Anyone who tells you that putting an event together for more than 20 people is a snap hasn’t booked anything outside of their dorm room in the last twenty years. My heart and as much expertise as I can muster goes out to every single client that I have ever helped to manage their company Christmas party, the Boss’s serious consecutive lunch meetings, a wedding reception, or even their own birthday party. Throw in the booking of hotel rooms plus any number of audio/visual, music, or food vendors and you have the makings of a major project on your hands. In our current economic state, our personal and company budgets have shrunk drastically, while our need to produce something wonderful remains the same. What inside information, or really, just plain information, can help us produce the best results with the resources we have at our disposal? I hope the following will be useful and interesting to you!

Date Inflexibility. You want that great company Christmas party. The Boss has finally OK’d it, but the budget is super tight. The second Saturday in December seems to work for the whole office, and you have just started shopping around your favorite restaurants. There are only two with space still available, and the room rental fee alone eats up half of the budget! Of course it does. Weekends in December are Prime Time. Try a Sunday or a Monday evening and they will GIVE you the room. Better yet, postpone your party until January and they will give you the room PLUS a screaming package deal.  Being flexible on your dates will help you book almost anything. Ask your favorite venue which dates will help you save.

Menu Inflexibility. You have a budget of $25 per person and you want a four course meal plus a glass of wine, tax and tip included. You have put out a bid, but nobody is responding. They just can’t do this. Try making all alcohol purchases cash and reducing the number of courses. Consider a heavy hors doeuvres table, which, by the way, IS a four course meal. Try changing menu items. Ask for suggestions!

Everybody Will Just Show Up. No they will not, and this will cost you. All reputable vendors have to protect the cost of making your food, and the staff they hire to wait on you. You will pay even when guests do not show up. Use the new RSVP tools that are online or make guests RSVP to your e-mail. Try to get your favorite venue to reduce the amount of time you need to give them a final number a week or less before the event.

Not Reading the Contract. Read your contract. Know your contract. Understand your contract. Cancellations or reschedules WILL HAPPEN to you. Try to get penalties waived or reduced if you can cancel a reasonable amount of time before the event and reschedule.

Ignoring Your Vendor Relationship. Use your favorite vendors multiple times in a year and you will SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. Book several things in one place and watch your rental fees reduce or disappear altogether. Vendors are very protective of you when you are loyal. They will throw in extras, give you upgrades, and make suggestions that will help make your life easier and your event wonderful.

By Sarah Bourgoin of The Broker Restaurant