You have taken the time to properly brainstorm your event, and have now moved on to the next phase: finding an event venue! There is an extraordinary number of things to consider when searching for a place to host your event. You need to know whether the venue will fit your size, budget, inclusion requirements, and so much more. To ensure that you find the absolute best location and don’t run into any issues down the road, it is crucial to take charge and get as much information as possible from the venue. Not sure what to ask about? Here are the questions that you need to ask every event venue before deciding!
Ask for Proposals
It is generally the best move to ask for proposals from a variety of venues. If you are doing a large event with a number of guest rooms you can seek out the assistance of the local destination marketing organization (such as Tourism Calgary or Banff Lake Louise Tourism) to help you send out your RFP. Your preferred dates should be included in your communications but you also may find some cost savings or additional options if you have some flexibility. (Don’t forget to consider religious holidays, secular holidays and other popular events happening in the city before you commit to a date. You don’t want to suddenly realize that you planned your event on Mother’s Day after the contract has been signed!)
In addition to asking about specific dates, ask what specific spaces are available for your event? You want to make sure that your venue matches the needs of your event. Is it accessible and inclusive? Do you need windows? Outdoor space? Flexibility in seating? Is it large enough to do the activities you have planned?
What’s Included in the Price?
Your venue and food costs are often one of your largest expenses. It is for this reason that when you are booking a venue (whether it’s for a medical conference or rock concert) you need to know exactly what you are getting for the price and what the costs are for food. You don’t want to be shocked when the price of a glass of wine is $15! You should also be aware of the taxes, resort fees, destination marketing fees (DMF), and levy’s that impact any guest room rates and can have a big impact to your bottom line. In Eventbrite’s 2018 Event Industry Trends report, it was found that 18% of the event budget went towards the venue, and included “’surprise’ costs such as water, catering, and unquoted government taxes and services charges [that] can hike up the price for the venue.” It is essential to get an exact breakdown of all fees and costs required of you so there are no ‘surprises’ later.
Negotiate and Plan to Access the Venue (When Can I Access the Event Venue?)
Events require a lot of set-up before opening the doors to attendees. Know how much time you need for set-up and tear down and negotiate that into your contract. Don’t just hope that you’ll be able to get in 10 hours early! Also ask about when you need to be completely out and cleared away. With all that set up it can be quite a task to take down as well. You will need to know if you must hire late night staff to tear down by the strike of midnight, or if the next morning will suffice (and what any associated costs will be).
Everything is Negotiable!
Most venues have preferred suppliers for AV, show services, and catering. It is important to know that you can always ask to bring in your own suppliers and to negotiate away any fees or costs for using your preferred supplier. This may not be possible with catering, but if you had something specific (i.e. you want to bring in a specific food item) you can negotiate a way to work together to achieve your objective.
For those hoping to acquire more affordable or specialized options, the venue’s included or negotiated services may not work for you. For example, if you are hosting a sustainability conference, you might choose to work alongside local and ethical farms! If a venue won’t work with you to bring in the suppliers you prefer or that you need, then keep searching for someone who will work with you!
What is Your Cancellation and Deposit Policy?
Although you would never dream of cancelling your event, sometimes life happens. Emergencies, acts of God, business issues, or limited RSVPs are unexpected situations we cannot plan for. It is important to know ahead of time what your venue’s cancellation policy is. In addition to clearly understanding the cancellation policies, you should also be aware of the amount/timing of any deposits required. Having event insurance can save a lot of headache on this front!
Other Important Questions
Once you have asked all the significant questions and received all the answers, it will be easier to find a venue that works perfectly for your event! Once that is completed, you can move on to the other items on the planning to-do list! Good luck!