The Process of Securing a Venue
A venue is the location of an event. It can be a small park or a large nightclub and everything in between. An event can have more than one venue, such as a wedding. More extravagant events can have a cocktail party or an afterparty at a separate location from the main event. Following is a list of common venue sites:
Parks and picnic areas
Hotels and restaurants
Consider offbeat venues to make an event more creative. Great event planners can transform any location into an amazing event. As you begin your career in event planning, imagine hosting an event at locations in your community. Whether at a bookstore, library, or flower shop, begin envisioning different events fitting specialty locations. Examples of creative venue sites are:
Make your client part of the process when choosing which sites to visit. A venue may perfectly suit your client but be out of her budget. Be up-front about venue costs and let your client decide whether she would like to include the more expensive venues on the tour.
To give your client the best range of options for venues, it is important for you to know the venues first. As you are getting your start as an event planner, use your downtime wisely. Schedule tour appointments with facility planners in the off-season when business is slower. Visit as many facilities as possible. During your appointment collect pricing information, menus, and photos if possible. You can then add this information to your venue files for future client meetings. Your clients will appreciate having venue information to review. It will narrow down the number of site visits you take your client on if she can preview the venues ahead of time.
The Site Visit
When visiting a venue with your client, you are acting as his advisor. It is your responsibility to collect information from each facility you visit. If you are using a file you have collected, be certain the information is current and updated. Let the facility planner lead the tour, but be sure to cover essential information while your client is present.
Avoid giving the facility planner hypothetical examples. Design the ideal event and present the specifics to each facility planner you visit. In the event design you want to be sure to include:
Length of event
Estimated guest count
Bar or beverage service
Valet and parking
Deposits and billing
The specifics of the event may have variables affecting the budget. Costs may fluctuate according to the time of day or length of the event. Tweaking the menu or bar service may lessen the cost of the event. Ask the facility planner to suggest changes to the event design to suit the client's budget.
A room charge is the cost associated with securing a private event. To make a restaurant exclusive for an evening, facilities may impose a room charge. Room charges will fluctuate depending on the time of day and day of the week and will also vary depending on the special events occurring in your community. A large convention coming into town, for example, may increase a room charge. From the restaurant's perspective, the logic behind the increase is justified because the profits from the convention would increase sales.
If the idea of a room charge confuses your client, elaborate using sympathetic language. Explain that securing a private space for a hundred guests equals lost revenue to a nightclub on a Saturday night when it normally serves three hundred guests. A client may soften to the idea of a room charge if he better understands the reason behind it.
Room charges are necessary for establishments generating daily income such as restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Closing to the public usually means lost revenue to busy venues. Some venues will forgo imposing a room charge to attract additional sales brought in by a private event. Other venues will create a food and beverage minimum and waive a room charge.
As a fledgling event planner, how can I determine suitable room charges?
If your employer is asking you to research room charges and food minimums, your best resource is a comparable venue. You may be the event planner at a new restaurant, but you can research other restaurants with private rooms and inquire about room charges and costs associated with a buyout.
A hotel may have a private room for thirty guests and charge a food and beverage minimum of $75 per person with beverages based upon consumption. The client would agree to a twenty-guest minimum with tax and gratuity charged additionally. If the food and beverage minimum is not met, the balance will be billed as a room charge. The hotel will be guaranteed the revenue in either case.
Securing a Venue
During your site visits there will be a lot of information presented to your client. It is a good idea to take notes on her behalf. Once the site visit is over, ask the facility planner to send a formal written proposal based upon the specific details of your client's visit. Your client may want to meet to review all of the proposals before making her decision.
Your client will likely need to sign a contract and pay a deposit to secure a venue. As the event planner, you are an integral part of this process. Review the contract and ask for an explanation of any points you may not understand. Be aware of the cancellation policy. In some cases, cancellations will result in the forfeit of the deposit. Once the contract is signed, make a copy of the contract and deposit check for your client file.
As you begin introducing vendors to the event, schedule a site visit with each vendor. You client may want to be included in each vendor site visit. Some venues have a vendor list that authorizes only certain vendors. It is possible, for example, to request that your client's photographer be added to the vendor list. For caterers however, some facilities prefer only using one or two that have a history of working in the on-premises kitchen. Requesting the addition of a favorite caterer to this list may be a little trickier. The facility may consider the caterer if you offer to place an additional deposit to be used in case of damages.
Securing the venue is the first piece of the puzzle in planning a great event. Once the venue has been finalized, the other pieces of the puzzle begin fitting into place a little easier. For example, your client may fall in love with a Moroccan restaurant as a venue. The other details of the event, like the menu, decorations, and beverage service, will be based upon the offerings of the restaurant. Your client can then focus on this particular restaurant's menu, wine list, and décor.
It is important in this industry to follow up with another event planner after a site visit. A quick note, phone call, or e-mail thanking the facility planner for his time will be appreciated. Avoid making the facility planner wonder if your client is going to book his venue and make the call as soon as your client makes her decision.