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Planner and Supplier – Creating Ideas Together

By on December 19, 2012


Take an event – any event.  Conference, incentive, trade show, you name it.   When clients hire planners to create the perfect event, they can only hope to comprehend the intricacies of the planner’s role; somewhere between the Show Director, Maestro, Escoffier, Project Manager and Magician.  What clients do know is that they have hired someone else to help them realize a vision and create a theme, relieve their stress level and make them look good.  Conversely, many planners too often believe that if their hand isn’t in the organization of every facet of the events they are hired to manage, then they won’t be successful.  Entrusting even a small part of the creative process of an event to a supplier partner can be an extremely painful experience.

WRONG!  As any busy planner knows, failure to delegate leads to – well, failure!  The client has displayed a willingness to join forces, so the planner needs to do the same.  Who better then to bring on board to help feed the creative juices, than partner suppliers?  They are on site anyway, they want to make the event as equally memorable as the planner does (perhaps even more so as they look for sustainable partnerships in planner relations) and whilst they won’t replace a professional décor company overall, they can provide valuable accessories to help bring the concept together without incurring additional mark-ups.  Consider the benefits of any of the following examples of how suppliers and planners can work creatively together.

Audiovisual companies often have interesting ideas on how to create the perfect effect for an event.  If stage décor is needed for example, why reinvent the wheel and go to great expense, before checking with your AV supplier first?  They often have a good selection of backdrops and props in their inventory from past events and are only too happy to dust them off and re-use them at a lesser rate than purchasing new.  As well, the planner is practicing sustainability so it’s a win-win situation.  When preparing an audiovisual RFP, it helps to include any stage décor requirements up front as the pricing will be more competitive prior to signing a contract.  Give as much information as possible regarding theme and whether the stage has to change in any way for different scenarios during a multi-day conference. Also, have all specialized lighting and gobos set up at once to save on labour costs, then just have the right ones turned on as needed.

Show Services can go way beyond booth building.  They are full of surprises when it comes to creativity without having to break the bank.  For example, a bright coloured aisle carpet can make a big difference in the way a trade show is perceived, so listen to the supplier’s suggestions and go red, pink or turquoise for a change.  For a seamless look, carpet all of the booths the same colour, add the extra cost to the booth rental fee and advise the exhibitors not to ship their own carpet.   Keep the drape neutral and all one colour for best results when using bright carpet.

Show Service suppliers such as Stronco ( will generally include a complimentary entrance treatment for large trade shows, which they will also design based on their vast knowledge of what works in which venue; one less thing for the planner to do, whilst still getting the accolades for a fabulous first impression at the show.

Catering companies are naturally creative and can offer a myriad of suggestions for themed events, using the venue setting, destination and conference objectives to create fabulous menus.  The food presentation itself is a perfect creative element, with each plate being served as a work of art.  Most caterers enhance buffet stations with their own décor at no extra cost, so check their inventory first to confirm what will work with an event, before finalizing the floral colours, dining table linens, etc.  Rental orders (dishes etc) are best dealt with by the caterer once the initial tableware designs have been selected, which saves the planner considerable time.

Entertainment can be one of the hardest things to get right and from personal experience, it is almost impossible to please everyone with a band, especially if the age demographic is widely different.   Unless the theme dictates the type of band to be used, a DJ is generally a safe option for musical entertainment and a reputable DJ company is a valuable partner in creativity.   As well as supplying a vast selection of music, DJ’s can usually supply lights and special effects, (strobes, roving gobos etc) and are experts in creating the mood for the evening with varying selections of music.


For initial creative inspiration, the cheapest solution is to surf the internet, the planner’s best friend and a supplier partner of sorts, in terms of finding ideas, sourcing themes and searching for quick tips on how to turn a client’s vision into reality.

In conclusion, there are countless suppliers who can help or partner with planners in the creative process, with sadly not enough space here to mention them all.  The key is being able to communicate effectively in order to be able to first visualize the end result, which needs to be done as early in the planning process as possible, preferably as a face-to-face brainstorming session or in the RFP process.  The decision is then made on the best source from which to procure the elements to turn the vision into reality.  By bringing together expert opinions and perspectives from as many areas as possible, creativity can evolve from the most unlikely sources, resulting in a spectacular event.


Jyl Ashton Cunningham, CMP  is owner of JAAC Meetings & Events by Design and Associate Editor at The Planner.  Jyl welcomes your comments and can be reached at  On the web:


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