How can you make your meetings more successful? How can you ensure they’re managed effectively? Make your vendors and suppliers your partners in the planning process. It’s not any easier than it sounds, but it’s worth the effort.
Where to begin? At the beginning! Seriously. Before you can become partners, you have to find the vendors that you think are going to be most likely to join you in a worthwhile partnership.
Select vendors through an RFP process in which you share the areas that are most important to you and your organization (price, partnership, service level, unique needs), choosing the vendor that meets your needs most closely at a cost that fits your budget.
Meet face-to-face with each of your key vendors, stressing your desire to build long-term relationships with them as your partner in the process. Explain what you expect from them – none of which should be a surprise, as it should all have been clearly outlined in your RFP.
Have a plan for communicating with your vendors on a regular basis, and ask them to follow the plan, too. Your goal should be to keep them informed of your progress on planning, request their input and feedback on the areas within their expertise, and to engage them as often as possible to make improvements to the programs they contribute to.
Know what services you’re expecting from each of your key vendors, and ensure that everyone understands their own role within your planning team. Then, gather all key players in the planning process for a brainstorming session on how to make the process smoother, easier, less cumbersome. This encourages everyone to fully engage in the process, and to have a stake in the success of the event.
At the close of the meeting, you’ll need to evaluate your vendors’ performance. This is difficult if you haven’t set up performance evaluation metrics in advance. Work with each of your vendors to determine how THEY would like to be evaluated, figure out how YOU wish to evaluate them, and decide on the metrics – then communicate the plan to your vendor. This should all be done EARLY in the planning process (perhaps even during your initial face-to-face), so that everyone’s working toward the same goals.