When searching for a venue often the location, brand, style, look and feel will catch your attention and tempt you to book it. It is scientifically proven that buying decisions, even in business, are emotionally-driven and then justified later, when the hard, cold facts and features are made to fit the decision – even if they are not deserved. This is why you have to look much deeper after initially identifying a venue for your business event.
Here are some of my own working examples:
Beware headline rates
There’s a temptation just to look at the room rates and daily delegate rate that your venue offers. Often these rates are attention grabbers and superficially seem like a good deal. Don’t be fooled; the headline grabbing rates often shift the attention away from the detail – and it’s the detail I always explore before proceeding to the next stage after any offer.
There are many things to think about and I can’t list them all here, but look at the overall pricing offer, and consider
– Do the rates include tax, and are all the tax rates the same? What impact will the tax have on the spend forecast? Remember, taxes always have to be paid out and rarely can they be claimed back to any effect.
– Are the terms and conditions flexible enough?
– Do you really want to pay everything out up front?
– Is the deposit schedule reasonable?
– Are you really prepared to pay fees incurred for small adjustments to your commitments when the cancellation period sliding scale may be too far away from the event itself and not really give you any real flexibility?
Any additional costs for AV support – screens, projectors, microphones and fixed line internet connections in satellite or breakout meeting rooms can add up to a small fortune. If AV is missing totally from meeting room proposition at your venue, then be prepared to have to supplement and install that AV using your production company or a local AV provider.
Some venues will offer to liaise with a local AV provider for you, or say that they have a T&C clause in their contract related to preferred AV suppliers. This when the alarm bells start ringing with me because everything has a price and you can be sure that the end price for your AV will include a mark up for the venue or some sort of commission which ultimately ends up on your bottom line. What you really should look for is “flexibility” from a venue on this. If they are fixed and won’t negotiate, then it might be time to walk away.
These days we expect internet connections to be everywhere, to be good quality, and above all to be free to use. Many venues do offer this level of service, yet there are still those who are charging sometimes eyewatering sums for what should be a pre-requisite.
In my experience this is still an issue in some of the Middle Eastern countries where international business services are still developing. The best approach is to negotiate hard.
For example, in Jordan in early 2020 I was facing an initial cost of over 5k euro for just 3 days of business class standard internet service for just 40 users on a separately allocated private network. My approach was to gather facts and figures related to costs based on the landscape in near-neighbouring countries and ask for justification. Eventually the cost for this bespoke service request came down by 50%. Do not be pushed into accepting unnecessary costs and don’t be “blinded” by any attempt at technical ambush; instead, find people who are experts and ask their opinion. It’s amazing how a well-informed counter argument will get you a significant discount.
Time of the year
Is your venue open all year round? Does this seem like a silly question? It isn’t, I assure you!
If you are organising an event that is related to an incentive or large group, then sometimes you will be looking at finding a resort scenario that needs to give a certain feeling or impression for the delegates. With resorts you have to be careful, because if they are not usually open all year round then you might find yourself with additional, and unacceptable costs for staff to be brought in to service your event.
One example I can give you is Greece where I pinpointed what I thought was the ideal large business event venue on the coast, only to find that after evaluation of their initial pricing there were new costs added in at the last minute related to “out of season staffing”. This fact had been deliberately omitted from their pricing proposal until the discussions got to a point where relationships had been built; this makes it harder for the client to walk away quickly, of course, and is a deliberate tactic to play on the emotional decision that has already been made.
Prepare a detailed comparative spend forecast for each venue
It’s easy to blow a large portion of your budget on small, seemingly inconsequential, but need-to-have things. They can creep up on you!
Start with a detailed event spend plan for every venue you get an offer from (even if theoretical).
Make a breakdown of all elements of the services you want procure from the venue, and then make an overall comparative venue spend forecast. Even if the numbers are not true (for example, if you still don’t have your programme) it’s a valuable exercise.
In my experience, it’s never the venue with cheapest headline room rate that delivers the best value for money – there are always hidden costs. Remember, the devil is in the detail!