The 7 Steps Event Venue Checklist (2018 edition): A bulletproof guide to find the perfect venue for your event

The only checklist you need to source the perfect venue for your event. Trends, tactics, free templates and research to help you with your event venue selection.

Here’s the truth, your venue decision will impact the way you plan your event:

  • It will take a lot of your budget
  • Your venue partners will be your team during the event
  • If you are a third party planner, the commission will impact your bottom line

It gets worse:

Not only you are putting all your eggs in one basket, but when things go south, your venue will impact how your resolve issues.

What if air con breaks in a room? How responsive is your venue manager to provide an alternative?

The question is:

Can you afford to choose a venue that is not on your side?

But most of all, how can you tell if you are making the right choice?

This post sums up over 5 years of research and feedback on how event professionals successfully select and negotiate the best venue.

We will show you the trends, free downloadable templates, tactics and techniques to find the best possible venue for your attendees at events and get the best deal out of it.

Too good to be true? That’s what EventMB is about, helping you with the most complicated tasks with practical advice, so read on 👇


7 Trends Affecting Venue Selection

In January 2018 we conducted one of the largest pieces of event planning research ever completed. With 2,400 contacts and over 1,000 respondents.

Within the survey, we asked specific questions that pertain to the venue selection process. We are happy to release the results below.

If you want to obtain a copy of the research to publish on your site send an email to contact@eventmanagerblog.com.

We also asked respondents to give us an indication of what the Venue of the Future looks like. 170 respondents shared exciting insight into what they see as the future. You will find some of those answers in this section. The content of their responses is extremely similar, signaling growing frustration with practices of the past. The value of their contributions surpasses any pseudo-pundit speculation, it is real feedback from real planners.

The feedback collected offered terrific insight into how event professionals select venues and signaled a growing shift in their decision-making process. Let’s have a look at 7 of the trends defining what the Venue of the Future looks like and how event professionals decide to select it.

Unusual Venues are on the Rise

While Hotels are still the favorite choice of the largest portion event professionals, unusual venues such as theatres, museums and art galleries are the second most frequently chosen type of venues event professionals decide to host their event in. Uniqueness is a common theme in the responses we collected in our survey. The types of venues for events are evolving  and the event venue definition itself is changing too.

David Shuster, Executive Producer at Summit Productions, sums it up by saying it as it is: “The venue of the future must have a uniqueness to separate it from competition, be flexible with its layout configurations”.

Events are increasingly more about creating wow factors. The same people in the same room won’t cut it for modern audiences. Unique venues stimulate curiosity and engagement with the experience being proposed. Unique venues are often incredibly creative spaces that challenge attendees to break schemes and evaluate the event on the basis of what they see rather than on their expectations.

Most recent survey data:

Event Professionals Research Venues Online

Word of mouth is still a strong driver of the selection process. Event professionals rely on colleague and peer suggestions when looking at the venue for their next event. Saying that, the overwhelming majority of event professionals go online to research venues. A mix of the two is the most popular option for events with budgets above $500,000.

Search engines and venue marketplaces are the clear winners in the research stage of the selection process, followed by social media and online reviews. This is an epic shift in the research stage as exhibitions are badly hit by the advent of online. By no means exhibitions are irrelevant, but their role in the decision-making process has profoundly changed.

While in fact industry exhibitions used to catalyze the research and the selection stage, they now mostly impact the latter (more about this later). A small proportion of our respondents use exhibitions to research venues.

Relationships Matter

Relationships do matter when looking at the factors influencing final decisions. If in fact word of mouth influences the research stage, the final decision is influenced by the relationship with the sales team, recommendations and previous experience. The major factor impacting on the final decision remains the negotiated rates.

What these answers tell us is that relationships and excellent client management lead to repeat business, only if the negotiated rate is right. This is why exhibitions and in-person meetings represent a key influencer in the final decision. This is in fact where relationships are built and nurtured and negotiations start or continue to reach a common goal.

The final booking is overwhelmingly made directly with the venue. No external services, no online portals. Relationships go a long way.

Technology Is A Necessity

Technology has a different role from what most perceive. How technologically advanced a venue is may not necessarily impact on the final decision. The venue needs to be reliable and to deliver on basics such as WiFi and in-house AV. These are the causes of frustration in the majority of event professionals. The type of frustration that makes you avoid selecting that venue in the future.

Excellence in service defines the Venue of the Future. Technology is part of that service offering. Expectations are really high and venues need to deliver on those.

Ingrid Brodin from Inspirational Corporate Experiences sums it up nicely: ”The venue of the future is flexible, has no issues with WiFi or other technologies”.

WiFi is Still a Big Issue for Events

Despite rampant smartphone adoption and broadband speeds to match, most (78%) eventprofs feel that WiFi availability and performance is still a big issue for events. 44% said that poor WiFi was one of their main frustrations when dealing with venues.

Getting the Right Venue Has Never Been So Important

Selecting the right venue is of the utmost importance when it comes to the overall attendee experience. Almost half of all those surveyed said that venue was one of the key factors for converting prospects into attendees (47%).

Corporate Event Planners Care about Venue

Corporate event planners know how important the venue is to their attendees. When asked to list the things they care about most when planning a corporate event, venue was ranked second most important. 64% listed it as one of their main concerns, only beaten by innovation (81%).

R E S P E C T

When asked to comment on the venue of the future, it’s clear that event professionals want to be respected by the venue.

This is apparent when looking at most answers across the board. Poor customer service is the most annoying frustration event professionals have with venues, side by side with poor response times (clearly the brainchild of the former).

Focus on people skills, empathy, excellent customer service, flexibility and availability defines the venue of the future. All these factors stand out from the overwhelming majority of feedback we obtained from participants. Event professionals want to share the burden of their challenging objectives with the venue. They want to be listened to and want to feel that the venue staff and management care about the event and attendees as much as they do.

Julia O’Grady from ITM Events suggests: “It always comes down to good people. I will refuse to work in the “perfect venue” if the customer service is not top of line.”

Susan Spibey of SJS International adds: “Qualified venue support teams trained to go beyond the brief working in partnership with the client and their own suppliers and support teams.”

No Frills

It is fair to say that event professionals want to pay for a service, not for utilities. They hate when they have to be subjected to unfair charges (WiFi above all) or preferred imposed suppliers. As the global economy is showing exactly the same signs of downfall that preceded the meltdown of 2008, the Venue of the Future is able to focus on the things that matter the most, advanced technology, value-adding service, all-inclusive packages, healthy food options.

Does it make sense to be charged half of the room rate for average WiFi? Does it make sense to charge for tap water? If you think we are exaggerating, read on.

Most of you would identify with Anita Carlyle CMP of Moore Carlyle Consulting: I wish venues would communicate openly with meeting planners on their in-house services. Meeting planners know their clients and their clients needs – which services they require and at what level. Being forced to use in-house standard services can be a deterrent to choosing a specific venue. Also as a planner with over 100 events a year, we have our preferred vendors, that we are comfortable using or our clients prefer. Additionally, I urge venues never to present an in-house service provider on a site inspection without advance notice. This has caused uncomfortable situations for the provider, planner and client when their services are not needed or wanted.”

Jen Carlyle of Autumn Live adds: “The venue of the future has to be customer focused with outstanding service for organizer and event attendees. It does not have lots of add-ons for catering, charge for water (!) or WiFi! “

Lorraine Mariella CSEP, CMP solemnly concludes: “In the future, we will look back and laugh at the fact that venues charged for WiFi.”

Healthy Options

Gone are the days of oily french fries and greasy croquettes. Healthy options are increasingly important when it comes to venue selection. As health and fitness become more important for attendees, event professionals echo their clients’ needs through venue selection.

“They [need to] offer healthy food and drinks. It should feel healthy, fresh and be inspirational!” says Ingrid Brodin of Inspirational Corporate Experiences Ltd.

What Technology Matters the Most?

The survey shed light on what technology makes event professionals tick. What does a venue require to be labeled as tech-friendly? Results are quite conservative in that event professionals expect the basics to be covered.

Tech utilities such as fast, reliable WiFi and large screens for projection are overwhelmingly the most requested features. The presence of in-house AV technicians is also a popular requirement, once again stressing the service component of the Venue of the Future.

Changeable lighting came in fourth putting emphasis on the flexibility event professionals require from the space they will use for their event.

Important to note the rise of virtual venue tours. Despite the novelty and a strong component of fashion, virtual venue tours seem to capture the attention of event professionals, especially in their research stage.


7 Data-Backed Tips For Better Venue Negotiation

For a laser focus on venues, we also conducted separate research, focused purely on venue negotiation, with nearly 750 respondents. We disqualified academia and suppliers, and we also had over 30 venues participating.

Some data about our sample:

  • They are mostly event or meeting planners
  • 90% of them either authorize or recommend the final venue decision
  • 70% of them have a budget over $100K (40% over $500K)

Not surprisingly, WiFi is still the number one item event professionals negotiate on the most with venues. That confirms the impact that technology has on the experience of the event and how actively event professionals want a robust infrastructure for their selected site.

Notable items when it comes to negotiation are early access to the event site, discounts on advertised rates and flexibility on accommodation and payment terms in general. Flexibility is, in fact, one of the most prominent elements of the research. As no two events are alike, venues are requested to accommodate special needs of large groups.

Online RFP is used only by 40% of our sample. The remaining 60% prefers in-person meetings or struggles with the platforms available, signaling an omnipresent resistance to using technology when it comes to critical processes of the event planning cycle and a preference of personal relationship over more rational ways of sourcing suppliers.

The majority of event professionals concur that using online RFP tools leads to getting better deals, citing faster turnaround, lower prices, more options and ownership of the process as main advantages of using such technology.

The biggest frustration event professionals have in the negotiation process is slow venue response times, together with a general lack of flexibility and transparency on additional fees. 80% of event professionals think they are good negotiators.

Our research shows that the top strategies event professionals use to get the best deal are:

1. Research

Doing your homework is an essential step to avoid making unreasonable requests and to get the best possible outcome.

Have [an] end goal in mind prior to any negotiations, review previous and similar booking agreements, check to see if they are renovating or have plans to at the time of your conference.

Gary Mills, MHA Consulting LLC

2. Clarity

A clear brief and transparency of budget is paramount to secure the venue we want.

Provide as much information as you can so that you can get the most accurate quote first time. Be clear about your budget and date, and specify any flexibility upfront.

John Aves, CCD Global Events Ltd

3. Win-win

Finding what’s in it for the venue, making them understand the value the event can bring.

Build a relationship, and have an open conversation on what counts in each situation, so that you can negotiate a win-win

Edgar Valdmanis, SEMCO International

4. Alternatives

Always have a backup plan and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Also, use competitors proposals as a basis for negotiations.

Always look at more than 2 venues for your event. Some might be more flexible than others and it is good to tell them that you are working with other places so they know if they want your business they need to be competitive. Always remember that you are the customer!

Jane Hill, Zing Conferences

5. Value over discount

Looking for the best value for money should be preferred over getting the cheapest option.

In-kind discounts can often be more beneficial to the client than actual, physical cash discounts on room hire. Work with both hard and soft concessions to make your money go further. Anonymous

6. Check room rates on the website

With lack of transparency from some venues, this is always a good precaution.

Always check hotel room prices on their website and other web-based sources before negotiating. Often times I’m quoted a guest room rate higher than what I see online on their regular website. Anonymous

7. Amicable demeanor

Consistently this is the most quoted approach event professionals have to get the best deal.

Honesty and transparency … That’s key for long-term, trusty relations!  You need to be fair and understand their needs too. A smile will help you! … be professional and talented in what you do in order to have success and show your venue, your value.

Box 5 Création Inc.

Do you want to use this research on your website? Get in touch at contact@eventmanagerblog.com

1. The Importance of Venue Selection for an Event

In fiction, sometimes setting steals the stage. In events, the venue is the stage. Venue evokes emotion, entertains, reflects your brand and ethos of your event. A great venue tells the audience what to expect. It tells your event story. That’s why selecting your venue is one of the most important choices you can make as an event manager.

Most event planners select venues based on things like availability and parking, and while those pieces are important, you can bring an added dimension to your event when you select a venue based on less common concerns.

Think of venue selection’s influence on your event. Your role as event planner is almost one of matchmaker. Just as some people believe there’s one perfect soul mate, there’s a venue out there that matches everything you need and its effect on your event will create a perfect marriage in form and fashion.

Polish Up Your Matchmaking Skills on Your Hunt for the Perfect Venue

Some people settle when it comes to personal relationships as do some event planners when looking for the ideal venue. The main causes for settling are ease and budget. Maybe even comfort. But when you take the time to find that perfect venue, you have taken your first step to more solid branding and improved attendee event experience among other things.

Branding

Ideally, you want to select a venue that is in line with your event branding. What are you known for? What words come to mind when people think of your event? Now ask these same questions of the venue. What do you think of when you think of it? If your event branding and the venue’s branding are not in sync, you are creating a disconnect in the branding that will likely confuse your ideal attendee.

Priorities

Sometimes you have items on your event agenda that mean more than your branding. You may have priorities that outrank them such as easy transportation, access needs, connectivity needs, or even privacy. In these situations, it is best to flesh out what you need most at your event and narrow down the list of venues that will provide these things or help you meet them.

Attendee Interest

Selecting a much talked about venue, like a restaurant hotspot that’s difficult to get reservations to, can entice attendees to come to your event just to be able to see the venue. Other options include a private home that’s not often on display or even an exclusive resort at a discounted price. With amusement park tickets skyrocketing, many attendees come to events at these locations because they can save some money and bring their family as well.

Services and Offerings

You may be able to build up your offerings and services based on your venue. For instance, a destination resort type venue may be able to help you coordinate vacation add-ons or tours to your event. Think about what you wish you could offer and then see if there are any venues that could help you make these items part of your event.

Communicating Mission or Intent

Partnering with a venue that supports your event’s mission can also make a big impression on your attendees, bring more exposure to your movement, or create an important partnership with someone who shares your vision. For instance, a non-profit dedicated to improving childhood literacy could host their event at a sports team’s stadium with players who support the cause. The cause could also be endorsed by the franchise. Venues can also make excellent sponsors.

These pieces show the enhanced possibilities in and around selecting a venue that truly fit every aspect of your event but we also want to make sure you consider the basics. The following section will tie up all practicalities of venue selection. When selecting an event venue, you want to consider both your needs (in the next section) and your desires (addressed here).


2. Factors to Consider in Venue Selection

As eventprofs, we often use the terms “strategy” and “tactics” to mean the same thing, but we shouldn’t, as business gurus agree they’re distinct and different. Strategy is all about the final destination, the big plan, the overall goal while tactics are the milestones along the road, the pieces that make up the jigsaw, the specific objectives that lead to the goal. Strategy is what we want to accomplish, tactics are how we’re going to accomplish it.

Clearly, you can’t have one without the other and yet this is not a classic “chicken and egg” situation. We know for certain that strategy comes first – or, at least, it should do – as without a clear vision of where we want to go, we’re simply busy fools, without a mission.

So before we jump into tactics, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate our overall strategy for negotiation. Above all that requires clarity around why we might choose one destination or venue over another. That choice is always down to some combination of the following 7 criteria for destination or venue selection:

Access How easy is it to get to the destination/venue? If it’s an actual destination this might mean air access but access via rail or highway is also hugely important. If it’s a venue then it’ll be all about its location – is it conveniently situated for attendees? What about parking once they get there?

Infrastructure For destinations this will mean the range and number of hotel rooms, availability of a dedicated convention center, etc. For venues, it’ll mean size, capacity, versatility, flexibility.

Price It’s crucial to select a destination or venue that offers real value for attendees, not just low price. Value is also important as some event attendees stay on afterward or choose to visit early in order to make the most of the location/travel.

MICE or Event Infrastructure This includes everything from technical specifications to the professional expertise of the personnel in the destination/venue.

Subvention/Concessions For destinations this means cash or in-kind support for the event that’s coming to town. For venues, it means having a full menu of “extras” that can be included in the negotiations.

Appeal/Wow Factor The destination and the venue must be appealing for attendees; they must be “promotable”, capable of attracting attendees to the event.

Security and Health & Safety While overall safety issues have always been criteria for destination or venue selection, these criteria are becoming increasingly important as it’s on the minds of attendees and risk assessors due to recent tragedies.

Our overall strategic purpose or aim will define how we weight each of the 7 criteria above.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul in 2016 and Las Vegas in 2017, for example, attendee safety has become a key focus for event professionals. This will be a strategic imperative in destination and venue negotiation in 2018 as well.

Access is usually the most important criteria in destination and venue selection – if attendees can’t get easily to the event then they won’t show up – but if our strategic purpose were to “go off the grid” and take attendees out of their comfort zone then we might select a remote destination or venue in direct fulfillment of this objective.

Before you begin shortlisting your venues, use this handy worksheet to centralize your goals, begin to refine your strategy, and get a better understanding of the type of event venue that suits your event.

Strategy for Destination and Venue Negotiation Worksheet

  • What is the overall strategic purpose of this event?
  • What do we want to achieve/accomplish with our event?
  • What does success look like for this event – can we paint a picture?
  • Can we rank in order of priority the 7 criteria for destination/venue selection?
  • What are the 3 most important filters or criteria necessary to guarantee the success of our event?
  • What general research do we plan to conduct – online search, printed directories, word of mouth, consultation with other event professionals?

Now that you have the larger strategy behind event selection laid out, let’s get to the basic details. This planner will help you organize the necessities for your venue:

Basic Event Selection Planner:

Use this planner to ensure you’re asking the same questions of each venue and tallying up the proper costs so there are no surprises later on.

Event Specifics (Analyze the details and needs of your event for best venue selection.)

  • How many people will be in attendance?
  • What is your preferred date and time?
  • Alternate dates:
  • Flow of traffic: what areas of your event will have high traffic flow? (These will need special accommodations like the registration area.)
  • What entertainment needs do you have (speakers, bands, etc.)? What will they need from a non-AV perspective (stages, podiums?)
  • Are acoustics important to your event? Low ceilings will make a room loud in a crowd while expansive rooms may echo without softer surfaces. (If you decide you need to create a softer surface through canopies or drapes, don’t forget to add it to your budget.)
  • What’s nearby? Detail rooms available as well as restaurants, bars, and other places within walking distance. (Not only does this give attendees something to do but vendors and sponsors may desire a space to meet with customers as well.)
  • What is going on in town during your event? (Large happenings are worth noting because they will affect space and availability.)
  • Is this peak time for travel to this area? (This will affect airline prices for your attendees.)
  • Is the venue in keeping with your branding, theme, and mission? (Keep in mind you may not be the only event there at the time. You may want to ask about other groups to find out if they might clash or disrupt your branding or messaging.)
  • Will your ideal attendee enjoy this space?
  • Before approaching the venue, research any discounts they’re publicly advertising. Note them. Is what they’re suggesting a good “deal” based on your research?

Accessibility (How will attendees get there and how will traffic flow?)

  • Distance from preferred location:
  • Is parking included?
  • Room capacity (list options of there are several):
  • How long do you have the room? If setup and teardown in that time span?
  • Is the spot easily accessible for everyone? Are there stairs or other physical obstacles without amenities (like an elevator)?

Costs (There are many costs in an event venue and you need to be clear on all of them)

  • What are the food and beverage minimums?
  • When will you finalize the count/how close to the event can you make changes to headcount?
  • Does the venue provide catering or can you bring someone else in? Is there an increased charge or a clean-up fee for an outside vendor?
  • Are tables, chairs, linens, and other serving needs covered by the venue? If you must bring them in, does the venue staff have to set them up? Is there an additional fee for this?
  • Thinking of this venue, what additional decor needs do you have (for instance, an outdoor garden may only require minimal decor while a basic ballroom may need a lot to tie it into your theme).
  • What will it cost to insure at this location?
  • Is additional security required? Is the space public or does it have locked or gated access?
  • What is the pricing structure for the venue? Headcount? Hourly? A combination of the two?

Extras (Venues often have upcharges and additional services. Note them here.)

  • Are AV options available? (Some non-traditional venues simply aren’t wired for sound and WiFi.)
  • Can you use an outside AV vendor?
  • If not, what’s the hourly charge for AV?
  • Does it offer additional pros such as a wellness program, farm to table menu, or another hot trend your attendees would enjoy? Do they offer a discount in partnership with other vendors?
  • Is there a multi-event discount or early booking advantage?
  • What’s the attendee to venue staff ratio for your event? What do additional heads cost should you need more coverage?
  • Are there green rooms, hotel rooms, or additional spaces that are comped for minimums met?
  • Is WiFi extra? Is it covered in public spaces? Are there speed options? Who will be onsite to ensure it is performing optimally?
  • What seating options do you have? Do you need formal or informal?
  • Do some research on social media. Does this venue have a good digital footprint? It can be an amazing space but if your potential attendees read too many bad reviews about it they may reconsider their interest in your event.
  • What are the venue restrictions you need to be aware of? With some venues, all caterers must be on an approved list. Some don’t allow outside AV. Some have extensive rules about hanging decor on the walls. Whatever the limitations, make note of them in advance to save yourself a headache and cost in the end.

Consider These Venue Options (the traditional, the creative, and the out of this world)

There are very few limits on venue options these days. Fields become outdoor arenas overnight and alleyways turn into pop-up restaurants for a weekend. Let’s review just a handful of possibilities to consider:

Traditional options:

If you select these options, your decor plays a much larger role because you’re beginning with a very traditional, but blank slate. Many of your attendees have been to these places before or places like them in their area. These options are the white t-shirt of venues.

  • Hotel conference or ballrooms
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Conference centers
  • Office meeting rooms
  • Banquet facilities

Pros: They can become anything but that will largely depend on your efforts. They are also well-suited for events as they host them often. Staff will anticipate your needs without having to ask because of their level of experience.

Cons: Many people have been to events held at traditional spots. There’s no “wow!” factor in the address alone.

Creative possibilities:

Many businesses and attractions are now entering the event space. While they have a little more innate flavor in them, their banquet facilities may mimic those of the traditional options. Speak with the venue to see what options they may have outside of traditional conference or banquet rooms. For many event planners and clients, this is a good compromise between unique surroundings and needed amenities.

Such places include:

  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Wineries and breweries
  • Racetracks (for non-racing events)
  • Amusement parks
  • Studios and painting facilities

Pros: They have some unique features and there’s an originality in these spaces. They are also used to hosting events and many have dedicated event staff.

Cons: They tend to be pricey as you’re paying for the best of both worlds (creativity + event experience).

The next level is much more creative but also much more hands-on as they will likely not have the event experience and peripherals that will help. You’ll need to remember (and make arrangements for) everything from silverware to sound systems.

Out of this world options:

Finally, there are the venues that make your audience stand there mouth agape at your venue selection. Remember, these selections usually come with a bit more risk, licensing issues or limitations, and set-up needs. Plus, at any time, what was once innovative can become mundane as more people embrace creative venues.

  • An alley
  • Graveyard or battlefield
  • Abandoned building
  • Private home (that people are interested in seeing)
  • Working factory (think Willie Wonka)
  • Something you build for the occasion

Pros: Attendees may attend for the sheer interest in your location. The “wow!” factor is high in these spots and depending on your theme and the venue, you may not need to spend a lot on decorations. These locales are perfect for a pioneering, creative spirit.

Cons: These types of unique options are the camping of the venue world. Like camping, you don’t have all the luxuries of home unless you bring them. You will likely be completely on your own with no experienced event staff at these locations.


3. How to Choose Venues Successfully – Your RFP Strategy for Finding the Perfect Venue Match

A Request for Proposals (RFP) is often issued to get costs and detailed information back from a shortlist of venues you have identified. The information returned is vital to help with negotiations and to make the decision on the final venue. The quality of your initial RFP can hugely influence the quality of the responses.

Best practice to get the most from venue RFPs:

  • When issuing an RFP to venues always try to give as much information as possible to enable them to quote accurately. It helps to give the bigger picture about the event and if the venue can understand the revenue they are likely to get from event extras such as AV and accommodation they may be able to offer greater flexibility on the room hire and catering rates offered.
  • Outline any flexibility and parameters within the proposal, for instance, give the minimum and maximum numbers you expect, state if you can consider different dates, and specify what is the minimum number of break out rooms you need, up to the maximum number of rooms you anticipate. This ensures that you are only getting back options that fit your specific brief and ensure no time wasting.
  • Make sure you are clear about deadlines. Lead times are getting shorter and shorter and so clients can demand a really fast response but this can be tricky for venues to get back to you on time. State the latest time you can accept responses from venues. Ideally, you should give at least a week for responses, although this isn’t always possible if you are under huge time pressure. Give a friendly reminder to venues a few days before the deadline too so you can be sure they are looking to be considered.

4. 10 Ways To Get the Most Out of Online Venue RFPs and Save Your Event Budget

Event planners are increasingly turning to online tools to research venues and to request RFPs. The capability of online venue marketplaces varies dramatically so here are some tips to get the best results when choosing and utilizing an online venue finding solution:

  1. Choose a Comprehensive Online Venue Database

Select a tool that lists the most venues in the country or area you are investigating. If they have a limited database of venues in the first place, the results it provides for you will be disappointing. Before narrowing down any search criteria see how many venues come up for the search location in total. Although some tools are international, many start out focusing on one country or even one city first before expanding to wider geographical locations, so select carefully.

  1. The Right Fit

Are you looking for a meeting room or party space? Some platforms cover it all, others are focused on a specific niche, so choose wisely to ensure you get compatible results. Likewise, do you need a venue for a few hours, a day or a number of days? The search criteria questions asked will give a good indication of whether it deals with the type of venue inquiry you need.

  1. Level of Detail

To test the site pull up a number of venues at random to ensure that they have complete listings with all the information you need. Missing or inaccurate information should ring alarm bells: how can you be sure that the results returned by the online tool truly fit what you are looking for? The information could just be missing or incorrect meaning that venues may show up in the search that shouldn’t be there.

  1. Be Specific

Online tools let you filter down the results based on specific criteria such as location, numbers, layout, type of venue, star rating/standard, accommodation and break out room requirements and possibly even ceiling height! Some allow you to drill down further into WiFi and AV or even extras such as whether there is a golf course nearby or a spa on site.

Some tools are more comprehensive than others, but having search filters is a great time saver identifying potential venues rather than trawling through websites or phoning venues to find specific information. It also avoids finding out after sending a manual RFP that actually none of the venues approached perfectly meet your wish list.

Be as specific as you can entering your set criteria to produce better-matched search results. If having parking on site is make or break, it is best to know from the start so you don’t waste anyone’s time requesting proposals from venues that are not suited.

  1. Layout Plans

If you are not familiar with a venue, having floor plans available to show room locations helps to give an overview of the layout and flow of the venue. No event planner wants to work with a venue where the rooms are miles apart or on different levels and venues have been known to gloss over these details to try and fill their remaining stock around other already confirmed bookings!

Individual room plans and dimensions can also help planners get to grips with the space and any potential limitations to sight lines and set up, such as pillars. If the room is an unusual shape or the ceiling height is low you may need to factor in additional relay screens or additional speaker towers to compensate.

  1. Pictures

A picture really is worth a thousand words! A selection of pictures helps event planners to get an idea for the style of the venue and easily see at a glance if it has the look and feel they are searching for and whether there is synergy with the event and/or your client’s brand. It also gives an insight into different event layouts, the versatility of the venue and what can be achieved.

  1. Video or 360 Degree Tour

Video clips or a 360-degree vantage of the room allows a venue planner to have a virtual view of the venue when a site visit isn’t feasible and can reveal a lot more than pictures. Virtual venue tour technology is becoming more and more common, possibly allowing you to view the space with different layouts and production, rather than just an empty room.  

  1. Reviews

As our research shows, we trust reviews from our peers, so viewing ratings, feedback and comments from other event planners can be useful when narrowing down potential venues. Some online marketplaces include reviews or star ratings. If not, maybe investigate other avenues; view their Facebook page for comments, look for recent mentions on Twitter, look at recommendations key venue staff have received on LinkedIn, search on Google and most of all ask your colleagues, AV company or other suppliers what it is like working at the venue. This can be very revealing and enlightening hearing from those with first-hand experience of working or attending an event at a venue you are considering.

  1. Real-Time Availability

If the online RFP is direct to a venue or a hotel chain it may allow you to check real-time availability, immediately ruling out property which can’t meet your demands. This is ideal as if you have set dates which are not flexible you need to be prepared that several of the venues that make your shortlist will be booked already and so can be immediately ruled out.

  1. Extra Information

The search and filter tools on online venue marketplaces are great at narrowing down the options, but there is generally the opportunity to add extra information to a text box before the RFP is circulated to venues. Use this space to give useful information which will help the venues to respond accurately. More information on this is given in the next section – the Venue RFP Checklist.

Venue Request for Proposal (RFP) Checklist

We have compiled a handy venue requirements checklist with the details you should include in an effective venue RFP, whether you are sending this out directly or completing details via an online portal.

One of the biggest frustrations with venues is the venue staff not considering themselves as partners and caring about the event as strongly as the event planner and the client do. To give the venues an opportunity to share the vision for your event we recommend including the following information on your RFP. If venues don’t have the background information about your event it is harder for them to show how they can add value and share your vision.

When the responses come in this will soon separate those venues that have taken the time to read and respond fully from those that are not such a good match for your event or care less about securing your business.

Click here to download your free Venue Request for Proposal (RFP) Checklist.


6 Telltale Signs to Spot the Venues Event Planners Should Work With

Your RFP has been issued and the responses are in. Event planners need to be able to spot which are the best proposals received and which should be immediately discounted to create a credible shortlist. Here is some criteria to judge the responses against and find the venues that stand out above the others.

  1. A Timely Response

Event planners have to be strictly deadline focused and so you want to work with venues that have the same ethos. If you gave enough time for responses and a venue missed the deadline without any communication with you they should probably be discounted straight away.

  1. Detailed Proposal

A venue of the future will have read and understood the RFP, answered all questions fully and included all the information requested in a complete proposal. Good venues have all the answers at their fingertips to enable to pull together information and create a bespoke proposal with ease. If they cannot deliver on something you have requested in the RFP they will offer alternative solutions or options, just as any event planner would.

  1. Pride in the Venue and Keenness to Work with You

In the proposal, a winning venue option will have demonstrated their enthusiasm for winning your business and securing the event. The response should be well written and show the pride in their venue and facilities. A venue of the future will be eager to invite you and your client for a show round and keen to put space on hold for you while you consider, as the venue knows its popularity and that otherwise the date may be snapped up by someone else.

  1. Comprehensive Offer

Are things like WiFi, cloakroom, tap water and AV included in a complete package, or are there lots of added costs that you will need to factor in. Can they offer you the early access you need for the event and waive or reduce the charges from their standard hire rates? Most importantly are the package/prices they have put forward easy to understand or is it simply baffling and impossible to quantify? The last thing you want is to sign a contract and discover hidden costs or high rate cards for extras that you were not prepared for.

  1. Added Value

Like all good eventprofs, a venue will also go the extra mile. Have they included extra, relevant information to strengthen their proposal? Compared to the other venues have they offered additional value and USPs (unique selling points) which differentiates their venue from the competition? The proposal should have taken into account your requirements and illustrated through their tailored response why they would be the perfect venue partner.

  1. Responsive

If you have any additional questions raised from the proposal does the venue respond quickly and efficiently? Is all contact with the venue slick and efficient? Do they return calls promptly? Are they always happy to help? A venue of the future will always be customer focused, right through the sales and negotiation process, the planning process and to the live event itself.


5. The Things Event Planners Should Really Be Inspecting on Venue Site Visits

When an event planner has a shortlist of venues that are being considered, the next step is to have a venue site visit, or show round. This is generally done in person, however travel and schedules do not always enable this.

Venues of the future are all about flexible, versatile event spaces but you don’t have to go there physically to experience this – at least not in the first instance. Venues of the future have amazing online portals, websites with 360-degree virtual tours and lots of video content showcasing what you can do at the venue.

Your negotiation strategy, therefore, starts way in advance of any direct contact with the venue itself as you immerse yourself virtually in the venue, gaining an in-depth understanding of its strengths along with its weaknesses.

There are some vital checks and telltale signs that can reveal whether this is a good venue to work with. Here are some ways you can use a familiarisation trip to ensure you are making a solid venue choice:

  • From the venue receptionist, to the catering and operations staff, take note of their demeanor. You want all staff to be polite and welcoming and look in control.
  • Can all your questions be answered easily? If they are well accustomed to hosting good events they should have solutions for everything and want to take a proactive approach to delivering a smooth event.
  • Are the refreshments offered to you palatable? If they serve bad coffee, this could be what you should expect at your meeting.
  • Time how long it takes to get to different rooms and how easy the venue is to navigate around.
  • If an event is taking place observe the interactions between the event planner and the venue staff to check that everything is under control and that any requests are being dealt with.
  • Check what the cell phone reception and WiFi speed is like.
  • Take note how busy the car park and lobby area is and check exactly what is happening in the building on that day. If there are few event bookings but there are no spaces in the car park you know that parking is going to be an issue.
  • Ask to be shown the access from the unloading point and via the goods lift.
  • Look at the behind the scenes areas, such as the delivery area and backstage, to check that they are well ordered and tidy.
  • Ensure that all health and safety protocol is being covered. For example, check that fire doors and walkways are clear.

Have You Found Your Venue Soulmate?

Event planners are often looking to find a true event partner, focused like you on delivering an exceptional event experience, rather than just a business transaction.

Lucy Miller of SSL Entertainment nails it: “The venue of the future is one that is unique and has a story, it implements cutting edge technology and has staff that takes pride in the success of each event.”

Incidentally, the supreme importance of the relationship between event planner and venue team when it comes to venue selection is second only to rates in our survey and considerably ahead of any other criteria including recommendations, reviews or the fact that a planner may have used the venue before.

8 Vital Tech Checks To Investigate at Your Venue Site Visit

There was a time not that long ago when planners going on a site visit didn’t really have to think much about AV or technology. Their entire focus could be on things like the look and feel of the room, catering and food selection, activities such as spa treatments, bus tours, wine tastings, and water cruises. Since the 1950’s to today, there has been a steady march forward, and meetings and events have become more and more reliant on technology to deliver on their promises to their attendees. Whether that’s to have fun and energize, deliver important messaging, to network, to celebrate, or to educate.

At every step in the process, there have always been venues willing to invest in the latest and greatest technology, to take chances, try new things, and be willing to be on the leading edge. Others, not so much. As the rate of change in disruption in technology appears to get faster and faster every year, it gets harder and harder for venues to choose which technology advancements to invest their money in, making the environment even more complicated.

This has resulted in a tremendous lack of consistency when it comes to venues and technology. Average hotel WiFi speeds are going to be different whether you’re in New York, Barcelona, or Dubai. Power and electrical capabilities are going to vary wildly between hotels built within the last 10 years, those built in the 1960’s, and those (like many in Europe and beyond) built hundreds of years ago but slowly renovated over time.

Event planners now have an entirely new list of things that need to be checked at the site visit, as a certain baseline level of technology is being expected by the modern meeting and event goer. From there, you can work your way into the realm of the leading edge, choosing your venues not just on how they handle the basics, but also what new technologies they can offer.

The days are likely numbered for site visits that don’t include some, or all, of these checks, so make sure you, or someone on your team, is paying attention to them. Venue style, decor, catering, and amenities are always going to be important parts of choosing a location for your meeting and event, but now is the time to start working on your technical venue checklist as well.

  1. Checking Venue WiFi and Internet

Probably the most hotly debated subjects in meeting and event technology today are those surrounding WiFi and Internet access. Let’s set aside the topic of the cost of these services (and this is the subject of heated debates!), and concentrate on quality.

How do you know if a venue is going to be able to provide enough bandwidth for your attendees, presenters, and staff? How do you know if they’re providing the bandwidth they’re promising they can deliver? These are not easy questions to answer, and an entire cottage industry of “bandwidth consultants” has emerged as a result. But there are a few things you can do on your site visit to check the quality of the internet services being provided by the venue.

  • Do a WiFi speed test. Whether you’re going to be getting a hard line connection or are just providing WiFi access to your guests, ask the venue to allow you on the same network they’re planning on providing you. Just as you might peek in on an event that’s in the ballroom you’re planning on using, ask for temporary access to their network. From there, hook up your laptop or tablet, and go to dslreports.com/speedtest. Use the “Cable” setting, as this is about the speed that most North American and European hotels run at. Do not use the most common speed test site, speedtest.net. Because it’s the most common, many service providers will actually give it priority access, so that their networks appear faster than they’re actually running.
  • Calculate how fast the WiFi needs to be. This is not an easy question to answer because every group of attendees is different. It’s not only the number of attendees you have, but how many of them will be accessing the WiFi, how many devices they have (tech-savvy audiences can have 2 or more devices connecting), and what they’ll be doing on the network. Many vendors will take advantage of the fact that most planners have no idea how to properly estimate their bandwidth and will just encourage you to go with the most expensive option, “just in case”.
  • Estimate Bandwidth. The reality is that a lot of planners are actually over-buying when it comes to bandwidth. For low-level email and web traffic, use a Rule of Threes as a baseline: For every 10 users, you need to add 3 Mbps (Megabits per second). So a group of 10 users would be about 3 Mbps, 20 would be 6 Mbps, and 30 would be 9 Mbps, and so on. The curve tends to flatten out the higher you go, drifting downward towards 2 Mbps per user. For small meetings, though, the Rule of Threes works well enough. Just remember that what attendees are doing greatly impacts the bandwidth they need, and bandwidth estimates don’t usually plan on everyone doing things simultaneously. Slide sharing or second screen applications could double or triple the bandwidth required because all attendees are using the network at once.
  • Pay attention to WiFi strength. Bandwidth alone isn’t the only thing that can negatively impact WiFi performance. The distance to the access points as well as “WiFi pollution”, having too many WiFi networks in close proximity, can have a detrimental effect on the quality of all of those networks, regardless of their speed. While you’re running your speed test, also take a look to see how many other WiFi networks are around, and the strength of the network you’re going to be on. The more crowded the WiFi neighborhood is, the more likely you are to experience network issues, so if quality bandwidth is a priority to you, you may wish to consider moving your event out of the city center and into the suburbs. Many trade shows and conferences are even banning the use of personal hotspots, as each one of them is essentially a small private WiFi network, competing for radio frequencies.
  • Check You Can Use a Secured Network for Your Event. Check that you can have your WiFi network secured using a password. Not the type of password where you open up a browser, get some kind of hotel splash page and enter in a meeting code, a set up where you actually have to put in a password on your device in order to access the network. Freely distribute that password to everyone at your event. Even if the password was 12345, and even if a bad person were to get a hold of it, your attendees’ data is still more secure on a password protected, encrypted WiFi connection than on an open WiFi connection with a meeting code. Hotels, especially luxury hotels and resorts, are increasingly targets for bad actors. Let’s make their job more difficult.

Other WiFi checks to ask your venue:

  • Find out what kind of internet is coming into the venue. DSL lines will only work for very small events – you need at least fiber optic or coaxial cable
  • Look for enterprise-grade WiFi access hardware from the likes of Cisco, Xirrus, Ruckus and Aruba mounted at 1m – 2m height for maximum coverage
  • Make sure you have separate Virtual Local Area Networks (VLAN) for attendees, live streaming, exhibitors etc
  1. Power and Electrical Services

While WiFi and Internet access are probably the technology that attendees value the most at a meeting or event, nothing compares to the importance of having a serious conversation with your venue regarding power and electrical services. While planners will generally do a good job of putting their AV company in touch with the venue to talk about “big picture” power needs, they frequently don’t take into account the small power needs of their guests or staff.

  • When inspecting a venue, take note of the location, and frequency of power outlets, and not just in the main meeting room or ballroom area. If an attendee has been in general session all day and then goes to attend the evening event, chances are their phones and other personal devices are going to be in need of a charge. Will there be sufficient locations for attendees to do so, or will something have to be brought in?
  • Check if the venue offers conference tables and other furniture with power and charging plug-ins built in, or have charging stations available for rent. Have they added power outlets underneath bars and tables in their dining and cocktail lounges, and added table or lamp plugins throughout their guest rooms, or are guests expected to manage with one socket? If you are running a tech-friendly event, you do not want guests to have to move furniture around in the hotel room to gain access to an outlet, just to be able to plug in their phone or computer. It’s important to remember as you’re touring a venue to keep in mind the full experience of the attendee from start to finish, and for most of us these days, that means plugging in more than just the hairdryer.
  • A word of warning when it comes to power, though – many facilities will not only charge you for “special” power drops but will also charge for the use of standard power outlets in the walls or floors, others will run an actual power meter on your event, keeping track of how much power you consume, so it’s important to make sure you fully understand how the venue plans on charging you for power. If you are at a metered location, be sure to get a report on how much power you consumed, so you can use it to estimate expenses at future venues that do the same.
  1. Staging

The next item on our venue technology checklist might be surprising to some: be sure to inspect any staging you might be getting from your venue. I know staging isn’t the first thing that pops into most people’s minds when it comes to technology, but often staging can cause issues on site. Staging that is too tall, too short, or in various stages of disrepair (pardon the pun) is incredibly common. It’s one of those upgrades that venues tend to push off “until next year”, several years in a row.

  • Inspect the carpet and the clamps that lock the individual pieces together, as these tend to get sheared off in back hallways. The last thing you want in your high-tech event is to get everything set up and looking cool, only to discover your venue’s stage has stained burgundy carpet with wobbly legs, and cracks between the sections large enough to drop an actual bottle of Burgundy through.
  • Additionally, be sure to check out what the local rules and regulations are regarding handrails, steps, and wheelchair-accessible ramps. Laws regarding these items vary wildly from state or providence, and even city to city. I’ve seen elegant stage designs compromised because no one on the design team was informed a wheelchair ramp needed to be incorporated. They were forced to bolt one on, literally at the last minute.
  1. Rigging

As the overall production quality of our meetings and events has increased over the years, more and more planners are relying on lights and video projection to add “wow factor”. As a result, rigging (the hanging of lights and sound gear from the ceiling of a venue) has become a much more common practice. Even small to medium-sized meetings are getting equipment up and out of the way by rigging from the ceiling. It’s becoming more important to have conversations with venues early on regarding their rigging policies. Ask the following questions:

  • Do they have rigging points in the ceiling designed to hang equipment from?
  • Do they charge you to use those points?
  • Do they require you use their rigging vendor, or can you use your own?

The same goes for rolling lifts. Make sure you check by asking the right questions:

  • Once you’ve got all that equipment in the air, will you be allowed to send technicians up on lifts to adjust it? Some venues have strict rules regarding lifts and how they’re operated in their facility.
  • Does the venue own any lifts or will they have to be brought in?
  • How much do they charge?
  • Are your technicians allowed to use them, or must they be facility personnel?
  • Do they require training or a certificate of insurance?

How they answer these questions, plus those regarding rigging, could mean a difference in thousands, or tens of thousands on your AV bill. These questions should be a key part of selecting your venue if there’s any chance rigging will be a part of your event.

  1. Restrictions on External AV

Along those lines, it’s important to find out what requirements a venue has regarding the use of their in-house AV partner, if they have one. Find out what restrictions there are when it comes to using outside vendors for AV and production. Are there going to be fees or charges for doing so? If so, how much?

  1. Venue Design

Now let’s get into some of the upgrades that facilities on the cutting edge are starting to add to attract especially younger, tech-savvy guests. Think of these as value add-ons that can help you to decide between otherwise equal venues.

Traditional business centers are on the decline, with more hotels and venues offering tech-forward common areas. Lounge areas with plenty of power plugins, charging stations (including cable-free charging pads), strong WiFi, and other amenities will allow guests to use their own devices in a warm, inviting atmosphere. There may be a workstation or two in the corner for printing out boarding passes and the like, but BYOD is the rule of the day.

  1. Digital Signage

Digital signage is another one of those areas that might not jump to mind when you think of tech, but it can be a tremendous benefit at a venue, especially for conferences. Things are always changing on events, and despite the best-laid plans, it’s very common to move sessions from one room to another based on popularity with attendees.

Find out who is responsible for changing the displays, and how quickly they can be changed. Being able to change digital displays to update the most current session locations and times can be vital to things flowing smoothly. In large convention and expo centers, where multiple groups might be attending simultaneously, knowing which way to go can shave precious minutes of time between sessions, and countless miles walked by attendees trying to find their way to “Canyon Vista IIV”.

  1. Intralocation

To that end, many of the coolest advancements in leading-edge technology have to do with intralocation. What geolocation has done for finding our way in the world at large, intralocation has the ability to provide similar opportunities for us indoors. Using technologies as simple as low energy Bluetooth beacons (aka iBeacons) or WiFi triangulation, or as futuristic as facial recognition and laser radar (LiDAR), venues are starting to invest in passive attendee tracking technology. In other words, the attendee doesn’t have to do anything to be tracked, such as scanning their badge at a certain location.

The benefits of such a system for the attendee can include precise location and mapping within a convention center or expo hall, including the fastest routes to their next meeting, or an alert that the vendor booth they wanted to stop by is immediately in the next aisle. It also could be a simple as recognizing them as they enter the registration area, so that by the time they approach the desk, their badge is printed and ready to go.

On the planner side, intralocation can offer many benefits as well. The obvious benefits include session tracking with precise accounting of how many people saw what session, and for how long. While many conferences will scan badges on the way in, hardly anybody scans badges on the way out. Where things really get interesting, however, is the ability for these new technologies help planners visualize people moving through an event space in real time. What sections of the event are the most popular? Which booths at the trade show are getting the most traffic? Are the lines from the bars starting to block the main entrance? Maybe it’s time to open the auxiliary bars to open up the flow. This kind of real-time data can be a powerful tool to the tech-savvy planner, giving them almost a clairvoyant ability to head off problems before they occur.

After the event, that data can be used to show the ROI of different portions of the event. How popular was the VR station compared to the old-school photo booth? Did we really need bars 4 and 5, or could we have gotten away with two? “Look at all the traffic you get down aisle 200 at the trade show. Would you like to upgrade to one of those booths next year?” The possibilities are only limited by our ability to comprehend and analyze the data.

Armed with full knowledge of the venue and how closely it matches your requirements – or not, as the case may be – you’re in a strong position to negotiate overall terms and maximize value for you and your client.


6. Negotiating Better Venue Rates: 14 Tactics To Slash Your Event Budget

As event professionals, we desperately want to be known for our innovation and creativity but a key aspect of our true value lies in our ability to marshal the numbers and march them into a shape that corresponds to the available budget. At the end of the day – or week or year – what makes a great event planner is the manner by which maximum event impact is achieved within the confines of the money there is to make it happen. This means event managers need to wear the hard shell hat of the negotiator in tandem with the technicolor dream coat of the eventprof. Managing the budget can truly make or break the event and to manage the budget well you need to be an excellent negotiator.

But remember, excellent negotiators are in it for the long game. They always shoot for win-win in any negotiation because they know that in events, maybe more than any other industry, what goes around, comes around and the supplier we screw in today’s negotiation will become the buyer who screws us in next year’s one. They also know that information is king in any negotiation so their research is forensic and meticulous, they’ve conducted exhaustive online searches, called all their contacts, checked and double checked the numbers, and run the spreadsheet just more time.

  1. Rates

Rates are what make or break budgets and perceived high rates can be enough to eliminate that destination or venue from the selection process entirely. Rates and, particularly, packages offered remain hugely important in relation to the final decision on the venue – ranking 3rd only behind location and room capacity.  

When negotiating with venues 68% of our respondents highlighted their preference for cash discounts over in-kind concessions so venues must be cognizant of the need to demonstrate flexibility around rates and to have a discount policy in place, based perhaps, on overall value of the event, frequency of use of venue by the event planner etc. They should also remember the need to be open and transparent and to display prices clearly on their website as more than 50% of event planners expect this to be the case.

When negotiating on rates, however, we need to be strategic. We might need to shave $1,500 off our venue rental fee but, as the saying goes, “there are many ways to skin a cat”. If we keep our focus on where we need to get to – reducing the total event cost – then there’ll be multiple routes to that destination.

Reduce the venue rates offered with the following approach:

  • It makes sense to start with price and test how written in stone this is. The best way to do this is to make an offer below the published rate and see what reaction you get! This offer should be reasonable, certainly no more than 25% below the asking price as otherwise it’s not credible and you end up losing ground in the negotiation game.
  • Venues that offer food and beverage, AV and production as part of the events package will often agree on discounts on total event spend, taking all elements into account. Discuss the bottom line you need to pay and exactly what they are willing to provide within this baseline figure.
  • Compare the price difference in terms of what a venue will ask for as a package price versus individual pricing. It may be that you pay more for your venue rental when working with a future-focused venue but expect more inclusions too, along with top speed internet and interior design and color schemes informed by the latest thinking in neuro-linguistic programming. This point is captured perfectly in the survey comments by Allison Remmer of Avalara: “The venue of the future will provide a stunning background that is versatile in size, includes built-in AV equipment, and a creative in-house catering team. The venue of the future will be all-inclusive to reduce complexity and the number of vendors required to plan an event”.
  • To encourage long-term partnerships venues will sometimes look at total spend over a 12 month period and give cash rebates based on reaching pre-established revenue thresholds.
  • Rates can be particularly complex when guest room accommodation is part of the overall meeting or event requirement. Be super-careful with those insidious “resort fees” charged extensively in large event cities. Allegedly covering WiFi and access to health clubs they can often be negotiated out of the contract, particularly if they are being picked up elsewhere by the event budget.
  1. Do Your Homework

To successfully negotiate with a venue (or any supplier) you need to do your homework and know your figures.

For a successful negotiation you must:

  • Do exhaustive research – check what rates/prices are in the public domain, online or on-rack brochures. Do this BEFORE you call the venue as this provides the starting point for all rate-based discussions.
  • Have a full command of all figures so that in any face to face negotiation you can quickly calculate the impact of 10% or 12.5% discount if it’s offered.
  • Know the real value to you and your budget of any and all concessions such as early access.
  • Be sure the best deal that competitors can offer you so you can compare the options fairly.
  • Know exactly what you want – what deal would you be happy with or when would you walk away?
  1. Concessions

Savvy event organizers know that the initial budget presented to the client should always include every possible line item of cost including easily forgotten items such as storage space, staff changing rooms, speaker green room, build and tear down time etc. This is particularly important as it allows an actual cash value be given to “concessions”, the in-kind discounts where the destination or venue waives its right to charge for a product or service, bringing significant savings to the event budget.

It’s a key part of the negotiation process but unless the monetary value is given to these items from the outset, the real saving is not appreciated by the client. For example, being able to ship materials direct to the venue and to have them stored there is hugely beneficial for the overall event in terms of logistics and convenience but a monetary value needs to be placed on this upfront so that the venue and the event professional are seen to be proactively participating in the win-win dynamic.

Other concessions with real value to negotiate include – for venues:

  • early access or late tear down (can save on the cost of local crew)
  • complimentary use of in-house flying points and rigging
  • use of in-house canteen by crew
  • elimination of resort fees on guest room accommodation

And for destinations:

  • complimentary use of civic spaces
  • free use of city center transport for event attendees
  • complimentary site inspection
  1. Food and Beverage

Food and beverage is what divides the sheep from the goats in the world of eventprofs. Signing off on guarantees for food and beverage is plain sailing for some but for others, it’s the rock upon which they perish. Get your guarantees wrong and you’re entire event flops and flays like a rag doll; get them right and your event and budget are golden.

For experienced event planners negotiating on food and beverage is a piece of cake:

500 have registered and paid but you guarantee 450 to the venue with a plus or minus factor of 5%. When 470 show up you’re covered but 30 x the cost of the function drops to your bottom line. Happy days. An inexperienced or nervous planner, however, guarantees 500 and stands back powerlessly as 30 meals go unconsumed.

So how should you negotiate food and beverage? Firstly be meticulous about historical data – what has been the behavior of this group over the past 5 years? The client may have this data but, if not, the venues they used previously will certainly have it. Be forensic about this and evaluate the pattern – odds on it’ll be the same this year!

For first time or one-off events, it’s more difficult to calculate food and beverage elements but there are some general demographic principles you can go with. At the risk of being sexist, ageist, prejudiced or old fashioned, here are 5 failsafe measures:

  • At functions, men generally eat more than women and prefer meat
  • For beer and wine functions. men drink beer and red wine while women drink white
  • Northern Europeans drink a lot more than Southern Europeans. For functions with Irish, Dutch or Scandinavian attendees you’ll need more than half bottle of wine per person
  • US event attendees tend to avoid lamb at Gala functions whereas it’s a premium offering for Europeans
  • Europeans are far less enthusiastic about buffet presentations than US attendees

Other items relative to F&B to negotiate on include:

  • cut off dates for initial guarantees (your cut off date with the venue should be as late as possible while the cut-off date with your client should be as early as possible)
  • pouring of standard v. premium brands at open bars
  • free pour or measured pour of liquor
  • corkage on wine and liquor you bring in yourself
  • tap water v. bottled water
  • crew food
  • donation of leftovers to a local homeless shelter
  1. AV and Production

AV and production is a key part of virtually any event and another focus for negotiation with a venue. Many eventprofs have their own preferred partners for AV and production so often the first thing to negotiate is the right to use these as opposed to the in-house incumbent. For venues, there are two issues here. In-house AV and production teams are a profit center for the venue so allowing a third party production team means forgoing revenues. But it’s not just money. An in-house team working permanently in the venue knows best how to achieve optimum quality with sound, light and AV.

Mindful of these concerns savvy eventprofs always look for the middle ground:

  • can the in-house technician be hired into the preferred partners’ team for the duration of the event – or indeed vice versa?
  • Can a combination of in-house equipment and hired-in equipment be used to maximize revenues for everyone?

If the planner elects to use the in-house AV equipment:

  • can the technician be provided free of charge?
  • Can on-site additions available in the venue such as podiums, extra microphones, extra power cables, adapters, laptops and switchers be provided free of charge?
  1. WiFi

Think about the skill base of a modern event professional – you’re required to be an expert in computer software, financial planning and budget management, logistics, event planning, design, gastronomy, audio-visual production and now, of course, the ever-expanding horizon of technology!

Negotiating technology in a venue is way more than trying to secure free WiFi although some eventprofs – and even more venue managers – think that this is still the key variable. Offering “Free WiFI” as a key benefit in your venue may sound like a great thing, but to the truly experienced event planner it’s akin to offering “Free Wine” with the Gala Dinner. “Free Wine” might, in fact, be the worst possible thing to serve at your prestigious dinner particularly as its unspecified provenance and nature means it could be a horrific blended aberration of “wine from the EU” served from a box! So beware of free wine and beware of free WiFi.

Our surveys show how “free WiFi” is still the item most negotiated on with venues but as event professionals, we need to be fully aware of what our requirements might be in terms of bandwidth and speeds and negotiate around these items instead.

WiFi is Still a Big Issue for Events

Despite rampant smartphone adoption and broadband speeds to match, most (78%) eventprofs feel that WiFi availability and performance is still a big issue for events. 44% said that poor WiFi was one of their main frustrations when dealing with venues.

Forward-thinking venues include high-speed internet that’s distributed efficiently to where it needs to be.

7. Physical Space and Assets

Large iconic structures like stadia and concert locations have generated significant recurring income from print and digital display advertising at the venue and from selling the naming rights to big corporate enterprises. Now venue managers are applying the same principles to conferences, corporate meetings, events and exhibitions by charging event organizers for any prime real estate space they use for branding purposes. So advertising, branding and use of on-site digital signage have become additional items for on the negotiation merry-go-round.

  • The crucial thing here is to have anticipated this upfront and to have included a contingency sum in the initial budget for on-site branding – not just creation but also placing and display. This means that provision has been made but if you manage to negotiate it for free then a real saving has been made on the budget.
  • If selling branding space at the venue represents additional potential revenue for the venue manager then, as the reseller, the event planner should also be entitled to a share of this revenue.
  • When you conduct your first site inspection of a stadium, arena or concert hall be sure to make a venue site inspection checklist take note of how the large vertical and horizontal spaces around the venue are used – are there dedicated display units for advertising? Are these print or digital? Are there large banners fastened to ceiling flying points? Could any or all of these spaces be used to enhance the event experience – to display event schedules, for example, or for simple wayfinding?
  • Could these spaces be sold onwards to event sponsors? Does the venue already manage and monetize this space? Can you assist the venue in offering these spaces and assets to event sponsors and receive a finder’s fee or commission?

8. Contracts

Lawyers are paid to write contracts that protect and reflect the best interests of their clients so naturally the venue contract will always be slanted in the venue’s favor. And herein another crucial arrow in the quiver of the contemporary meeting and event planner – you have to have the gimlet eye of an attorney! Be aware, however, from the get-go, that contracts are not written in stone and form an integral part of the entire negotiation game.

Smaller venues may not have a formal contract in which case protect yourself by creating one to cover such key points as – access, dates, rates, spaces, liability, insurance, attrition, cancellation.

Contract law around venue rental can be complex. It’d be inappropriate, maybe even dangerous, to provide any cursory list of dos and don’ts but here are some guiding principles to follow when negotiating contracts with venues:

  • Read the contract carefully and consult your lawyer when and if there’s something you don’t understand
  • Be super-careful with Force Majeure terms
  • Try to mitigate any cancellation charges with a rebooking clause – i.e. if I cancel but rebook for a later date, no cancellation charges are levied
  • Be super-careful with civic, period or state-owned venues where a last-minute state function could bump your event
  • Likewise when hiring stadia be aware that sports fixtures can change if the home team progresses onwards in knockout competitions
  • If you’re an independent event organizer consider getting your client to sign the venue contract directly
  • Try to negotiate a small “goodwill” cash deposit to secure the venue while the event details are being worked out

9. Different Strokes for Different Folks

Amongst the venues that responded to our survey, interestingly, there’s a majority of non-traditional locations – with 32% stating that they work for an “unusual” venue – 29% were from the hotel sector. Non-traditional is the fastest growing sector within the venue space and this, of course, can be attributed to the rise and rise of the sharing economy where “space” in general is seen as something shareable – for work, business or play.

Meetings and events people work in a multiplicity of venues from hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms to sports stadia to private lofts in edgy neighbourhoods! This variety is at the heart of our métier and defines who we are. The negotiation tactics we deploy, therefore, may differ widely from location to location.

Negotiating with Hotels

Most eventprofs are used to working with meeting space in hotels and know what to expect both in terms of the formal contract and, of course, delivery. A core element in the business model of hotels is, of course, meetings and events so they’re set up specifically to do this.

The negotiations usually include variables such as:

  • venue rental
  • AV rental
  • access
  • food and beverage minimums, etc.

Negotiating with Sports Stadia

When it comes to stadia, however, it’s different as their core purpose is to stage very large B2C events such as sporting fixtures or large scale concerts. The meetings and events element is secondary to this core purpose and this impacts on negotiation tactics.

When negotiating with a stadium:

  • look for off-season dates, i.e. when the stadium isn’t busy with match days.
  • ask whether you can have access to different areas, such as the concourse or car park, or even the pitch!
  • can stadium tours be included at lunchtime for those that are interested?
  • For a very large meeting or event consider the food and beverage outlets used on match day for a cheap, quick and quirky “food truck” style lunch.

Negotiating with Private Venues

With private venues, it’s different again. These may be unused boardrooms in a corporation, a photographer’s private studio or a cool and unusual warehouse owned by a hipster.

Get the best rates by:

  • agreeing a price for a set hire period, including all of the setup and teardown time you will need.
  • use one of the sharing economy sites to protect yourself but access cool and quirky spaces.
  • if you book directly the venue owner may not have a formal contract so here you’ll need to negotiate carefully around insurance and indemnification and be reassured the individual isn’t going to change his mind about hosting the event!

10. Accommodation

When running conferences and events, eventprofs often get involved in booking accommodation too. This can be a welcome additional source of revenue but also a major headache unless it has been negotiated carefully up front.

  • While venue space is not universally commissionable, guest room accommodation nearly always is so this is the first item to negotiate on. Most accommodation suppliers will offer 8%, but depending on supply and demand, this can go to 15%, sometimes even 20%. In any negotiation always start at the highest amount!
  • Dealing with accommodation is similar to food and beverage in that the negotiations will always coalesce around numbers, i.e. the number of rooms you book and the attrition and/or cancellation therefrom. However, it’s usual to factor into the room block a certain number of complimentary rooms (1 free for every 25 booked, for example), a number of free upgrades (1 deluxe for every 10 standard, for example) and a number of suites.
  • It’s also customary when negotiating on accommodation to request free site inspection rooms. Some hotels, reasonably, might ask for upfront payment but then agree to deduct all the set-up charges from the final invoice, if the business confirms.
  • As mentioned previously be careful in big convention cities with “resort fees” that are not shown upfront with the quoted room rate. Large resorts often use partitioned pricing or drip pricing techniques to conceal the total room rate, only for it to be revealed when it’s too late. This practice has been the subject of a recent Federal Trade Commission report in the United States and is not condoned by consumer protection groups.

11. Access and Other Easy “Gimmes”

Get-in and get-out times can usually be negotiated easily and advantageously particularly when there are no events happening either side of your meeting. Early or late access is something which can be hugely beneficial to an event planner while often not costing the venue anything at all.

While the venue of the future is likely to have included WiFi in the basic rental fee, additional items such as AV, podia, whiteboards, cloakrooms and coat racks that are in the venue already are usually easy concessions. When the venue has to bring in something from outside it’s different and these items will certainly need to be paid for, so pay attention during your physical site visit to the in-house equipment, take note of what’s in the room and negotiate accordingly.

Our survey responses show unambiguously that event planners deeply resent being nickeled and dimed with dubious “extras” like jugs of iced tap water or extra power sockets, but this resentment can easily be avoided by negotiating these items up-front and not making any assumptions.

12. Piggy-backing

Talk to your venue about putting you in contact with those running events immediately before or after the date(s) you want. You might be able to share production and setup costs and save both of you money. From a venue perspective it also enables more bookings to be taken in a small window.

The end result financially could be that both clients save money and the venue gets two bookings instead of one. Piggy-back situations don’t happen too often but seek them out when negotiating with the venue. Always ask whether there’s another event business in-house with a similar set-up and production requirement to you either before or after your event. If there is it could mean great saving for all concerned.

13. Other Venue Money-Saving Tactics

Sometimes the best way to negotiate with a venue is through networking with other eventprofs. Our survey shows how “word of mouth” is second only to “online search” as the preferred means of sourcing a venue. Find out who else has booked the venue that you’re considering, reach out to them and ask them to share their negotiation successes – what worked for them? How did they get that wonderful deal? What would they do differently if they were using that venue again? Eventprofs are a friendly, open community generally ready to share with others.

Other venue negotiation tactics to consider are:

  • Can you be flexible with your dates? If so perhaps you can work proactively with the venue to identifying off-peak or slow dates in exchange for a super rate? Many modern venues have sophisticated yield management software that’ll predict with precision what rates it can command at the various times of the year. They’ll know exactly the value of key dates in terms of their revenues so maybe approach the venue with alternatives that might fit into the downtimes on their calendars and give you greater bargaining power.
  • Look at the totality of the events business you have and consider whether it’s possible to enter into a Long Term Agreement (LTA) with the venue. If you can double the volume of meetings placed with the venue then you can reasonably expect to qualify for preferred supplier rates or on-going discounts.
  • To make long-term agreements motivational for both you and the venue, why not agree on spend thresholds which qualify you for deeper discounts? The more you buy, the less you pay for it.
  • You’ve found the perfect piece of business for the venue but don’t have the financial muscle to meet the terms and conditions of the venue contract. Talk to the venue and have them share the risk by waiving the deposit schedule.
  • Hotels have had loyalty programmes in place for meetings and event planners for many years but now some venues are following suit. Loyalty programmes offer massive scope for negotiation as points are often considered “marketing” rather than “cost of sales”. This means a venue manager may be able to award points without reducing the overall value of their sale (which, ultimately, would impact on their bonus structure).  

14. The Relationship

Modern venues harness technology across all activities from the delivery of their own marketing and communications, to the execution of the meeting or event itself. But the more technology-driven we become, the more we ultimately rely on the power of human capital. Venues of the future are cutting-edge and use advanced hardware, but the truly smart ones know that without the software of human relationships it’s all empty boxes and loud, meaningless noises.

Again, our survey strongly supports this point – response times and overall customer service (core elements in relationship marketing) are ranked 1 and 2 in relation to the frustrations that events planners experience when dealing with venues while relationship with the sales team is second to rate when it comes to the decision making process.

Venues of the future know the power of human connections and the value of eye contact. They nurture relationships because ultimately people buy from people. Thus your trump card in negotiating with venues of the future will always be the warmth of your smile, the strength of your handshake and the trustworthiness of your word.

Using Technology To Get The Best Venue Deal for Your Event

Researching and booking venues are event industry processes that until recently have been stuck in the dark ages. Unlike the registration and event mobile apps that have revolutionized the landscape, there has not been significant mainstream innovation in the field.

For many planners sourcing where to hold their event is still a manual process. Until now venue finding and contracting has been a lengthy and sometimes painful process too – but with the use of event technology it needn’t (and shouldn’t) be that way.

The Changing Landscape

Event technology can help event planners get a better deal with venues and simplify what has become a very complex process. Eventprofs still using traditional methods could be overlooking some of the advances in technology that can potentially help them to negotiate better outcomes and save them significant time too.

When it comes to venue research and booking, some planners seem to have tried technology once and decided that it can’t help them, which is a dangerous and ill-informed position to take in an industry where technology advances so quickly. If a tool didn’t work for you 2 years ago, or even 12 months ago, it is probably worthwhile investigating new and improved solutions as the landscape and capabilities will probably have changed completely. Advances in this area seem to have really leaped forward in the recent past and hopefully, this pace of innovation will continue.  

The Human Touch

Feedback from many event professionals that completed our research was that they still prefer human interaction and the personal touch when it comes to making venue decisions. Although search engines and online listings are helpful to their research when it comes to booking 90% of planners prefer to do this directly with the venue.

The big news is that there can be a place for both online and offline communication during this process. Using an online tool doesn’t prevent you from picking up the phone or setting up a face-to-face meeting, it can, however, help you weed out the options that aren’t suitable much more quickly so that you can focus your time and efforts on the serious contenders and push towards that winning agreement.   

Here are some practical tips on how technology can help event planners to negotiate more successfully with venues during the research and selection stages and right up until contracts are signed.

RESEARCH STAGE

Online Venue Searches and Marketplaces

If you are looking for new venue inspiration or are researching venue options in a completely new city an online tool can be an efficient way of filtering potential venues that match your criteria, without having to trawl through multiple websites trying to track capacity information, number of rooms, location to the train station and so forth. Some tools immediately allow you to compare side by side the venues which match your criteria.

Pro tip: Be aware that some online marketplaces only feature those that pay to be listed and this can cut out a lot of suitable venues and give biased results. Make sure that you find a tool that is free for venues to be listed and well populated if you want to be shown a fully comprehensive list of matches.

Electronic Request for Proposals (eRFPs)

Good eRFP tools can be a big driver in securing better deals with venues. They can empower eventprofs to negotiate more effectively, get more responses and save valuable time.

Look for tools that:

  • Allow you to input criteria to filter the venues that meet your requirements, e.g. within 30 minutes of a specific airport, main room for 450 cabaret style, 6 breakout rooms for 60 theater style, xxx hotel rooms, spa on site, etc
  • Can pull data from your event management platform to avoid you having to cut and paste or re-enter data. For instance, some tools will import your event schedule and dates if these are already confirmed and entered onto your event management software
  • Enable you to give specific and detailed information in terms of the rooms, layout, numbers, timings, venue access requirements, and so forth. Some tools force venues to acknowledge all comments and information before they can put together a quote
  • Specify the explicit terms you are looking for, e.g. 1 free hotel room per xx rooms, xx VIP transfers from the airport, xx suite upgrades, free WiFi, etc. Some platforms allow you to set standard company concessions to standardize the deals requested across all projects – ensuring consistency among planning teams. Technology can also show the values of these concessions to help planners better gauge the overall package quoted from venues
  • Offer a currency conversion and calculate the taxes and charges you should expect from different properties to give a full overview
  • Set a final response date. Responding via eRFP can often cut down the response preparation time from the venue side and should ensure that they have detailed information from the planner to allow them to quote accurately, so often you can expect a faster response if you are using a good online RFP tool
  • Allow you to shortlist suitable venues. Narrowing down your list motivates the salesperson in two ways: 1) less competition, and 2) knowing the planner has a legitimate interest in their property. You can then put your selected properties to work with more details about the meeting to include concession requests, addendums, etc
  • The eRFP can be copied to the brand’s Global Sales Manager for that group if you wish to flag the opportunity to them also

62% of the eventprofs that responded to our survey are not yet using eRFPs, although 35% are considering it within the next 12 months. Of those that do use eRFPs though 59% believe that it helps them to negotiate better deals. The main benefits listed for using eRFPs are:

  • Faster turnaround and responses
  • Gets the answers you need
  • Easier to compare the offerings, via a standardized format
  • Quicker to analyze and request modifications
  • Stores all sourcing details in one place for future reference
  • Fewer errors
  • Better deals offered
  • Share real-time data with your client or boss, without spending hours manipulating the information
  • Easier reporting of the deal and discounts you have secured

 

Good eRFP tools can help with the biggest frustrations event planners have when negotiating with venues, particularly slow response times, not receiving enough information, not being transparent enough and not taking into account past bookings.

Online RFP tools can also help with some of the biggest frustrations venues have when negotiating with event planners including event planners not giving enough information and not keeping venues informed.

Any tool which saves time and makes the process better for both the event planner and the venue is likely to enable better deals to be agreed.

The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy has shaken up the venue and accommodation landscape giving access to unique properties, great value deals, home comforts and something truly unique. More than ever event planners are aware of the multiple options available and how far their budget will go, with pricing information often available freely on the various sites. Eventprofs are using this to their advantage by checking out the hourly hire rate and what is included from nonconventional venue hires and also comparing the average Airbnb rental price versus the best accommodation rates offered by local hotels.

This information can be used strategically to the advantage of the organizer, giving more power to leverage the negotiation process and get the best deal:

  • Find unused space within both conventional and non-purpose-built venues during non-peak hours and for short-term hires where literally a couple of hours are all that is needed. Understandably a venue wants to protect its revenues and make the most profitable use of their space but a planner organizing a morning networking event doesn’t want to pay a full day hire charge. Having spaces sitting empty benefits no one so these matching services can be mutually beneficial for both the venue and the event planner.
  • A huge chunk of the event budget can be swallowed up on the production and infrastructure costs, creating impressive stage sets and audiovisual effects doesn’t come cheap. Think about how much you could save if you could share these costs back to back with another event, keeping the basic set up the same but switching the branding and effects to match the vision of each individual event.  
  • Tools are available online to help match event projects but it is also worth discussing this directly with the venues you are negotiating with to see if there is any synergy for two similar events to piggyback off each other. No time is lost for the load in and load out in between the two events, slashing labor costs and access charges for early morning and late night setup, and sharing the cost of the logistics, production, AV, staging and labor within one venue.

Date Scheduling Services

Technology tools exist to share global calendars showing international and local public, religious and school holidays and dates to avoid in the country or city you are considering. From a negotiating point of view this can be important to identify clashes and conflicts, but also to help inform quieter periods, during which time venues may be able to offer greater discounts and incentives.

Within some venue finding platforms, you can also integrate your company calendar to ensure no internal diary clashes for the dates you are considering. If you are open and flexible with your dates this is an easy way to check alternatives potential venues can offer for better bargaining power.

3D Tours

Site visits are important but it isn’t always possible to visit venues in person when you need to, particularly if the venues are a good distance away, or perhaps in another country. 3D tours of venues offer a 360-degree perspective to make better-informed decisions or enable you to ask more probing questions based on what you see. These tools are handy as they are accessible 24 hours a day and enable you to focus on the rooms or specifics that you want to zoom in on. Your clients or boss can also get a better insight, rather than relying on pictures and verbal feedback.

Only 13% of the survey respondents had used virtual or 3D venue tours to help them source venues but this is set to rise as we continue to see investment in this area.

Bespoke Site Inspections

Technology is emerging which allows bespoke site inspections to take place over WiFi. Unlike a pre-recorded or programmed 3D Tour some venues will now pop on a head camera and walk through the venue and talk you through the space, as if you were there in person with the Sales Manager for a site visit. You can experience a personalized live video experience without leaving your desk, directing the questions and seeing the venue first hand, almost as if you were there.  

Virtual Reality

Some venues have invested in Virtual Reality technology that allows you to view different setup options and production within the different rooms and spaces of the venue. Tools which allow you to “walk” the corridors and areas between the event rooms can be very revealing and can help you identify questions to be asked or areas you should negotiate more closely with the venue.

SELECTION STAGE

Selection Via eRFPs

Many planners in the survey explained that they use an online tool when researching venues only and not for the rest of the negotiation process. To get the best deals we would recommend using a suitable eRFP tool right through to the contracting stage.

Find an eRFP tool that enables you to:

  • Calculate the total venue and F&B expenditure, as well as taxes and charges
  • Review and report on the savings negotiated with the venue
  • Show accommodation available within the same venue or split room blocks with properties nearby. This is particularly important for large events in Europe where hotel venues are often smaller than in the US so accommodation may have to be across 2 or more hotels
  • Store past booking data and/or rates offered for previous inquiries
  • Compare the final deal offered and if the business went ahead (or identify what the sticking points were for that specific project)
  • Check if there are other quotes and communications with this venue active at the current time which may add extra bargaining power or enable them to match a current offer on the table
  • View colleagues that have used the venue before so that you can find information first hand
  • Read reviews and notes other planners have submitted relating to the venue
  • Rank the venue options in terms of preference and favorite those that are of particular interest
  • Share progress with colleagues by highlighting the stage that the booking is at and updating when it is confirmed

Many eRFP tools are free for the event organizer to use and take a commission from the final booking when the business is confirmed.

Automated Quotes and Online Venue Booking

Some venues and platforms offer automated quotes and allow bookings to be made online in real-time, without any human interaction. For small, simple and budget limited events options like these can work just fine and help to keep prices low, particularly if you know the space already or at times when you are looking for practicality over style.

Perhaps, in the future, we will see more computerized space management systems that allow venues to publish their available space, dates and rates and facilitate direct bookings without a middleman? With the complexities and intricacies of most event projects, the peace of mind of a robust eRFP process, backed up by questions and conversations is needed to reassure event planners they are getting the best deal and the best venue to match their criteria.

Online Venue Reviews

Online reviews and ratings of venues from event planners that have used them can be extremely insightful in terms of flagging things to be aware of and areas for potential negotiation. Our survey highlighted how important personal recommendations are so online feedback can help reassure or warn an event planner before making a big financial commitment to use a venue.

Confirmation via eRFPs

One huge frustration flagged by event planners is that promises are made by the sales team during the negotiation process but then not honored by the operations team. An eRFP tool can help with this by:

  • Allowing you to confirm your expectations and terms right from the initial inquiry stage
  • Keeping track of all negotiation discussions and revised proposals submitted
  • Use the final agreed terms to create the final contract

Electronic contracts are also becoming more common and are legally binding and faster than signing and returning a traditional paper contract.

Some eRFP tools are integrated with event management software and so when contracts are signed it allows you to pull data from the eRFP into the registration site and saves you having to re-enter dates, venue address, room details, event agenda and so forth, making it quicker to get event tickets on sale.

Free Download: Tactics For Better Venue Negotiation – A Quick Reference List for Event Planners

7. Important Questions to Clarify with the Venue BEFORE You Sign a Contract

Thinking about the million and one details that go into every event can be exhausting. Have you ever thought “I wish I had checked that with the venue earlier”? We have put together a handy checklist of important questions to take along and ask the venue at your site inspection to ensure that you know all the answers from a venue perspective and can effectively plan your event.

Perhaps the most important gauge of a forward-thinking venue is how flexible and accommodating they are. If there is a problem or if something doesn’t quite work for your event you need to count on their venue expertise and knowledge to find a solution or workaround. Questioning and putting the venue under pressure face-to-face can be a good indicator of how problems will be resolved on the day of the live event.

Click here to download your free Event Planning Venue Checklist to check you have asked the venue all the right questions before signing the contract.

In Conclusion

Reading this post, we hope that you are ready to make the best venue choices for your event and are feeling confident for ways to negotiate better with your shortlisted venues to get the best possible deal.

Now onto you:

  • Do you have a tip to make this page better or want to use any of the statistics? Send an email to contact@eventmanagerblog.com.
  • Do you have more tips and advice to add about selecting venues and negotiating? Comment below.
  • Do you have a colleague who may benefit from reading this page? Share it with them.
About The Author
Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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