Meetings Canada


Industry Insider: Getting the best from your suppliers (including me)

Les SelbyWhen you spend your money on an event, you want to ensure you are getting the best possible value for your money.  You notice I say “value for money” and not necessarily the lowest price.  There is absolutely no sense in paying the lowest price if the result is not what you need or desire.  You often hear suppliers say the client only wanted the lowest price but throughout my career I have always found that clients and their procurement professionals want to ensure their companies get the best possible product or service for the money spent.

How do you get the best from your event suppliers?  Regardless of whether the supplier operates a hotel, provides web registration services, is a motivational speaker or a third party supplier of event planning services, the answer is pretty much the same.

First, make sure you tell them what you want and how you will know if you are successful.  You should be looking for a partner who wants to know how they can meet and exceed your expectations—an order-taker who never asks questions or makes suggestions is not a very good partner.

Next, give the supplier time to do a good job.  It constantly amazes me when I hear a supplier say that their client only gave them two days to prepare a gala dinner or design and launch a website, and then complained about the quality of the end product.  When I was a consumer goods purchaser, I remember a supplier telling me that the customer could have their job quick, cheap or good, but never all three.  Quick and good meant expensive but quick and cheap meant a less than stellar outcome.  Good and cheap was possible but that almost always meant more time was required.

Third, make sure your partner knows your processes.  If it is going to take your company two months to issue a purchase order and pay a deposit, you may lose the venue or service you wanted to make your program a success.  If your supplier knows up front how your company works, they may be able to explain to their partners the extenuating circumstances and get special allowances.

Finally, over communicate.  Too much information (especially when you start working on a project or you are working with a new supplier) is far better than assuming that your supplier understands your thoughts or instinctively is aligned with your goals.  Everybody should want the best product the first time rather than producing an inferior product and then having to spend time discussing how to redo the work.

So you want the best possible valuable?  Communicate effectively, give the supplier time to do a good job, and explain how you will judge the success of your event.  You will always be happy with the quality event that is produced.

– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for Aimia’s Channel and Employee division in Canada.  He has been a corporate, third party and independent event professional for over 25 years.  Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors, and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at

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