Are you breaking into a sweat and having sleepless nights over organising your company's Christmas Party or Annual Conference? Or are you a cool as a cucumber seasoned pro knocking out huge international congresses or the Olympics, or just in it for a laugh and to sort your mate's hen party or your sons first birthday?
Well, you still need to know how to pick the right venue for the occasion, how not to get ripped off and how to make the most of what you've got, so here's some killer tips!
1) Understand your brief
This is essential, although all of the above events need a venue; they are uniquely different from each other. Whether it's for you, your friend, your boss or your client, ask lots of questions and really try and understand what the vision for the event is.
The right venue will depend on who is going to the event and will create or kill the vibe instantly. So ask, who is the audience, how old are they, male/female ratio. How accessible does it need to be for the people attending, does it need to be near public transport links or are people driving. Do they want historic, romantic castle, slick modern hotel, or an underground secret venue? How important is technology? Do they need free wifi for all? Is there a phone signal?
Question the basics and understand capacities, when they say they want a venue for 200 people do they really mean 500 or 50 if they're lucky. Do you need syndicate rooms? Does it need to be licensed? Do you want catering? If so what kind? Do you need AV and staging? Do they want it themed or minimal?
This is the most important part of the whole process, because if you get this wrong, you're going to waste a lot of time and effort and not come up with the right goods. For example it's all very well enthusiastically bestowing the virtues of the white walled, uber cool, minimalist venue that serves 'Bolly and Blinis', with a great view, but if your client/boss/husband to be is expecting a night of beer swilling in medieval costume in an ancient Welsh castle, you're not going to hit the mark.
Of course, sometimes you/they don't know what you want and they/you need to be inspired. So you may well have to come up with some options. But be clear about possibilities and restrictions and what kind of event the venue would be ideal for.
2) See for yourself
Where possible always go and see the venue. Good venue finders have an encyclopaedic knowledge of venues and have lots of experience of organising events in them, but you need to see for yourself and they can't have been everywhere even if they've been doing it a long time. A venue brochure will not tell you everything and can sometimes be misleading. If it's possible go and see it for yourself and if you can take a friend who is an event manager, bonus. If not take photos and ask questions. Also you need to see if you're going to click with the venue manager. Good venue managers will make your event run smoothly and seamlessly even if challenges present themselves. You don't need absent/ panicky venue managers who will make your event even more stressful.
You also need them to be flexible. So if you need to set up through the night before the first day, or bring in heavy equipment in through the back door, or your numbers suddenly increase/drop, you need helpful positive people to be around you. So good rapport from the off helps. You also need to be aware that the lovely sales person who has been utterly charming to date, will not be seen for dust once you sign the contract, so you need to ask to meet the operation manager that will be handling your event.
3) What's hot and what's not
Don't settle for the first venue that can meet all your requirements, be brave and explore your options. Good venue experts will be able to get you into places you never dreamed possible, like exclusive private roof top terraces with drop dead views, or secret crypts under cathedrals, or disused buildings or tunnels, or the coolest bar/ hotel in town that you thought was out of your price range.
If you're using a venue finder they should be doing this for you, if you're doing the searching yourself, then negotiate hard and then do it some more. Hotels and venues work on rack rates, which are designed to be flexible and they will try and get as much money as possible, because that's their job, especially on peak dates. So haggle on price, minimum numbers, the amount of bedrooms you're tied into on the contract. Make sure you can set up in plenty of time and have access, if you're providing your own wine or bringing in your own preferred caterer, negotiate on corkage charges. It all adds up and you'll be surprised how much money you can save.
5) Use the local Destination Management Company
Wherever you are holding your event, in whichever venue, there will be a local destination management company/tourist board that cover the area and you would be wise to tap into their expertise. They can give you good advise about what to do in the area for your delegates/guests. Most have a convention bureau that will kick off your search with a free venue finding service. They will know the best AV companies, taxis, caterers, tour guides and they will know all the information you need about travelling to the venue. Good Destination Companies have event experts on hand to take a great deal of pain out of organising your event for you and it's usually all for free!
Happy Venue Finding!
If you need help finding a venue we offer a free venue finding service at Moonface Marketing and we offer a full event management service, so let us help:
Contact Emma today: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07790049211