Simple Event Procurement Guide

Will’s Simple Event Procurement Guide

Last Updated: 29 April 2014


I’ve helped some of the best known brands in the world: Coke, UEFA, Samsung and Ford, to name but a few, along with the Olympic Games, Tour de France, military ceremonies and cultural festivals.

I’ve been lucky enough to commission (pay for), manage and deliver hundreds of millions of pounds of live activity around the globe. I’ve worked for, run and own event companies. I have worked for and advised government, public organisations, brands and organising committees about procurement of live events.

I get asked and advise people about procurement so much, and see people struggling so much that I thought it high time I put this together: my simple guide to event procurement. It really needn’t be complicated, procurement can be kept simple.

I hope this guide helps you. There are two steps, yes – just two:

Step 1: work out what you need.

Step 2: follow the right guide to get what you need.

There are some Frequently Asked Questions at the end of the guide too.

The smallest contract I’ve used these techniques on was £3,000 (about USD$4,800), the largest was approximately £45,000,000 (about USD$72,000,000).

These guides work regardless of scale, sector or type of event. I have made them work even within the most rigid procurement frameworks.

It was no mean feet putting these together. This guide is the culmination of 20 years experience and millions spent, and I’m offering them here, for free, to help you, so I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you’d like my help – do just ask.

If these guidelines are useful to you or if you’d like any clarifications, drop me a line at:


First off, you need to know what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking to create a live event yourself there will only ever be three types of things you need:

1. Goods (the component parts of a live event, e.g. suppliers, equipment etc.),

2. Services (expertise / professional services, i.e. people), or,

3. A Turnkey Solution (a combination of Goods and Services).

If you’re looking for someone else to create an event for you at a reduced cost or no cost to you, you’re looking for a Promoter to take on the responsibility for you, in return for any commercial or marketing rights you can offer.

To be sure you know which you need, here’s a simple infographic to guide you:




Thanks to Step 1 you now know whether you’re looking for Goods, Services, a Turnkey Solution or a Promoter.

Knowing what you’re looking for, you can now pick the right guide for you, from 6 options. Select the one you want, to see the full sized infographic guiding you through the steps you need to take. That’s it!



Use this if you’re looking for goods and can accurately specify what you need. Jump to guide…



Use this if you’re looking for goods though don’t have the experience to accurately specify what you need. Jump to guide…



Use this if you’re looking for services. Jump to guide…



Use this if you’re looking for a turnkey solution and when it’s likely an event will evolve between brief and delivery; which is usually. Jump to guide…



Use this if you’re looking for a turnkey solution and when requirements will not change, either by decisions you make or external forces or circumstances, between brief and delivery; which is extremely rare. Jump to guide…



Use this if you’re looking for a Promoter. Jump to guide…



This seems very simple, surely it needs to be more complicated?

You can make it more complicated if you wish, there’s no need though. These are the principles I’ve used on and for events both small, large and gargantuan. Clearly the larger or higher profile the project, the more governance and due diligence is required – which you’re free to add as I’ve outlined in the guides. These guides focus on what you need to do to get your event or event-related requirements. Anything else has nothing to do with the event specifically and more to do with your own checks and due diligence.

I don’t understand the term ‘Promoter’, what’s the difference between a Promotor and an Event Company?

Promoter is the term used here to specify a person or organisation capable of finding the funding, sponsorship, customers or audience for an event. It may well be an event agency, or a promoter who has an event team. An event agency or event company may or may not have the ability to be a Promoter, as this is a very different skill set (it’s selling as opposed to delivery). Likewise you need to check any Promoter has the ability to deliver too.

Our internal procurement practices make it clear we need to know the whole cost of an event before we can award any contract and start work, therefore your Flexible Turnkey Solution doesn’t work does it?

If your internal procurement guidelines sate this and you are embarking on developing and delivering an event that will likely change between brief and delivery, by asking for the costs before you start working together, you’re asking for the impossible as neither you nor anyone you bring on board will know exactly what’s involved or what everything will cost as there are simply too many variables.

In trying to do this what you’re actually doing is asking for a proposal and cost for something that has not yet been developed or planned, yet in order to find the people to develop and plan it you want to know what it will look like and cost from the people that will develop and plan it before they’ve been appointed to developed and plan it!

Sure – companies can estimate costs, and then you can have a contract variation procedure or similar for when things change.

You’re then all going round in circles though, deeper and deeper into a mess of management and agreements, trying to marry up reality with what was promised, as both the reality changes and expectations around what was promised evolves.

This results in either you managing the company to make sure you’re still getting what you thought you were getting, as the real costs materialise and budget pressures mount, or the company will spend a lot of time (that you’re paying for in one way or another – whether you realise it or not) managing you to make sure their margins and budget are protected.

Or in other words, your internal procurement process is actually doing the very opposite of what it was designed for originally – finding you the best value solution.

If you really can’t change your internal procurement practices, you’ll have to use the Fixed Turnkey Solution, though it is extremely inefficient and you’ll be wasting both your own and many other people’s time and money. Time and money that could be used focusing on and making your event even better.

There are usually ways of working this even with the most rigid procurement guidelines, I have achieved this within and for large brands and government. If you’d like to talk to me about how, drop me a line at:

You talk about Goods and Services like they are separate, surely an event is just an event – one thing?

Procurement in the world of live events needs treating slightly differently to procurement in other sectors for four key reasons.

1. You won’t typically be in control of everything affecting your event or its success.

2. Thing change. Sometimes frequently.

3. You are completely exposed – everyone is watching.

4. You have a deadline that usually can’t move.

Some formidable hurdles, which, when combined – mean you need to strike a balance between formal processes and having the right people in place.

It is people that will get you over the line, and therefore you need the right people (Services) in place to support you as well as the Goods required to deliver the event.

Just like you have architects designing and creating a building and then the various suppliers: builders etc. who actually deliver the building on the ground.

You use the term ‘Goods’ a lot, what exactly do you mean?

‘Goods’ here refer to all the component parts of a live event and could literally be anything that’s needed to deliver an event: lighting equipment, sound equipment, infrastructure, venues, caterers, crew, software, technology, landscaping, scenery manufacturing, construction, transport, broadcast equipment, medical facilities, accommodation . . . the list goes on.