One of the most critical decisions an event planner is responsible for making is picking the ideal venue for an event. Finding a venue that is available at the right time and the right price involves more than just negotiating a competitive room rate — you also have to factor in the meeting space, food and beverage rates, and other costs. Event organisers are constantly looking for a city or venue to host their next event that’s easily accessible and falls within their budget. With so many details to keep in mind and so many hotels and venues competing to attract the MICE business, the selection process can be daunting. Which is why an effective venue sourcing process becomes essential to ensure the success of your next conference, meeting or trade show.
As already mentioned, there are several things to consider when making a decision about the event venue. From location, venue costs and other charges to services included, relevance to your event and proximity to local attractions — all are important aspects. Here are some of the things to consider before finalising the venue for your next big conference, meeting or incentive.
Choose the Right Location
The first and foremost step is to find the right location to host your event in. Usually, when you come across an attractive destination, you are keen to conduct your next event there. But will your attendees also prefer that location? Make sure to match your chosen destination with the attendee needs. Is there a price-sensitivity threshold for event attendees? Conduct a survey to gather relevant information and get answers to all these questions. Check the destination’s appeal by considering the distance of the hotel from the airport, its proximity to restaurants and nearby attractions, and weather conditions of the location. Step into both the attendee’s as well as other planners’ shoes before confirming the destination. There is no denying that a desirable location will surely increase the overall attendance of your event.
Tools like Cvent Supplier Network are designed to help event organisers find the perfect destination effortlessly and transform the entire venue sourcing process. Such a tool not only provides access to a large and up-to-date database of venues and destinations, it also lets one easily filter and compare them, and provides the functionality to manage the RFP process.
Map the Venue Size & Capacity
Once you have decided on the event destination, the next important step is to pick a venue that can offer the total meeting space required for your event. For that, it is critical to understand your meeting objectives and requirements. How many functional rooms and breakout rooms will you need? Will you want to host your event in an open or a closed function space? Make sure attendees have comfortable seating available throughout the sessions and also have a space to relax between sessions. Find out the maximum number of people the venue can accommodate and if there are enough sleeping rooms available for those who would want to spend the night at the venue.
When thinking about the venue capacity, it is equally important to keep a check on the physical size of the venue. How big does the space feel? Is it cozy and comfortable? And more importantly, will your event attendees be able to move freely through the venue space without any hindrances?
It is imperative to examine and compare the venue layout. Two venues with the exact same maximum capacity might provide an entirely different experience due to the room layout. Make sure to get an illustrated floor plan of each venue and walk through your favourites at least once before narrowing down your selection. The venue also needs to match the tone of the event, leaving a memorable impression on attendees.
Power Your Event with Technology
It shouldn’t surprise you by now that the answer to the cumbersome problem that is venue sourcing is quite simple — event technology. Most event technology providers offer tools that make venue sourcing so much easier — they provide a searchable database of venues, allow you to compare them side-by-side, create and send out RFPs easily, and set up your onsite visits. Technology also plays a vital role in enhancing the stay for the attendee, ultimately helping in creating exceptional in-event experiences. Every day, new technology is disrupting the way events are managed and experienced. Case in point, the introduction of VR technology has made site inspections a super easy affair by making virtual tours a reality.
Leveraging technological solutions not only help you save your time and be more productive, they make the entire event planning lifecycle easier. But to ensure absolute success of your event, it is of utmost importance to confirm whether the chosen venue also meets the technology requirements. We are living in a world that is more connected than ever, therefore having fast Wi-Fi speed at the venue is more of a necessity than a requirement to support the productivity of your event. Your venue should also be able to provide services such as video conferencing facilities and social media packages. Organisers who offer these things will undoubtedly see a spike in attendance.
World-Class Services and Amenities
Attendees today continue to become more and more sophisticated and expect planners to satisfy their senses. Ensure the venue delivers quality services and amenities that fit with your attendees’ needs, so that they appreciate the event better.
Food & Beverage
Food and beverage can make or break the attendee experience. Always ask questions like: Are the catering services up to the mark? Will the food match the taste of your attendees? Event attendees expect their taste buds to be delighted at your event. Make sure your venue is capable of delivering current event catering trends and craft popular cocktails to help elevate your event.
Spa & Wellness
Sometimes the sheer volume of content at the event can be overwhelming for your attendees. Do confirm if the venue has wellness facilities to keep them energised. Availability of spa services allows them to relax and rejuvenates their mind and bodies. Having a fitness centre with state-of-the-art gym equipment also helps event attendees keep up with their work-out routine.
Imagine your attendees checking in late due to parking problems. When it comes to MICE venues, parking is a must-have on the venue sourcing checklist. Do confirm if the venue has a designated parking lot to make driving convenient for your attendees.
At the end of it all, ensure your selected venue is self-sufficient enough to meet the requirements of your attendees. Remember, the services offered by the venue will have a direct bearing on your brand’s impression. And for your attendees, it is all about the experience!
Cost to Match your Budget
Now that your physical or virtual site selection process is complete, it is time to roll up your sleeves and negotiate a fair package for your organisation. When planning an event, staying within budget is always one of the biggest challenges, so cost is obviously a factor when sourcing your venue. Have you broken down the budget in a manner to cover all the event requirements like meeting space, audio-visual equipment, transportation, accommodation, food & beverage, entertainment etc.? Don’t forget to consider the day on which your event is falling and the time of year as well, when setting a budget. One of the biggest and easiest ways to lower the price of a venue is to have your event on a day that is less sought after than others. You should also be aware of all the services a venue offers and check whether any of them come with an additional cost. For example, while most hotels offer fitness services for free and do not charge anything for the parking, it may not be the case with all venues. You may assume these services as complimentary, but they may show up on the bill as hidden charges. It’s incredibly important to confirm exactly what IS and IS NOT included in the venue agreement. It is always advisable to get a custom packaged deal and pay for only the services that you really require. If you plan smarter, you can utilise the complimentary services and deliver a stellar event. Make sure to bargain with the right negotiation skills as there is always some scope of saving your bucks. Compare the price per room quoted on your RFP against hotel room aggregators to make certain you are getting a fair deal.
Remember that the more hotel rooms you book, the greater discount and/or complimentary rooms you may receive — but up to a point. Hotels are not non-profits; they need to make their margins too. For any other additional service, always question the fee charged because it is frequently vague and unnecessary. You may not be successful in having it completely removed from your invoice, but it is always good to know why you are being charged for something.
Event Date Flexibility
Things don’t always happen as per the original plan. Exigencies occur — sometimes the weather is not favourable, and other times the schedules don’t always line up. That’s why it is crucial to hand-pick a venue that gives you some sort of flexibility in scheduling your event. Understand that this is a difficult ask for any venue and shouldn’t make or break a deal since venues need full schedules to pay the bills. Nevertheless, if you come across a venue with a few empty date slots, try to search for a date that can get you a discounted rate. This way the venue won’t face any loss of money or lose any other opportunity on holding an extra date for you and you won’t have to cancel the event if problems get to your feet. Also, be sure to check tariff rates on different days of the week to determine when the hotel may be at their lowest occupancy rate. The venue will try and lock you into high minimums as early as possible. Try to provide the food & beverage guarantees on the last possible date available. Work with them on a cutoff date that will work. Since major events are always planned out months to a year in advance, giving your prospective venues a list of flexible dates will help you find when their non-peak dates are and treasure the date that’ll save you the most money.