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Boost Your Negotiation Skills

How do you set the stage to get the negotiation to a sweet spot where everyone is ready to sign on the dotted line? Learn key takeaways from our recent IAEE Webinar with Shakira Brown, CEO of SMB Strategic Media LLC on how to skillfully guide negotiations.

By Mary Tucker

Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as a keen negotiator? That “charmed” dealmaker who consistently creates agreements that leave all parties feeling good about the endeavor they are launching together. Some people come by it naturally, but most successful negotiators operate from key understandings they know will get them from the potential lead phase to landing the deal.

These insights are explored in great detail in IAEE’s recent webinar featuring Shakira Brown, CEO of SMB Strategic Media LLC, who focuses on strategies for being a star ambassador of business relationships. Here, members of IAEE’s leadership team cover some of Brown’s recommendations noting how they apply them when entering into negotiations relating to exhibitions and events.

One of the basic starting points in any negotiation is to determine what the other party hopes to achieve. Brown stresses the importance of assessment in order to formulate your approach. A top skill in this step is to ask the right questions and listen carefully. In order to ask constructive questions, one must fully research and prepare prior to the meeting so you can think quickly and strategically as you absorb the information you’re being given.

“When I speak with sponsors, I want to know what their overall goals and objectives are so I can see how we can fit them,” says IAEE Vice President of Partnership Relations Rick Jennings, CEM. “There are times when they know exactly what they want, and other times when they’re interested in a more collaborative and creative approach. It’s important to facilitate an open discussion and deliberate what’s needed to arrive at a win-win situation.”

“I like to ask them to define what ROI means to them,” adds IAEE Director of Partnership Relations Karen Gonzales, CMP. “Listen 80 percent and talk 20 percent. Know your products and know your customer! Do your homework before selling so you can make sure to address all the customer’s concerns.”

Once the goals and objectives have been defined, a compelling negotiator will move into proposing solutions and showing why they are the best choice for the client. Brown is quick to stress that the process often leads to compromise, and it’s important to be willing to do so in order to land at an agreement. Willingness to compromise also lends itself to building trust between parties, which is vital to not only establishing a working relationship, but adds to the longevity of that relationship.

“My approach to negotiating is one of business partnership and collaboration, making sure that business objectives of both parties are met,” notes IAEE Vice President of Exhibitions and Events Scott Craighead, CEM. “The goals and objectives of each party must align equitably for a contract to function effectively. Trust must be established between the parties and this is built with transparency on the true drivers for forming the partnership.

“With this, it’s crucial for a keen understanding and empathy for the other party’s position for all terms of the contract. Furthermore, the most important issues/drivers for each party must be identified early. Each party must feel confident and comfortable with the terms and have trust in the other party before execution of the agreement.”

IAEE Vice President of Learning Experiences Marsha Flanagan, M.Ed. stresses the importance of transparency in her negotiation practices. “In hiring speakers, we are transparent and authentic with discussions,” she says. “We find it best to set up a call (instead of just communicating via email) to ensure that the speaker can deliver on our objectives and that the speaker feels comfortable with the subject matter and all expectations leading up to the event are clear.

“We spend lots of time preparing and communicating with presenters. We are honest with budgets (which are not large compared to other industry organizations)  and do our best to be creative to find ways in which we can add value to a speaker, whether it be to build in the purchase of books in the agreement, or follow up webinars, etc. for added exposure. Money, or lack of money, should not be an excuse to not deliver quality programming.”

With goals determined and mutual trust established, the stage is set for getting the negotiation to that sweet spot where everyone feels good about the agreements made and is ready to sign on the dotted line. In the webinar, Brown shares her extensive knowledge of the ins and outs to arriving at that point, including how to skillfully guide the proceedings and how to productively manage any snags hit along the way.

Sharpen your professional skills every Thursday with IAEE’s webinar series. Presentations can also be revisited through IAEE’s on-demand webinar recordings library. Strike a deal with yourself to evolve, elevate and empower your business acumen with just one hour per week – now, that’s a win-win!

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