Roundtable: Finding Vendors Out of Town

Whether you're planning a big party in another state or taking a group of execs on a golf retreat, you'll need to find some local suppliers to execute your event.

April 11, 2006, 12:00 AM EDT

Erica Maeyama-Lee

Erica Maeyama-Lee is an event producer with music and lifestyle marketing company and independent record label Giant Step. “It's really a fun challenge to produce things in another city. I'll ask talent I know, D.J.'s I know. I have a vast network of tastemakers in New York. You can always find someone, like a sound company that put a system in a club, to make a good recommendation. I had to produce a few events in Miami. I work with a hotel owner here in New York who also owns a hotel in Miami. I spoke to the director of events in the Miami hotel to recommend…an amazing sound company that I recommend to everyone now. I don't look in the Yellow Pages, unless I need to.”

Debbie Hodkinson is an event specialist with Marsh USA Inc., a risk and insurance services firm. “Generally, we work with four-star properties. A lot of them have destination management companies. I'll meet with them, see their prices. Then I'll go into the field to find other resources to see if they're competitive. If I find they provide good products, and the pricing is competitive, I generally like to give the business to the hotels. It makes sense—they know our companies. If their property doesn't provide services or their services are not up to our standards, I'll go by a catering recommendation—I'll reach out to planners at Morgan Stanley, banks I used to work for.”

Jennifer Brunetti is a partner at FBI Productions, a full-service event management and production company whose clients include Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Paramount Pictures. “For the handful of times that my network of freelancers hasn't given me what I need, I usually get the production guide for the city I'll be in. Most major cities and areas have production guides that they'll send you if you tell them you're doing an event in their city. Just call the local film office, or go to the Web site of the office of the mayor, and they'll send you one. The guide will have resources for film and event production, onsite management companies, and other [vendors] for planning events.”

Will Arriaga Jr. is principal of event management firm US 2 Productions with clients that include Taryn Rose, StyleWest, and the Printsource New York textile trade show. “I rely on my excellent and professional network of contacts. I cross paths with at least 70 to 90 people a day, from the front desk clerk at a hotel in Mexico City to the manager of the deli located around the corner from my office. These daily human exchanges are all opportunities for me to source solutions to my clients' needs. For example, I found my pastry chef/baker for my Texas events at a private gathering where the dessert served was phenomenal. I found out where the dessert was purchased and here I am, more than ten years later, still using the same company now for all of my events. I met the sales manager of the transportation company I use to deliver these desserts on a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Be aware of who you talk to on a daily basis. You never know who can provide a solution for what you need.”

Evelyn Fernandez is the corporate events coordinator at investment management and financial services firm BlackRock Inc. “Most of what we do is plan out-of-town dinners. Zagat [Survey] is great; the Web site is really user-friendly. Then I call the better hotels and see what the concierge recommends. Usually, we pick concierges at the hotels our staff is staying at. We just did a conference in Aspen. For most of that stuff, we went through the hotel and found out who they recommended. That's been the biggest help.

Linda Chang is associate director of planning at Sony BMG Music Entertainment. “We use [DMCs] if we are unfamiliar with an area. Since they're the local experts, DMCs will scout venues for you and provide various services according to your needs. They're especially useful for last minute requests. One example my predessesor gave me was about the time he had to switch gears from an already planned meeting to change the catering to a specific short notice request. He had to arrange for hundreds of In-N-Out burgers and shakes to be provided and delivered within a matter of minutes. The problem was that they wouldn't deliver an order that large. So instead of running out, renting a car, and going to all the trouble, he called the DMC and they did it all. You have to pay a premium for the service, but if you want seamless assistance and fast results, it's worth it.”

Adam Selig is the C.E.O. of Broad Street Inc., a firm that plans events all over the world for clients like Time Warner, GE, and CSFB. “One thing to do is check with the companies you work with in town. Just because you work with a company in New York doesn't mean they might not have a network of connections around the country that they can share with you. Another thing you can do is to start by picking a venue [in the city of your event]. Let the venue be the driver and other things can flow from that. But it's important for you to vet those recommendations independently; venues are often reliable but should be checked against a second source. Go to those who know—a production company or a PR group with a national network.”

Jenny Sherman

Posted 04.11.06

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