Did you just cringe because I said that word up there?
I know. Negotiating. ARGH!
It's a tough skill to develop, but when it comes to planning an event, having some basic negotiating skills is SUPER helpful, and can save you a ton of time and a ton of money.
I won't go into everything I know about negotiating, since it's more of an art than a science, but here are the main things I try to negotiate on and how I do that.
If you're hosting a smaller event, I like to try to work with small business owners who want traffic to their store, which means you can negotiate the price of space. Think about what makes your event good for store owners. Is it bringing in their target demographic? Usually, if you ask, you can get some sort of sponsorship or partnership with your host location.
Also, if you're hosting a larger, multi-evening conference, most hotel spaces will not charge you for conference space if you book a certain number of rooms. It all depends on how many nights you could potentially book (which is what the hotel wants, and where they make their money) and how good you can negotiate from them.
I think it's important to pay your speakers if your budget allows, because they are going to help you sell tickets to your event. However, if you're doing an event that benefits the speaker equally, you can potentially negotiate a speaker fee.
Some examples of bargaining chips: hosting an event in a desirable location (some speakers will waive their fee if it means they get to travel somewhere "vacation-worthy" as a writeoff), great network that is primed to buy the speaker's latest book, product, etc., other high-level speakers who may be in the crowd, your own personal network that the speaker may want to tap into.
If you use small businesses (or even larger businesses) to order swag like pencils, notebooks, etc. you can often get a bulk discount right off the bat.
What questions do you have about negotiating? Pop them in the comments below!