10 Tips for Working with a Difficult Venue

Are your dreams of the perfect venue being dashed by the venue staff? Are you questioning your ability to pull off a successful event because of them? Worry no longer. We have some tips to help you smooth over any problems with a difficult venue.

If event planners could always handpick our teams, life would be a giant meadow full of frolicking unicorns. But sometimes we get stuck. We get stuck with a crew we don’t get along with or a vendor who doesn’t share our vision. Sometimes, we even have a client who is less than cooperative.

But one of the hardest to deal with is a difficult venue. The venue affects every area of our event so it’s hard to ignore differences. Plus, because it has such a huge effect on your event, having a bad relationship with the venue personnel will make it very difficult to have a successful outcome. Here are a few tips to help you improve your relationship with the venue and increase your event’s chances for success.

  1. Take Advice from Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was having difficulty with a well-known member of his community, a fellow legislator. They ran in the same circle so it was impossible for him to avoid the man. So Ben Franklin used a little psychology to help smooth over a difficult relationship. It’s now often referred to as the Benjamin Franklin effect.

Franklin asked his adversary to borrow a book. He knew that if the man lent him that book, he was more apt to continue to do favors for him in the future. If you’re having a difficult time with a venue, ask them for their expertise. Providing you with their insight, or doing you another kind of favor, is more likely to make them want to do you a favor again in the future.

2. Clearly Communicate Expectations

Your venue coordinator has likely worked with a lot of event planners and events. Some event planners want to be hands-on and others want their event planned for them. Be specific in what you’re looking for from them. It’s possible that your challenges in working with them stem from the venue not having worked with someone with your expectations before.

3. Have a Secondary Contact

If your venue coordinator is always busy, ask for a secondary contact. This person should be saved for time-critical questions and issues. But if your primary contact is impossible to get hold of, don’t hesitate to ask for someone else.

4. Keep Emotions Out of It

Keep your emotions out of the situation. They will only make a difficult time worse. Instead, try to keep communication short and to the point. Use email to ensure your needs are clear. Placing things in writing leaves little question as to what they are and provides recourse should something not get done or mixed up. Make sure everything is stipulated clearly in the agreement as well. Do not rely on anyone’s memory.

Understand that this difference of opinion that may exist between you and the venue staffer is most likely not about you.

5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Cultivating a good relationship with a venue is key to your event’s success and it’s important to know that not everyone approaches issues in the same way that you do. If they’re meeting your expectations don’t worry about the hows behind what they’re doing. Know that there will be issues but also know the difference between the ones that matter and the ones that don’t.

Often with a difficult venue, we compound every little thing that goes wrong as additional proof that they are inept. If you normally would’ve let those things slide with your favorite vendor, continue to do so here as well.  

6. Follow Up

Most event planners are good at follow up. They make their living ensuring everything is done but when you’re dealing with a difficult venue, it is even more important that you follow up and confirm all the pieces of your event. It’s also important to institute sign-offs in complicated processes. You’ll sleep a whole lot better right before the event if everything has been confirmed, preferably more than once.

7. Fix It Quickly

Often we want to give people the benefit of the doubt. But there’s rarely time for this in events. Instead, if a problem occurs be specific about:

  • What the problem is
  • How you would like it remedied
  • The timeframe with which you expect the remedy

If any of this is not possible, you need to know so you can adjust expectations. If they agree to your wishes and then don’t get it done to spec or in the timeframe agreed upon, you need to escalate the problem right away, rather than days before the event.

8. Keep Your Mind and Words on the Solution

Name calling never works. Nor do threats of slamming someone on social media as the person you’re dealing with is often not the one who would be concerned about such things. Instead, keep your mind on the solution instead of the person. Be explicit with what is not working. Limit your comments to what isn’t meeting your expectations and why instead of peppering your email with adjectives to describe the staff or venue manager.

9. Ask to Work with Someone Else

If you intend to bring future business to this venue, it may be worth voicing your difficulties with management. Ensure they know your interest in their property and how you’d like to be a loyal customer but something is lacking for you.

If a new person isn’t available, give them a list of things that are not being taken care of to your standards. Be as specific as possible. They can’t fix what they don’t know is broken.

10. Know When to Walk Away

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away from the problem. When it seems personal and you’ve tried everything else, there may just be something about you that the venue manager doesn’t like (it doesn’t have to be something you did. Sometimes people remind us of others and we have difficulties warming up to them.) If that’s the situation, place someone else such as a staff member between you and the venue person. Sometimes it’s just a difference of personalities and introducing a new one can solve the problem.

In Conclusion

You don’t have to be best buds with the venue staff but communicating effectively with the venue coordinator is essential for your event success. Every new relationship involves communicating expectations. Hopefully, by doing so and investing a little time in cultivating the relationship, you can begin to improve the existing strain.

Further Recommended Reading and Resources

14 Things Venue Staff Expect from Event Planners
10 Reasons Why Event Planners Hate Venues
10 Things Venues Hate About Event Planners
13 Little Things Venues Can Do That Mean a Lot to Event Planners
Confessions from a Venue Event Manager
Why Event Planners and Venues Drive Each Other Insane [Video]

 

About The Author
Christina Green
Christina R. Green is a digital storyteller and writer for associations and businesses, including journals such as the Midwestern Society of Association Executive's magazine and industry blogs. She's a voracious reader but has been known to stop reading if there are too many exclamation points used.
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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