Choosing the right venue for your event is the first step towards achieving the objective of your occasion. And since most planners are working with a budget, it is important to find the right balance of price, quality and accessibility.
The good news is that most cities offer a wide-range of event spaces to choose from. Each site offers their own unique set of advantages and drawbacks, which makes it critical for planners to master the ability to negotiate through the extremes. The guidelines below will help you gain maximum leverage on all of your site visits.
Know Your Options
There are several pieces of information you need in order to negotiate effectively. The date, time and projected attendance of your event are the obvious ones. From there I recommend having two alternative dates to work with. Get these dates approved with your speakers and committee members in advance so that you can move quickly if needed. Reservation opportunities can disappear fast and you don’t want to be stuck waiting for calls from your key decision makers.
Change Your Perspective
The sales staff at the hotel or banquet center has one main objective: To fill their property with paying customers each and every day. Planners are often so focused on their own needs that they lose sight of this fact. While meeting the expectations of your group is important, negotiating with “tunnel vision” can cause you to overlook second and third options that could provide a significant discount. Your best position is to keep your event date open for discussion. Remember, the dates your sales person needs to fill will be considerably easier to negotiate prices on.
Big Picture Bidding Strategies
No one wants to be surprised with unforeseen costs, which is why you really can’t dig deep enough into your price comparisons. Expense categories like room rental, food and speaker fees are expected and planners usually have them accounted for. But what about incremental items like audio/visual, parking, transportation and security? Not only can these expenses cut into your budget, but many of them are eligible for negotiation during the contract process.
Production Costs and Profit Margins
Your sales contact is going to lead off with their list prices for everything. It is basically up to you to identify what items have the best potential for savings. Things like food and staffing are tricky to negotiate because they have fixed costs attached that the venue has to pay. However, rental fees on items like hotel rooms, audio/visual equipment and facility usage are much less formula-driven. In other words, their prices are not directly tied to expenses. These are the items that offer you the largest amount of wiggle room for price discussions.
Price vs. Quality
There is a running joke in the restaurant industry that says a customer can choose two of the following three features: Price, Quality or Speed. The point is, you can’t have it all unless you are willing to pay for it. I would say this joke also applies well to the event business. It is quite possible to negotiate your way out of a successful event if you cut the margins too thin. Tread carefully when it comes to things like food quality and staffing levels. Ignoring your site coordinator’s recommendations because of cost could have you living on the edge of your seat during the event.
Work With the Venue
I’ve worked with several customers who opted to take a “me against them” approach to planning their function. In my opinion you’ll get a lot more out of your experience by maintaining an open dialogue about everything. Don’t be afraid to share your budget numbers or cost concerns with your venue coordinator. Remember, they want your business now and in the future! Tell them how you love the way their lighting package brightens the room, but you simply can’t afford it on your budget. If they enjoy working with you then you just might find those lights “accidentally left on” for your event.