The venue you choose has a direct impact on your clients and can leave a lasting impression. If the venue is not suitable or is difficult to get to, it is the business hosting the event that will receive the feedback. Booking a venue for your event may seem like a simple task and, yet, if you are new to the live-event industry, or even if you have hosted events, overlooking one key item can seriously affect the overall experience for your clients.
A professionally run and excellent event leaves a good impression, which can result in your clients raving about the experience on social media – and this will help to build your brand reputation as a trusted source. Here are seven important tips to remember…
- 1Book your venue early
Venues can book out months, even years, in advance. Plan to book your venue at least six months to one year ahead. If you are expecting 1,000-plus delegates, the earlier you book, the better your chance of securing the venue and date. This will allow you to be flexible, in case the venue is booked out on the date you want.
- 2Location, location, location
When booking a venue, it's crucial to consider the location in terms of its proximity to public transport and car-parking facilities, as some of your clients may make an early decision not to attend the event if it's difficult to get to. Availability of amenities, such as cafés, will also be important to many delegates, as will ensuring the air-conditioning is working. When selecting a venue, think about your clients, the type of event and the overall impression the venue will leave. Remember, though, you can't please everyone, so select criteria that's most important to the majority of your clients and your own needs.
- 3Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate
When I booked a venue for our first major event (to accommodate 2,400 people), I negotiated a AU$35,000 discount by building rapport with the sales representative and, then, informing him of my budget. I assured him that my intention was to book this venue twice per year, which, in fact, I did for many years to come. He held the same price for future events, even though there was a price increase year on year. If you book several events throughout the year at the same hotel chain or conference centre, you will have more buying power and can negotiate a competitive rate.
Depending on the event size, you may choose to bring your own AV equipment – some venues permit this and others don't. You can also bring in partial AV items, like your own microphones, as some speakers are particular about the type of microphones they prefer. Remember to shop around and negotiate catering fees, bump-in/set-up rates (sometimes this is free of charge) and the stage (with some venues, this is included in the room rate). Some hotels and resorts will give you a free number of room nights, based on the accommodation you pre-book for your delegates.
TIP: If you are a member of Accor, SPG, Rydges, Hilton or any of the hotel loyalty programs, they offer incentives to book confer
- 4Follow up your agreement in writing
Once you have spoken to the sales executive at the venue, the conference representative will normally send you a proposal, known as a Banquet Event Order (BEO) in Australia and NZ. Remember to check the details carefully before signing – especially the fine print! Be on the lookout for surcharges as, often, you can negotiate to waiver these fees. Also, ensure you have sufficient time to bump in (set up) and check the charges, if any. The size and complexity of the event will dictate your set-up time.
Over the years of producing events, there have been numerous times something has been left off our Banquet Event Order, so it's critical to have this document to refer to, along with the final contract. When payment is due, be sure to check the invoice against the quote for any discrepancies. It's not unusual to pay a deposit when you first book a venue to secure the space – check this is accounted for when the final invoice is paid.
- 5Develop a venue checklist
To ensure nothing is missed, develop your own venue checklist – it's so easy for something major to be left off. The two most memorable experiences I've had were when manuals for an event for 110 people did not arrive on time. Another time, we ran short of manuals because more people showed up at the door than we expected for our free event. Both times involved Ken or I, staying up until 4am, urgently printing manuals at the local fast-printing service for an event beginning that morning.
Can you imagine what we were thinking at the time?
Well we got through it and after two experiences many years apart, this is not something we EVER wanted to repeat. So we found a solution that I would like to share with you -it’s a no brainer really.
As a contingency, and particularly for a free event, I suggest you add an extra 10% to the number of people you expect for handouts, manuals and key items you send to the venue. Remember to double-check with both the hotel staff and your courier that they have arrived at least a full 24 hours prior to commencement. Warning: miss this step at your own risk!
We find it important to follow a process, when the logistical supplies arrive back at the office or warehouse. Be sure to re-stock or re-order supplies, if need be, working off an inventory list so you are not left short for the next event.
- 6On-site inspection, room configurations and checking the venue’s
It's important to do an on-site inspection of venues so that there are no hidden surprises. This allows for you to check a few key points that may affect your event, such as the lighting on stage, the size and shape of the room, the position of the doors, the amount of space for registration and the expected numbers that can be accommodated.
The venues will advise on how many a room can accommodate with various seating configurations. In my experience with our set-ups, we could rarely fit as many people as the venue advertised, due to our specific requirements. When a venue advertises seating capacity, the seating is often positioned a bit closer than you would like, in order to accommodate more people. Most venues will produce a computer-generated room map or layout with the seats laid out, if requested.
An on-site inspection also allows you or your team to build an excellent working relationship with the venue representative, which is an advantage overall. Often, you will be liaising with two different people, as one handles the booking and sales and the second person deals with the actual event requirementsOn-site inspection, room configurations and checking the venue’s
- 7How important is audio visual (AV)?
This is such a critical part of your event and will leave a lasting impression. If your AV is professionally run and the equipment in excellent condition, it can make a huge difference to how your event is received by your delegates.
We have produced 1,208 events with between 10 and 4,508 people in attendance and the AV equipment is vastly different for each. With the large productions, we contracted two people to operate AV and the venue's technician usually set up the equipment.
With smaller events, some of our speakers chose to run their own AV from their laptop on stage, which worked well too. Whatever your budget permits, remember to pay attention to this area, because it's one aspect that can REALLY make a huge difference to running a seamless and professional event.
Think about what music you would like to play at the event (known as a ‘music playlist’ in the events industry). Ideally, this will be part of the main-event syntax. Select a song that acts as an anchor and signals to people to return to the room after a break, so you can start on time. Check you have a licence to play music through APRA in Australia, or through your local music copyright licencing body, for a nominal yearly fee. APRA licences the use of music and, they, collect royalties for that use and distribute royalty payments to the owners of the works that were performed or broadcast.
If you don’t outsource the operation of AV at your event and you run it in-house, be sure to have a good supply of microphone batteries available. Do a sound test at set-up and on the morning of the event – if the sound system isn't functioning as well as it could, it can leave a lasting negative impression on your delegates.
Consider the room layout; the number of delegates expected and when to set up a room with two screens as opposed to one, so that everyone has a good sight line to the stage. For an excellent and professional look, the data projectors can be mounted from the ceiling – this will also give you more space for seating. If that's not within your budget, some other options include rear projection or setting up a projector in front of the stage. You may choose to buy or hire a short throw projector, which can be positioned closer to the screen and takes up less room.
The information above is a snap shot of some of the important points to consider. There are many other suggestions, depending on the type of event you are planning.
I would appreciate your comments, question and feedback about this post below.