How to Annoy Your Vendors 

By Austin Johnston, June 1, 2017

Planners, face it: You do a lot of things that can annoy your vendors. To have a successful event, the planner-vendor relationship must be a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Lack of communication and closed-mindedness can give way to frustration for both planners and vendors. To ensure a happy, healthy relationship with your suppliers, avoid these three faux pas.

Deliver materials late.

Whether it is art for signage, slide decks for audiovisual or benchmark communications, you can unfairly throw off a vendor by limiting their time to test, review or output materials when deadlines are disregarded. Vendors are working with multiple clients at any given time. Respecting this, take a moment before the contract is signed to designate when materials are due. This will ensure both parties have realistic expectations. Let your vendor know ahead of time if materials are likely to come in last minute; that level of transparency helps manage time and interests when it comes down to the wire. AV is the biggest victim of last-minute deadlines. Planners, give the control team a sneak peek of the content so they can work in advance to correct any major preliminary tech issues like wide-screen formatting, improper resolution, embedded videos not loading, etc. Systems can fail, but you can reduce the likelihood of human error if everyone stays informed. It is up to your vendors to deliver, but it is up to you to set them up for success.


Do your homework and hire great people, and then let them own the role for which you’re contracting them. Set expectations on planning deliverables with all of your vendors to determine who will create site plans, room diagrams and run-of-show, and then hold the vendor accountable for their plan. Often planners want to decide how many speakers go in each room or what size screens to use. Try a new approach: Let your vendor know what your delivered expectations are. Tell your AV team, “I want no feedback; I want the entire audience to see and hear the panel of presenters; and small-text slides should be readable throughout the entire ballroom.” Then let your vendor recommend a system that is engineered to the space and function. This advice especially applies to the inevitable cuts that happen during the planning process. Never cut down a vendor’s scope to save money; ask them where you can cut or scale back. This avoids the finger-pointing post-event when they say, “You had us cut that.”

Forget an event is a story told on stage.

Even the most basic meetings and conferences have stories to be told, and theatrics are something to be considered. Clients can annoy vendors when they dismiss this. Do consider quality signage and messaging, but also think about ambiance. Use music to create an atmosphere of a certain energy or tone; it can completely transform an event and the guest experience.

Austin Johnston is founder and CEO of AKJOHNSTON Corp., an event production company producing more than 600 international, award-winning projects per year.

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