16 Simple Tips to Help You Pick the Right Event Venue

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Phoenix Convention Center
Phoenix Convention Center at night.

The right venue is key to the success of any event. Finding the right space should be easy, once you know exactly what you need. Having a list of requirements doesn’t only streamline your selection process, but it also helps you stay within your budget.

You want your event venue to be a perfect fit, physically and monetarily. Striking a balance between the two can be easy with proper planning and execution.

Here’s a list of 16 tips to help you with the planning and execution of a successful event venue search:

1. Get your accommodation requirements straight

Once you know these, you can look for the best venue deal that will meet your needs. You can also check for added attractions — proximity to public transportation and local attractions.

2. Be clear about the details of your budget

List all of your venue expenses. This should include the costs of the facility, catering, equipment rentals, office services, guarantees and payment options. You also want to know what complimentary services the venue offers.

3. Consider your alternatives

If attendees are traveling from different areas, consider alternative venue sites that are cost friendly. For example, if you were originally planning to hold your event in Los Angeles, consider outlying areas like Irvine or Ontario for venues that will meet your requirements and provide exquisite service. This can save you hundreds of dollars. To facilitate research check out Cvent’s Supplier Network (venue listings). You’ll find comparative venue listings in specific cities and regions in the U.S. and outlying areas, including price comparisons on room rates, food costs, transportation options and weather forecasts, among others.

4. Factor in transportation

Will it help if your venue is close to an airport? Will your conference have off-site activities? In the latter case, try to keep things near the venue site. This will save on transportation expense and travel time for attendees.

5. Consider unique venues

Rates are much lower at unique venues like a new museum, an aquarium, an art gallery, a public garden or a restaurant. Chances are attendees will be drawn by the novelty of the venue.

6. Make a short list of venue options

Send out requests for proposals to the venues you listed. Include all your requirements (food, beverage, equipment, conference and room accommodations, etc.) in your request so the proposals they send are precise. This saves you time when you examine the proposals they send you.

7. Show them what you’re worth

You have a better chance in negotiating rates and getting concessions if the venue sales manager sees that your event can lead to future business. Show him your track record — past events you’ve held, number of registrants per event and room nights booked. This will give you a leg up on negotiating room rates, catering costs and contract terms that you may not be comfortable with.

8. Be flexible

If you can hold your event during the off season, you can get a better deal. Rental costs for meeting rooms and guest rooms are much lower. Provide alternative dates to your short-listed venues, and ask if they can recommend additional off-season dates that may work for you. Also, if you’re holding an annual event, consider booking the venue for a number of years. This will encourage the sales manager to give you a better price.

9. Examine payment options

Know each venue’s terms for deposit and final payment. Ask about policies regarding cancellation, change of date (perhaps due to weather), and last-minute changes. The more flexible a venue is with payment options, the better. No event planner wants to have to do any of the above, but it helps to know in advance, just in case. For example, in the 11th hour a group of attendees may not be able to fly over due to inclement weather, forcing you to alter your head count.

Large venues offer lines of credit to qualified events based on the previous record of events. If you do not qualify for the line of credit you might be subject to a full payment prior to the event taking place.

10. Examine venue catering

If you’re considering in-house catering, examine the venue’s detailed menu and serving options. View the full service kitchen operations, and meet the executive chef. Have a taste test of the menu they are offering.

11. Ask if you can source other suppliers

The venue may have preferred suppliers for catering and equipment, but oftentimes the rates are premium. Sourcing your own vendors can save you money.

12. Inquire about amenities

Clarify with the sales manager venue policies regarding important amenities such as display of signage, banners and direction signs; availability of information desks; shipping and receiving services; any restrictions on event information displays; business centers and list of costs; and house phones inside the meeting rooms.

13. Examine add on costs

If your short-listed venue prices are extremely close, examine the breakdowns. Some venues will have a lot of “add on” costs which can drive the final cost much higher than what is listed. Make sure that the price that is quoted includes all of your requirements. Many venues quote a price without including the charges that will be added for catering and beverages, for example.

14. Time is money

When you’re examining the breakdowns of quoted costs per venue, be sure to have a clear idea of the services that will go with it. If one venue will provide more services, but charges a little bit more, it might in the end be a money-saver for you if you already have a lot of work to do and could use the added help.

15. Check out the venue

Does the venue feel right? Does it have the right character for your event’s theme? What about parking and disability access? Is there adequate staffing? Examine details  — carpet, decor, draperies, room size and flexibility in accommodating tables and layout changes. Check out the lighting, location of restrooms and medical access. Also, make sure that the area is far away from potential distractions like noise in the halls or clutter in the venue kitchen.

16. Check out the facilities

Make sure the equipment you need is available. This may include microphones (and microphone stands), access to high-speed Internet, white boards (including supplies and easels), outlets (and locations per room), LCD projectors, remotes, adequate-sized screens and flat TV screens, among others.

Photo by Alan Stark

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Mona Gonzalez
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez is a veteran writer, book and magazine editor, and columnist in her country, the Philippines. She has also contributed articles to regional and some international publications. She has ghostwritten several books and contributed to the book, Faces of the New Millennium. She edited case studies for the 2015 APEC Foundation and made six page summaries per case study. She and her husband Ed have done marketing and publicity for select clients, and media coverage for events. Mona has written for several online publications and she has a blog, The Philippine Consumerist, and another blog with her husband Ed, The Euthymic Dog, which is about their shared passion for animals and the environment.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I like your tip on asking about hiring other suppliers when looking for a venue. It seems that if you’re up front about hiring outside caterers and such would save quite a bit of money. My wife is planning a get away for her employees, I’ll have to tell her about this before she decides on the location. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I really love your comment about checking whether a venue is close to an airport or other means of public transportation. I can definitely see why you would want to make sure that your attendees could get to your event. I would imagine that it couldn’t hurt to check out the parking of venues as well, to make sure that there will be adequate space for anyone who would be driving to attend.

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