Step 7 – Finally! The part where your creative prowess can kick into full swing. Now you will see why we did all that preliminary preparation as you wave farewell to the admin (which I actually quite enjoy but rarely admit to) and enjoy some time designing and ‘playing around’ (professionally, of course!). Now you can look back on all your hard work planning and start building out the fun stuff.
Finding and Booking a Venue should absolutely be included in your task list, and accounted for in your budgeting and timings. Remember you will need to pay to travel to the locations and check them out first hand… This is not something you can only do on the internet, so if you do have a venue in mind, make sure you can afford (and budget for) the expense getting there will cost you. If you’re thinking of hosting an event in a far off land, it is vital that you visit to make sure you are getting exactly what you pay for – there can be some nasty surprises without taking time for a site visit… and pictures can be outdated! The location may not be as nearby local amenities as they had previously confirmed, and you may find the accommodation is below the expected standard. Take a camera with you and if you fall head over heels with the location and the internal decorations are hideous, make one of the stipulations of booking the venue that they must make adjustments to the site. Sure, this may cost you some extra money to achieve, and thats something you will need to weigh up when you visit other options on your list of locations. Don’t settle for second best – your attention to detail is what the guests will also see!
Where to start before a site visit
- Use your theme as a guiding light – for example, if you’re thinking of a medieval banquet for a seasonal event, a logical venue would be a castle or campfire outdoor event. Start seeing your venue aligned to your theme, and this will take you in the direction of your venue
- Write a list of possible locations – don’t start researching specific venues yet. Going back to your task list, write it all down and go back to the finer details later. Once you have your final list, start stripping it of unlikely scenarios. When I talk of possible locations, I mean indoor, outdoor, building type, decorations, etc.
- Confirm the travel distance for you and your guests – If you go with the castle theme, there are a surprisingly large number across the UK that will welcome your event. The real question is, if you live in the South of England, can you get to the North of Scotland for this event? Can your guests? Remember to be realistic about who you want to attend and how they would be expected to get there. That’s not to say people won’t travel, but older guests may struggle with flights and car journeys. If this is the case, look for a more local venue.
- Research the type of location you have chosen – You’ve now got a solid list of what type of venue and where you want to host it. Now you can start researching what’s available. I said you can’t do everything on the internet, but there is a great deal that can be found using Trip Advisors, Expedias, Last Minute, etc. Even travel agencies and specialised websites can help you find the best location and deal based on your search terms. Do your research early and find something that is as closely aligned to your vision as possible. That said, do not expect to find your dream location with everything considered – you may be too far away or not have the budget. You may even find that the venue you thought was your dream location actually fell short of your second or third option. Don’t put so much pressure on finding the one perfect place – you can always dress up the venue later to match what you’re looking for
- Create a list of 3-5 venues – having more than one option to visit will really cut down on many ‘back to the drawing board’ moments. Having a list of several venues in close proximity, and 1 hour visit each, you’ve only spent one day finding the right one.
- Make sure they have your preferred date available – before you set off to check out the goods, make sure they can accommodate your event date. If you have no flexibility on event date, this will save you a lot of time later. If you do have flexibility, make sure they can accommodate as close to your event as possible. It’s best to get the availability out of the way before you visit and fall in love with the ‘perfect’ location. You’re on a time limit, and if they can’t accommodate, don’t stress about visiting.
- Visit the locations – Visiting helps you see what you are paying for, and how much cost there could be to update the decorations. Check out the carpet (one of my bug bares of corporate venues is the whacky carpet designs), maintenance of the paint work, damp check the ceiling!
- Don’t agree to the venue that same day – if you love it that day and they have availability, fantastic! However, you will want to take some time to think about cost, location and local amenities. Get your affairs in order before making an agreement. Don’t take too long to book the best, as you may find someone else gets in before you. Do take your time to really decide if it’s got everything you need at the cheapest possible price.
- Negotiate – If you’re hosting an event with multiple people who will be travelling in and need accommodation, and this is a service your venue can provide, see whether you can get a reduced cost on the venue in exchange for a guaranteed number of room bookings. Alternatively, if you’re going to host follow up meetings with your team or other events with them, see whether they have a loyalty discount. You may need to spend more money to get a discounted cost for the day, but loyalty schemes can really help you maintain great relationships with vendors and save you money in the long run! Never discredit the value of loyalty and guaranteed additional business – this will keep your costs down, but you will also be obligated to hold your end of the bargain up.
- Get it all in writing – Agreements in person before a contract is signed are very difficult to uphold and the two parties in agreement may forget what was agreed. After you meeting with the venue, if you have come to an agreement following negotiations, make sure you write an email to your contact with everything discussed – and get a quote! Some things to include in your follow up email:
- Date availability and guarantee to hold the space for a number of days while you consider the options
- Amount of accommodations you would like to hold
- Discount for the accommodations agreed, and any other discounts / promises you will hold up
- Number of guests who will be attending at each stage
- Other costs mentioned
- ‘Please provide a final quote so I may better make a decision on using your appreciated services for this event’
- Review the quote and update expected budget details – going to visit these locations and breathing the excitement of possibility is truly an enjoyable stage of event planning, but do not ignore your responsibilities too… I know, I said farewell to admin, but you still need to track the conversations and costs before making a decision.
What kind of websites or methods do you use when researching venues, and how do you track conversations? Is there another way you would manage booking a venue? Leave some of your best tips and tricks in the comments!