This is a guest post from George Taylor, Director of Creative Industry United and Chief Organiser of the successful event brand ‘Strictly Go Networking’. You can follow his page on twitter @CIULondon or connect with him on LinkedIn.
The events industry can be challenging at times as there are so many things to consider.
How do you market your event to your target audience? How do you find the right sponsors and how do you pitch successfully to those sponsors? What public speakers do you go with?
But one of the most challenging parts of all can be picking the right venue. Given it can be the biggest cost in your entire budget, getting it right is critically important.
In this post we’ll talk specifically about how you can find that perfect venue for your next event, and dial down the associated stress along the way.
Where to Start
There are a number of ways you can source great venues online.
Most venues utilise Twitter and Social Media so this is a great place to start. I have found some astonishing places on Twitter but I mainly use listing sites which you can find on Google.
You could also try using a venue sourcing agency but often they charge a commission fee per booking so I would suggest being proactive by finding 5-10 listing sites in your local area instead. Flick through those sites and find spaces that not only look good but can offer you the right sized space, not to mention any equipment you may need.
Some websites such as Square Meal have detailed search options which can really help, but if you are on a strict deadline then a sourcing agency can get the job done for you in minutes, but you must be prepared to pay a fee for this service (although on occasion they may be able to waive the fee).
Capacity, Functionality and Location
Before considering making contact with any venues, it is important to establish what size space is needed. An important rule to remember is that it is better to pick a slightly larger venue than one which is too small. Play it safe and avoid being sorry later. Also, work out exactly what equipment you require and find out if the venues you are looking at can provide you with that service.
My advice is to go out of your way to avoid sourcing additional equipment in as this will cost extra. If you put in some extensive research you will be able to find a place that can give you everything you need under one roof without paying additional hire fees, even if this means waiting a little bit longer for that right deal to come along.
Are you organising a cabaret style sit-down dinner or are you organising a stand up networking event with a projector? Once you have established exactly what it is you need, write up a generic email that you can send out to prospective venues in abundance like this:
I am organising a networking event for 200 people (standing). It will be a cash bar and I require a projector, mic and a space that is large enough to cater for this many people without it being awkward for them to see the projector.
Is this something you can offer me? Do you have a space that can cater for this?
If so, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org’
Get into the habit of tracking your progress on Excel with every venue that you speak to. This way you can come back to any venues you liked at a later date even if you don’t use them now. You will also build up a useful database this way.
If a venue does comes back saying, ‘yes we can offer all of this,’ then the next stage is to ask about the price.
Most venues will charge an upfront hire fee or they’ll offer the venue out on a minimum bar spend. The trick is to work on an average of £10 per person unless it is a drinking-based event or includes catering where this spend will naturally increase. But for a basic networking event with just drinks, £10 is fair and it will minimise your risk. Does the bar spend exceed this? If so, you may have to look elsewhere. If the bar spend isn’t reached by the end of the night, it will come out of your profits. I’ve been there and it isn’t nice so try and play it safe! Keep your risk low.
However, if you are organising a client event and you have been given a set budget where you are happy to pay an upfront hire fee then the same rule applies. Can the venue cover all of your costs (including equipment, drink and food) for your budget? If so, the next step is to shop around for a bargain and take image and feel into consideration as this will help to solidify your decision.
Get the Information First
Rule number one. Establish all pricings and breakdowns before you go and see the venue.
Build up a list of places that fit within your criteria so you can plan a day of sight-seeing which will save you time, money and speed up the process. Don’t just see places for the sake of it. I used to do this and wasted hours of my life only to get there and find out they were too small or too expensive. Get the information first.
Follow Your Instincts & Get It Right
Following your instincts is really important in your search. Even if you have seen 5-6 places that fit your criteria, you must let your heart speak. Can you visualise the event happening in this space? Are you drawn to any particular venues? What I have found is that I normally know the right venue from the moment I walk in and I have already made my mind up within a few seconds. The more you do this, the better you will get at judging your instincts.
On a finishing note, always look from your customer’s perspective. How would you feel if you paid to go to an event which was held in an inappropriate venue? Would you go back? Probably not. And if you are unhappy, the search will continue even after the event is over. Strive for that long-term solution. Not only will this make your life easier and create a ‘homely’ feeling to your regular events, but it will allow you to get it right time and time again and free yourself from future hassle.
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