How to get the best value when booking a venue

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David Vaughton, director of venues for EEF Venues explores how to get the best value from a venue. He shares insight into how to book a conference, negotiate delegate costs and highlights the questions every conference organiser should ask a venue before committing to a booking. This is a first in a series of EEF Venues’ features, sharing insight and industry knowledge with readers.

The venues sector is a highly competitive market, and it is easy to see how business buyers could be swayed by powerful marketing compaigns, but before committing to a booking, take time to consider if the venue’s team truly understands exactly what you are trying to achieve and what your business objective are?  It is this empathy or insight into specific business needs that can transform a corporate meeting, conference or event from good to superb.

If business clients are a genuine priority, the venue team will have the necessary business-to-business skills to tune into the clients’ needs, anticipate requirements and support them in their goals.

Location and facilities are important, but making the right choice of venue goes far beyond just having the right address or kit. For example, does the venue hold industry-approved accreditations in meeting and events like AIM, the industry standard from the Meetings Industry Association? 

Does it have other reassurances of corporate excellence, such as BDRC Continental’s VenueVerdict Accreditation Programme?  By basing its findings on ratings, and scoring on customer perspectives relayed to the independent ear of market research agency, BDRC Continental, this programme gives an unbiased, customer-led view of a venue.

Best business practices that have passed stringent quality assurance tests at industry-benchmarked levels indicate that a venue team has the expertise and experience to guide, advise and understand the very specific needs of a business client.

The right facilities, diverse room spaces, sophisticated technology and support services are essential. Above all, the team at a specialist business venue has the necessary training and experience to handle the often complex operational requirements of an event efficiently and competently because that is what they do, day-in, day-out. Every detail is looked after, from setting up presentation equipment to catering requirements. Nothing is left to chance.

This delivery of support, from the moment a booking is made right through the event and beyond, is why it makes perfect business sense to place business in the hands of those who have the training, passion and understanding to provide complete peace of mind.  

The questions every conference organiser should ask:

  • Is the location accessible from road, rail and all possible airports?

  • Does the venue website make it clear regarding directions?

  • Is the environment conducive to concentration, inspiration, networking and stimulation?

  • Does the venue meet the needs of your delegates in respect of IT, comfort levels, food range and dietary needs?

  • Will you have a dedicated point of contact from point of enquiry through to the running of the event?

  • Does the venue hold industry-approved accreditations in meeting and events?

  • What is the venue’s commitment to disability, its environmental stance and food sustainability? 

How to organise a conference:  

  • Choose a venue aligned to your corporate image and ethos.

  • Seek a location that is accessible yet is quiet and peaceful to facilitate concentration.

  • Ensure that there is adequate car parking capacity, ideally free.

  • View the venue in advance to get a feel for it and the staff’s approach.

  • Assess the building and grounds for upkeep and presentation.

  • Clarify the meeting space that will be allocated to accommodate your numbers.

  • Assess the responsiveness of the venue; are they hungry to win your business?

  • Don’t select the cheapest option necessarily; consider value and reputation.

  • Enquire into any hidden costs over and above any package offered.

  • Sample the food and request to meet the chef to gauge his/her pride in their food.

  • Check out the washroom area standards as this is a good indicator of attention to detail.

  • Ask to meet the General Manager, as the venue will reflect his personality and experience.

  • Review any accreditations and quality kite marks as endorsements of the venue.

  • Ask to see testimonials and review TripAdvisor feedback.

  • Test the IT capability, does it work, particularly Wi-Fi, and is it free? 

How to negotiate delegate costs:  

  • Don’t divulge budget until after having received an initial estimate.

  • Review cancellation terms; if they are too strict it may say something about the transparency of other elements.

  • Always ask for a discount.

  • Enquire into any hidden costs over and above any package offered.

  • Never make a booking based on cost alone.     

 

 

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