How many events have you attended and been underwhelmed to say the least at the organiser’s choice of venue? It may be that the location has been hard to find or that you have been squashed into a tiny space; you may have been unimpressed with the state of the décor or have found the staff on duty unhelpful. Whatever the reason, it has likely had a serious affect on your enjoyment of the event and an impact on what you’ve taken away from a business perspective.

So how do you ensure that your next choice of venue – be it for a conference, breakfast meeting or staff party – is the right one for your event?

Here are six top tips for finding and getting the most out of that perfect venue:

1 Understand your role as a venue finder
Your boss or client cannot be expected to know the ins and outs of venue finding, so it is your responsibility to ensure that their needs are catered for in every respect regarding a venue.

It is important that in the first instance you know how to successfully interpret requirements. Ensure you receive an event brief in writing rather than verbally as this will enable you to revisit the information time and time again and digest what is needed. Put some time aside in your diary to meet with those responsible for the event and ask those all-important venue-related questions such as:

-How much do we have to spend on this event (and in particular how much do we need to put aside for venue hire or a daily delegate rate)?
-What is the preferred location for the event?
-How large should the space be?
-What facilities are required for the event?
-What catering will be needed?
-Do we need to have accommodation and/or leisure facilities attached to the venue?
-What is the ratio of staff to delegates required?

2 Create easy-to-read documentation
Once you’ve begun your venue search you’ll soon have lots of information to examine. Ensure you create a spreadsheet of potential venues that is easy on the eye. Include information such as hire cost, location (nearest tube/Metro if in a City), facilities etc and any other areas specially requested by your boss or client.

3 Research the most appropriate venue and conduct a site visit
There is no point in taking a brief, asking the right questions and then presenting something that is totally different to requirements. Time is precious and you’ll want to show your boss or client two or three of the most appropriate venues that will wow them and will be fit for purpose. It is your job to visit a potential venue and really get a feel for it. Explore every nook and cranny – including the toilets – if they are not clean then it may be a sign that standards are not as high as you’d want them to be.

4 Negotiate with the sales team
We are (hopefully) emerging from a global recession and although venues need to make a healthy profit, bear in mind there are always deals to be had. Always put communication in writing and be fair in the way that you deal with sales staff – your first point of contact at any venue. If you are upfront with them and treat them well, they (in the main) will be fair with you. Be honest about the budget you have and always make sure you are informed about what is and what isn’t included in the hire fee.

5 Build great relationships
It is essential that you learn how venues operate and how best to build relationships with key staff. Once you have negotiated a price and signed your contract with the sales department, your booking will then be passed to an Account Manager who’ll work with you to ensure your event is put together correctly and runs smoothly.

Make sure you build a good, honest and open relationship with them – it will serve you well in the later stages of planning and on event day. There is no excuse for being rude or placing unrealistic demands on them. Instead be polite and listen to their advice – after all they know their venue inside out: their support is priceless!

6 Conduct a pre-event site visit and walkthrough
Once all the arrangements are in place arrange a final site visit with your venue and suppliers such as the production team, event staff, audio visual company and anyone else involved with the delivery of your event. This will give you the chance to see if your plans work in reality – and if any problems do present themselves, you’ll have time to rectify them and put new ones in place.

During this final site visit strive for perfection and don’t settle for second best. Remember that this event and, in particular, your choice of venue directly reflects your professionalism and ability to deliver the best results for your company. “

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Claire Derrick is Director of Education for Ashdown Academy (EventCourse) a training company accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). They are now taking bookings for their event management diploma course for professionals wanting to ... (Read More)

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