The right venue is key to the success of any event. Finding the right space should be easy, once you know exactly what you need. Having a list of requirements doesn't only streamline your selection process, but it also helps you stay within your budget.
You want your event venue to be a perfect fit, physically and monetarily. Striking a balance between the two can be easy with proper planning and execution.
Here's a list of 16 tips to help you with the planning and execution of a successful event venue search:
1. Get your accommodation requirements straight
Once you know these, you can look for the best venue deal that will meet your needs. You can also check for added attractions — proximity to public transportation and local attractions.
2. Be clear about the details of your budget
List all of your venue expenses. This should include the costs of the facility, catering, equipment rentals, office services, guarantees and payment options. You also want to know what complimentary services the venue offers.
3. Consider your alternatives
If attendees are traveling from different areas, consider alternative venue sites that are cost friendly. For example, if you were originally planning to hold your event in Los Angeles, consider outlying areas like Irvine or Ontario for venues that will meet your requirements and provide exquisite service. This can save you hundreds of dollars. To facilitate research check out Cvent's Supplier Network (venue listings). You'll find comparative venue listings in specific cities and regions in the U.S. and outlying areas, including price comparisons on room rates, food costs, transportation options and weather forecasts, among others.
4. Factor in transportation
Will it help if your venue is close to an airport? Will your conference have off-site activities? In the latter case, try to keep things near the venue site. This will save on transportation expense and travel time for attendees.
5. Consider unique venues
Rates are much lower at unique venues like a new museum, an aquarium, an art gallery, a public garden or a restaurant. Chances are attendees will be drawn by the novelty of the venue.
6. Make a short list of venue options
Send out requests for proposals to the venues you listed. Include all your requirements (food, beverage, equipment, conference and room accommodations, etc.) in your request so the proposals they send are precise. This saves you time when you examine the proposals they send you.
7. Show them what you're worth
You have a better chance in negotiating rates and getting concessions if the venue sales manager sees that your event can lead to future business. Show him your track record — past events you've held, number of registrants per event and room nights booked. This will give you a leg up on negotiating room rates, catering costs and contract terms that you may not be comfortable with.
8. Be flexible
If you can hold your event during the off season, you can get a better deal. Rental costs for meeting rooms and guest rooms are much lower. Provide alternative dates to your short-listed venues, and ask if they can recommend additional off-season dates that may work for you. Also, if you're holding an annual event, consider booking the venue for a number of years. This will encourage the sales manager to give you a better price.
9. Examine payment options
Know each venue's terms for deposit and final payment. Ask about policies regarding cancellation, change of date (perhaps due to weather), and last-minute changes. The more flexible a venue is with payment options, the better. No event planner wants to have to do any of the above, but it helps to know in advance, just in case. For example, in the 11th hour a group of attendees may not be able to fly over due to inclement weather, forcing you to alter your head count.
Large venues offer lines of credit to qualified events based on the previous record of events. If you do not qualify for the line of credit you might be subject to a full payment prior to the event taking place.
10. Examine venue catering
If you're considering in-house catering, examine the venue's detailed menu and serving options. View the full service kitchen operations, and meet the executive chef. Have a taste test of the menu they are offering.
11. Ask if you can source other suppliers
The venue may have preferred suppliers for catering and equipment, but oftentimes the rates are premium. Sourcing your own vendors can save you money.
12. Inquire about amenities
Clarify with the sales manager venue policies regarding important amenities such as display of signage, banners and direction signs; availability of information desks; shipping and receiving services; any restrictions on event information displays; business centers and list of costs; and house phones inside the meeting rooms.
13. Examine add on costs
If your short-listed venue prices are extremely close, examine the breakdowns. Some venues will have a lot of “add on” costs which can drive the final cost much higher than what is listed. Make sure that the price that is quoted includes all of your requirements. Many venues quote a price without including the charges that will be added for catering and beverages, for example.
14. Time is money
When you're examining the breakdowns of quoted costs per venue, be sure to have a clear idea of the services that will go with it. If one venue will provide more services, but charges a little bit more, it might in the end be a money-saver for you if you already have a lot of work to do and could use the added help.
15. Check out the venue
Does the venue feel right? Does it have the right character for your event's theme? What about parking and disability access? Is there adequate staffing? Examine details — carpet, decor, draperies, room size and flexibility in accommodating tables and layout changes. Check out the lighting, location of restrooms and medical access. Also, make sure that the area is far away from potential distractions like noise in the halls or clutter in the venue kitchen.
16. Check out the facilities
Make sure the equipment you need is available. This may include microphones (and microphone stands), access to high-speed Internet, white boards (including supplies and easels), outlets (and locations per room), LCD projectors, remotes, adequate-sized screens and flat TV screens, among others.
Photo by Alan Stark