2 June 2020

Traditional procurement approaches fail to find the best value and solutions when outsourcing whole events – they merely create the illusion of value. It’s simply fixed though. In this penultimate episode of the services, we look at how to find or buy turnkey solutions – outsourcing whole events, or part of them to agencies, production companies and similar. And we look at how to do it to deliver you the best value and create the most impact.


Hi, I’m Will Glendinning. I’m a producer, writer, designer and director.

In this penultimate episode, episode 9, we’re looking at the best find or buy turnkey solutions.

I’ve developed the only six approaches you’ll ever need to find or procure anything you could possibly need when it comes to live events, all proven agency and client side, and on contracts worth a few thousand dollars through to tens of millions.

They are: finding goods with a specification, goods without a specification, finding services and talent, finding a flexible turnkey solution, that’s a combination of goods and services, a fixed turnkey solution and finding a promoter.

In this episode we’re looking at the last three; turnkey solutions and there’s plenty to cover. First though, let’s clarify what a turnkey solution actually is exactly.

Turnkey solutions are where you’re buying both services and goods together. The services that design, develop and manage a live event, or part of one, and the goods, all the stuff that makes them happen, as a package this is a turnkey solution.

As we’ve looked at in previous episodes and as my book, “The Facts of Live,” covers in depth, unless you’re looking for a formulaic event, a straightforward conference for example, trying to agree a design, idea and cost before engaging or contracting with an organisation can’t possibly deliver you the best value, ideas and solutions, even with variation and contract change procedures, given the number of conflicts of interests. Most traditional procurement approaches are plain broken, creating only the illusion of value and then become an exercise in compliance with a process.

If you’re looking for a turnkey solution and what you need may well change between the time you contract it and when it gets delivered, which is almost always, you need a flexible solution. And the most important thing here is to find the services: the ideas, talent and expertise first, and everything else second.

Now yes, this effectively results in two contract stages, but it can still be contracted singularly and incredibly simply, and you can still have an idea of what your total budget needs to be before you go to contract, getting that box ticked too.

The flexibility and value this approach delivers you is its main strength. It’s a workable marriage between the often fluid world of live events and the often non-fluid rigid world of procurement.

Whether you use this approach as part of a formal process, or an informal one, or even a verbal process, they have a 10 steps.

First, write a brief detailing what you do and don’t want. Provide as much information as you can, using plain English and avoiding industry-specific jargon or acronyms wherever possible. Include location or location ideas, dates or date options, timings or possible timings, and details of the audience and participants. Terms like creative, innovative, high quality, wow and best in the world, are extremely subjective, and won’t help an organisation develop ideas and designs for you. Provide details or examples of what you consider creative, innovative, high quality and the best in the world to mean. The more information you can provide, the better. Ask for an organisation fees or rates for its services and ask how they will guarantee to procure the best value goods. Provide a guideline budget for everything, goods and services, even if you provide a number below what you actually have to spend, otherwise, you will be wasting your own and other people’s time and money.

Second, governance. Add any governance criteria and procedures to your brief that you deem necessary. These could be checks or questions about financial standing, health and safety, employee conditions, sustainability management, quality assurance, or any other criteria important to you and, or, appropriate to the size and type of the opportunity.

Thirdly, distribution. Distribute your brief in whatever way works for you or your organisation. You may circulate it online to organisations you’ve selected or have had recommended. You may run a formal public tendering process. You may ask friends or colleagues to distribute it. It may even all be done verbally, if that works for you, for a smaller event or requirement.

Fourth, review. Assess the responses you receive on the quality and value of services and any other criteria important to you, for example ideas and creativity, experience, credibility, solutions and anything similar. And look closely at any caveats, notes or exclusions.

Five, references. Check references the organisation responding provide if you’re not familiar with them. And ideally references you find yourself rather than just those provided by the organisations.

Six, up & down tests. You need to conduct what I call the up and down checks. Did the applicants actually do what they say they have done previously, or do they just a part of it? Did they either report up to people who did what you need doing? That’s the up check. Or do they have people beneath them, suppliers or other agencies who did what you need doing? That’s the down check. And ask how much of what they did they did themselves and what other suppliers, agencies, or partners they’ve worked with did. Then check all this stacks up.

Seventh, team structure. Check to make sure the team each organisation has in place covers each of the key roles.

Can you or they identify which one person will be responsible for leading the event? And they need relevant contextual experience? Which one person will be responsible for its content or purpose? And they need relevant content experience. And which one person will be responsible for its technical delivery? Again they need contextual experience. And finally which one person will be responsible for the logistics and operations? And they too need relevant contextual experience. If you need to, you can skip back to episode 2 to find out what relevant content and contextual experience is as this is vital.

If there is not one, single name, next to each of these roles, I can assure you categorically there is no way on earth your live event or exhibition is going to be designed, developed or delivered as efficiently and as powerfully as it could be.

And if your live event is actually lots of events, you need these answers for each sub-event. And one person may be able to take on more than one role, but it should be clear who’s directly accountable for each.

Eight, appointment. Agree terms, fees or rates for the turnkey solution’s services, the talent, expertise and management services that is. Agree cash flow payment terms, and get all that sorted first. This is what will get you over the line. There is always a way of finding cheaper or better value goods, focus on the services first. Then, separately, agree how goods will be secured at the best value and on what terms, and that they shouldn’t be contracted without your approval if you want to maintain control. You may want to set this up for contracts over a certain value, to save you from getting involved, and swamped down in every small expense. And if you prefer, you can even contract all third parties directly, with the agency or organisation overseeing this process, procuring and managing the contracts on your behalf. Unless an organisation can prove to you they can buy better than another organisation, or own the goods themselves, don’t buy into this promise. It’s incredibly difficult to prove and I’ve seen little evidence of this being the reality. And in this day and age, most suppliers of goods will do so incredibly competitively if procured fairly and properly. You just need to look here at how this organisation will find and procure goods that are the best solution and value. For example you wouldn’t hire an architect on how cheaply they could provide concrete. You hire their services and expertise based on an idea, or design, their track record, or their price. You or they then hire a project manager to find the best value goods. Live events are no different.

Ninth, budget. Agree on an overall project or target budget which should be less than you actually have, so you have a contingency. You can even incentivise and reward those you appoint for trying to save money or reduce the budget further. Together this will gives you a flexible arrangement while ensuring you’re getting the best value and capping any budgets. Most importantly though, it means you will have a team working with you, transparently and openly, and when you’re being ripped off rather than against you trying and to marry fixed budgets to a flexible specification, which is what most traditional procurement exercises actually deliver you, whether you realise it or not. And organisations can actually profit from that chaos, again, whether you realise it or not.

Finally, tenth, management. Only make variations to the services you and your turnkey solution provider have agreed if the original scope changes, and only release money, or agree for it to be spent on goods once the organisation has followed the agreed process for providing them. The overall result of this process is that you will have a group of people how work and develop ideas and plans with transparently and openly. You’ll know you’re not going to get ripped off by them for any of the goods and everyone will be working towards a target budget.

Live events and exhibitions demand strong and collaborative relationships between parties on both sides of a contract. And it is impossible to delegate everything completely as it is you or your organisation on show. Work towards an open and supportive approach to the ongoing management of the contract as one, cohesive team.

So that’s the proven approach to find you the best value and most flexible turnkey solution. If you’re looking for a fixed turnkey solution, you use the exact same stages, the exact same process, with one key change.

In step 8, appointment, you’re clearly just looking for the overall, total cost. No need to look at services first and then the goods, or get into how an organisation are going to procure the goods. If an event is straight forward and formulaic, or categorically won’t change at all before it’s delivered, which is rare, this can work well.

So that’s five of the six approaches you may need.

The final approach you may need is when you may be looking for a promoter.

Let’s just clarify what I mean when talking about a promoter.

A promoter is what you’re looking for, if you have rights to sell, commercial rights, marketing rights, or any other rights that a third party could exploit, that is sell for money. You can award those rights to a promoter, who will take on the responsibility and risk of delivering your event or exhibition in line with any agreed terms or guidelines, in return for the opportunity to make a profit.

They may do this at no cost to you, or a reduced cost to you, or on a profit/revenue-share basis, or in any combination of the three, subject to the type of event and value of the rights you’re offering.

You need to be realistic about the value of the rights you have to offer though, they will only be worth what someone is willing to pay, or take on, regardless of your own opinion.

This is how many major sporting events are awarded to cities, how someone with a large social media following might find someone to run events and to sell their wares, or how venues might find operators to deliver events in their spaces.

I’ll save going through all the stages again as many are similar to those we’ve just been through.

You can find them summarised, for free, on www.TheFactsOfLive.com.

But the important distinction here is that selling events is very different to producing events. They are entirely different skill sets though often confused. Just because someone has delivered an event it doesn’t mean they can sell it, and someone who can sell events can’t necessarily deliver them.

You’re looking an organisation who can sell first, and then, secondly, whether they can deliver either themselves or with a partner.

Either way you then go through the same stages as you would for any other turnkey solution.

In the next episode, the final of this series, an abridged version of “The Facts Of Live,” we wrap all these ideas up looking at how you can conceive, procure or produce live events and exhibitions to create the greatest value and impact.

Thanks for watching, thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the next, final episode.