Venue costs represent a sizeable chunk of your event budget… if only there was a way to cut them down without making sacrifices. There is! These 10 top tips will help you negotiate a better deal with venues.

Learn how to get discounts and value-adds that will make your chosen venue both more affordable and better value for money.

Negotiating like a pro could save you thousands of pounds so never book a venue again without deploying these canny tactics.

Related: 8 Questions you must ask an event venue before signing

1. Tell the venue your budget

It might feel counterintuitive to put your cards on the table at the beginning of the game, but starting negotiations by stating what you have (or want) to spend can actually prove beneficial. Ordinarily, a venue would respond to an enquiry by providing their “rack rate” figures and you’d need to negotiate down from there. This way – if they want your business – it’s down to them to either meet your budget or negotiate upwards with you.

You can gain trust and respect by being honest and treating venue managers as partners rather than simply playing hardball. By asking for their help, explaining the cost restrictions you’re operating with but expressing your keen desire to work with the venue, they’re more likely to try to accommodate you. However, don’t alienate them with a budget so low they’ll dismiss you out of the gate – be realistic!

2. Prove your worth

If you’ve held an event before, you have a track record that can help you negotiate. It enables you to show (hopefully!) that you’ve run a successful event, give details of the numbers that attended and how much was spent on food and beverage and any ancillary items.

If you can prove the value of your event to the venue, they’re more likely to want to secure your business. Equally, if you can show you have a good understanding of the number of guests you will realistically attract, that will give the venue manager more confidence that your event will have a low rate of attrition (and therefore provide the forecasted revenue).

3. Choose a venue that resonates with your event

You might be surprised to learn that venues have preferences for the types of events they host. Venues often have a mandate for supporting particular genres, areas of industry or sections of society. Perhaps it’s arts events, live music, science and technology events or community-based events? Gain a better understanding of what the venue wishes to align itself with by reading their corporate materials and looking at the events already taking place.

Does your event suit the venue’s image? If not, maybe consider another location, as they’re unlikely to go to special lengths for your business. If it does, on the other hand, then be sure to explain in your opening conversation why you think you’re a good match.

4. Be as flexible as possible about date and time

All venues have periods of high and low demand and the trick is to use this to your advantage. Of course, if you’re hosting an after work drinks reception you won’t be able to do that on a Sunday morning, but do try to be flexible and open-minded. Would turning your event into a breakfast gathering have a negative impact or could it actually be a good thing?

If you can, provide the venue with a number of dates that will open up options. Even better, you can ask the venue to tell you what dates on their calendar they want to fill. If you’re willing to take a last minute slot you may be able to benefit from a cancellation. Just be sure to leave yourself enough time to adequately promote your event.

5. Leverage food and beverage spend to negotiate free space

If your event entails budget for food and drinks, this gives you good leverage for negotiation. Suggest that they either don’t charge for the event space or offer you a healthy discount. Lots of venues operate on this basis anyway, offering free space providing the minimum spend on food and drinks is met.

Even if you’re not supplying refreshments as part of your event, you might still be able to take advantage of this arrangement if you expect your attendees to spend on drinks at the bar. Book a space where bar spend will be taken into consideration. Some have surprisingly low minimum spends, easily met if you have enough guests attending.

6. Be strategic as to when you sign the contract 

Venue managers, like any sales staff, have targets to meet. As such, they will be keener to do deals at certain times. For example, they’ll be less likely to discount at the beginning of a fresh month or quarter when they have lots of potential sales ahead of them.

However, if it is nearing the end of the month or quarter (depending on when their targets are set) and they haven’t secured enough business to meet their quotas, they will be more open to reducing their rates. Don’t be shy about asking if they can do you a deal for signing before the end of the month.

7. Cut food and beverage costs by joining forces

There are lots of ways you can reduce food and beverage costs (from having a buffet to serving tap water), but menu sharing is one worth considering from the start. Look at what other events are taking place in the venue on the same day as yours and see if you could join forces.

Using the same menu as the other event can help you negotiate lower costs because it streamlines operations for the kitchen. You might even want to talk to the organisers of the other event to discuss sharing infrastructure, such as staging. Showslice is a platform that exists to help you do just that.

8. Bring in your own staff

It might be possible to reduce your venue fees by bringing in your own people to perform tasks the venue would normally charge for. This could be setting up the room, serving refreshments, manning the cloakroom or managing the registration desk.

Clarify what you and your staff can and can’t do – some venues will be more flexible than others. If you have a team of people you’re already paying, it makes sense to deploy them where possible to reduce overheads.

9. Book multiple events 

If you host regular events, you can use the potential of repeat business as buying power. Venues will be more likely to cut you a deal if they know it’s not a one-off. You could agree to host some or all of your yearly events in a single venue or with one venue brand to significantly increase the worth of your business.

If you don’t host events frequently, but have one that runs annually, such as an awards event or exhibition, you could offer to sign for multiple years. Making a long-term commitment to a venue helps build a relationship that should lead to them going the extra mile for you.

10. Sweeten the deal by offering something to the venue

Finally, it’s not all about what the venue can offer you; if you can give them something in return it could make working with you more attractive. Consider whether you could offer them products or services in kind.

If not, can you help promote their venue by creating marketing opportunities? If your audience is the type they want to attract (see point 3), maybe they’d appreciate the chance to make a short presentation or have an exhibition stand? If you can establish a mutually beneficial partnership with your venue, they’ll be incentivised to work with you.

Conclusion

Negotiating can be daunting, but remember that all venues will have wriggle room one way or another. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Try to avoid approaching it purely as a haggling process though; instead, build a relationship that will make the venue manager want to give you the best deal.