. I offered some basic tips, depending on the type of venue being used. This time around, I would like to highlight and discuss a few details I did not mention in my previous gala blog.

Outsourcing for vendors was one of the main tasks this time. San Diego has a huge market so competition was stiff and, in today’s economy, everyone wants a piece of the pie. In sending out the request for proposal (RFP), I noted important aspects of the event, i.e., date, time, location, food & beverage requests, audio-visual, and other considerations. Several venues in the downtown area of San Diego responded. After learning about each vendor’s policies and procedures, the type of space provided, and rates, we made our selection. However, the venue finally chosen did not provide many elements needed for the gala. First, I needed to hire a catering company. Typically, venues have a preferred vendor list for special events. It is helpful knowing these companies have created a great working relationship with the venue, understand the space really well, and can offer discounts. Second, the event needed a professional DJ for the entertainment portion. And third, we needed a beverage vendor to provide bar service. Now, this is working with three different companies, three different negotiations, and three different contracts – outside of the venue contract. Thankfully, the catering company provided tables, linens, chairs, flatware and glassware. That could have been yet another element.

Dedicating enough time to such coordination is important. I started planning 6-8 months prior to the event, due to its size and complexity. Each vendor was extremely helpful offering suggestions to create a smooth and easy event. Overall, I found working with many different vendors was easy and enjoyable. All of who did an exceptional job. The venue coordinator was among the best I have worked with. I am looking forward to planning the 29th annual gala in Atlanta, GA.

~ Tess Conrad • Meeting & Conference Planner, RDL enterprises