An Easy Way to Remember the 5 Rules for Better Negotiations

Convening Leaders speaker and expert on collaborative business relationships Kate Vitasek offered a framework for event professionals to rethink their transactional approach to contracts.

Author: Curt Wagner       

Kate Vitasek Everest

In her Convening Leaders presentation, Kate Vitasek offered planners and suppliers ideas on how to work together to reach common goals and create win-win outcomes.


FIND THE SESSION: Five Rules that Will Transform Your Business Relationships


When Convene spoke with 2020 PCMA Chairman of the Board Stuart Ruff-Lyon, CMP, DES, about what’s in store for the business events industry this year, he said, “I think the events industry is going to be having a lot of conversations around contracts, risk transfer, cancellation clauses, and force majeure.”

Kate Vitasek

Kate Vitasek

Kate Vitasek, principal of Vested Outsourcing and an expert on collaborative business relationships, can help them shift their mindset to better prepare for those conversations. Vitasek understands how the business events industry, like many others, is in survival mode due to the effects of the pandemic. That’s why, she says, it’s more important than ever to cultivate business relationships that are collaborative and in which both parties share both risks and rewards.

As the author, researcher, and professor at the University of Tennessee put it in her Convening Leaders session, “Five Rules that Will Transform Your Business Relationships,” instead of buyers and suppliers being at opposite ends of a tug-of-war rope, they should pull from the same end, against a common issue.

In a traditional tug-of-war with the buyer, or planner, on one side and the supplier on the other, they are “trying to win at the other’s expense,” Vitasek said. When they tug together, “you get exponential power to solve your problems.”

Vitasek offered another analogy to more easily understand her five rules when she spoke to Convene in November. She shares it in her session as well, asking participants to imagine climbing Mount Everest. Here are the rules and how Vitasek relates each to climbing Mount Everest.

Rule 1: Outcome-Based Versus Transaction-Based Business Model

“I don’t care how many footsteps it takes to get to the top of Mount Everest, I care that we are climbing Mount Everest and that we get to the top.”

Rule 2: Focus on the What, Not the How

“I’m not going to tell the sherpa — my supplier — how to get me to the top because the sherpa is the expert. I’m going to give the sherpa my budget and data that I have and I’m going to trust that the sherpa (the expert) will make the right decisions based on how much money I have and what I’m trying to achieve.”

Rule 3: Clearly Defined and Measurable Desired Outcomes

“We have a common goal, so we’re going to measure the success of getting to the top of Mount Everest, not how many footsteps it will take to get there.”

Rule 4: Pricing Model With Incentives That Optimize the Business

“If we get to the top of Mount Everest, we both win. And we share that reward.”

Rule 5: Insight vs Oversight Governance Structure

“Sometimes it snows on Mount Everest, so we have to have mechanisms in place that help us navigate our path — together — so we make good decisions and adjustments along the way.”

Vitasek’s Wednesday session is available on demand in the Convening Leaders library. She is one of five panelists for the session, “Bust Barriers to Create Mutually Beneficial Relationships,” scheduled to broadcast at 1 a.m. SGT (Singapore), 6:10 p.m. CET (Berlin), and 12:10 p.m. EST (New York) on Thursday, Jan. 14.

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.