Forward Thinking

How One AV Expert Gained a Cult Following

An AV guy named Isaac was so good that associations would follow him, regardless of which company he went to work for.

One association’s experience with Isaac — an individual who was truly committed to excellence and service — led the organization to reevaluate its overall vendor and partner selection. Whether seeking to work with an exhibit-service contractor, meeting-technology vendor, or other service provider, the association had to find an Isaac or it would move on.

What made Isaac so special? And do you need supplier partners like that for your conference? I think you do, but the RFP mentality of most organizations often precludes them from realizing the intangible benefits of the Isaac advantage.

If your partners have the following five key attributes, you’ll know you made the right decision.

1. They help establish relationships

You should absolutely do your due diligence to ensure the company can deliver the goods, and at a fair price. But after that, go a step further. Ask your partner to identify who will be primarily responsible for delivering and servicing post-sale. Get their bio. Interview them. Call several of the clients they serve. Basically, treat the selection process as if you were interviewing a critical new hire.

2. They behave like you’re their favorite

Account or project managers should make you feel like you’re the only (or best) client they serve. They tend to go above and beyond what’s contracted or expected. On occasion, they may even put your best interest ahead of their employer’s.

3. They think long-term

The best supplier partners will get to know your conference and organization as well as your most valued co-workers. After a couple of conference experiences, they should evolve from being order takers and implementers to advisers you trust. Their ability to anticipate and solve problems will be noticeably better. They might even get to the point where they complete your sentences.

4. They help you day in and day out

Partners who show up with advice and resources only during contract renewals don’t deserve your business. Award suppliers who are looking out for your best interests on a regular basis. They should be giving you advice to get the most bang for your buck, sharing ideas from their experience with other clients, and referring you to vendors or solutions without the motivation of a kickback.

5. They become friends

You think so much of this person that you’ll friend them on Facebook. You might even break bread or have a couple drinks together just because you enjoy their company. In the case of Isaac, you might even want to play matchmaker and introduce him to your best friend or niece. In our business, relationships still do matter and the best suppliers are often good friends.

If you work for an industry supplier, take good care of your Isaacs. While more and more customers are short-listing their suppliers via a spreadsheet, decision-makers have a greater appreciation of the long-term benefits of strong partnerships.


Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.