Choosing the right supplier for your event

22nd October 2007

Experiential maybe the latest marketing buzzword, but behind every great experience lies a great supplier. They may not grab as many headlines as the agencies or brands organising the events, buy they are every bit as important to a successful outcome. Whether it’s lighting, sound, audio visual, construction, cleaning, waste management or catering companies, it pays to make sure you’ve got the best suppliers behind you.

“We have a specific roster of preferred suppliers that we use for events and this gives us a certain level of service that enables us to deliver high-quality events,” says Chris Richards, technical director at global events agency Jack Morton Worldwide. “We know that the equipment supplied will be reliable, a very high standard and well maintained and in some cases state of the art. We generally select suppliers on suitability for a particular project as they have different skills and we try to accommodate these in the selection procedure”

Despite this quest for value, unlike many industries, the criteria for
supplier selection in the world of live marketing is not simply judged by cost. Indeed, for Duncan Beale, managing director of Line Up, supplier selection comes down to one word: trust. “This is the single most important factor,” he says. “Saving an extra few pounds can come back to haunt you on the day. You only get one shot at a live event – you can’t go back and do it again. We deal with high-profile individuals and senior management who can’t afford to be embarrassed by an event – we’re playing with other people’s reputations.”

Another issue that is becoming increasingly important is green credentials. “Sustainable eventing is very high on our priority list,” explains Out of the Blue’s head of partnerships Colin Hampden. “It is an important part of our business offering. It is not easy to produce sustainable events and often there are considerable time and cost implications. However, we look to our suppliers to adopt best possible practises and to constantly review and update their production solutions.”

Jack Morton also carefully assesses its suppliers’ green credentials. “We look at the type of materials they use, what kind of recycling processes they have and if they follow the three R’s principle of reduce, recycle, reuse, or follow any other recycling programmes,” says Richards. “This does vary due to the service offered, of course, and the impact it has. For instance, does the sound company recycle its batteries rather than throw them away? We also look at what measures suppliers have in place with respect to environmentally sustainable processes and the reduction of carbon emissions.”

Suppliers, too, have spotted a shift in client thinking. “I have noticed a change in the events briefs we have been getting over the past two years. They are becoming far more concerned about being environmentally friendly,” says Carly Mitchell, marketing director at event caterer Tapenade.

The company recently won the contract to provide the catering for a launch event to mark the start of a weeklong ‘sustainable exhibition’ designed to highlight ways of making London greener. Hosted by London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone, the event was held at the Truman Brewery in London. Tapenade had to take part in a competitive pitch for the business by showing how environmentally friendly its catering would be.

“We sourced local and organic ingredients,” says Mitchell, “but as with any brief of this kind, there are always going to be compromises. While sourcing local ingredients cuts down the food miles, the client wanted Champagne and, of course, that has to come from France, so we tracked down an organic variety. But we also sourced all the wine from a producer in the South of England.”

As one of the largest venue-finders in the UK, Zibrant is also finding that more clients are looking for ethical and responsible business partnerships, which the company warmly welcomes. “In my experience environmental factors are the current ‘buzz’ issue in the conference industry, which is really great,” says sales and marketing director Fay Sharpe. “It’s high time that business took it’s environmental responsibilities seriously. I don’t think that all clients use environmental responses from suppliers as key decision-making data, but this is changing and I am convinced that an environmentally conscious organisation will be more favourably viewed than one that isn’t, all other considerations being equal.”

As is clear from the comments above, suppliers are increasingly going to be assessed for their green credentials, alongside the more traditional criteria. This means sustainability is a going to become a huge issue for them, particularly if and when the standard for sustainable events, BS8901, comes into force. So if they are not thinking about it already, suppliers need to get their green credentials in order as soon as possible if they are to weather the coming environmental storm.

Look out for a feature on how BS8901 will affect event suppliers in the New Year.