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How to Find the Perfect Destination and Venue for Your Next Event

Every experienced planner knows that choosing the right venue and location can make or break the success of an event. Site selection is often the most challenging part of the event planning process, since even a small oversight can cause major setbacks for attendees.

Researching meeting destinations and negotiating with venues can be time-consuming, and in many cases, it is difficult to know if you are really getting a good deal. Here are the top five ways to select the ideal destination and venue for your next event, without breaking the bank.

Be Flexible

Every destination has a peak season, and planning an event in a major city during this time is challenging on a tight budget. To keep costs in check, explore alternative destinations for your next event that can provide the quality facilities you need, and the excellent service your attendees expect, with a much better price tag for your budget

In addition, time of year and city-wide availability both have a large role to play in getting the best rates. Venues try to maximize their event space and put as many "heads in beds" as possible during slower periods by offering lower rates. Planners who are flexible and provide venues with alternative dates can often negotiate better pricing.)

Be Specific

As with all aspects of event management, attention to detail is critical in the site selection process. Misunderstandings about meeting requirements and overlooked details can lead to unpleasant surprises on-site and additional charges.

First, be sure to seek out the right hotels to receive your Request for Proposal (RFP). It is important to take the time to become familiar with the details of each venue you send your RFP to before it goes out to ensure qualified responses that meet your basic requirements up front.

Also, the more information you provide in your RFP, the better group sales managers are able to assess your needs and determine whether or not their facility would be a good fit. For example, venues need details regarding room set ups, food and beverage requirements and audio visual needs to see whether they can accommodate your group. Defining your specific needs upfront will ultimately save time in the planning process by limiting the number of RFP responses to sort through. Also, be sure to review event orders with a fine-toothed comb to catch errors and, more importantly, avoid hidden fees.

Know Your Event History

Knowing the value of your event will help with negotiating better rates and incentives.

The best way to define the value of your event for the venue is to keep accurate records of past events, including registration totals, attendance numbers and actualized room nights. Venues want to know if you have held this event before, and how many people actually attended, so they can confidently block off rooms and space for your group.

It is important to note that almost every venue's meeting contract includes an attrition clause or food and beverage minimum. That is, if your attendees don't show, you will still be required to pay. Planners who keep records of their past meeting attendance are less likely to fall victim to unreasonable fees, increase their negotiating power during the contract process, and are typically awarded first choice when booking rooms and event space.

Collect Multiple Bids and Negotiate Multi-Year Deals

The first venue to respond to your RFP will not necessarily offer the best rate. Planners who carefully compare and leverage bids from multiple venues have more negotiating power.

What's more, group sales managers have sales quotas to meet. The more guaranteed business they can put toward their monthly or annual quota, the better. For this reason, planners who try to negotiate multi-year deals will receive better packages with extra amenities and improved rates. Hotels that may not be able to offer reduced rates for a one-time meeting will suddenly be very flexible if a planner mentions that they will be hosting the meeting or event for the next three years. Be sure to mention the possibility of becoming a repeat customer during site selection negotiations, and be knowledgeable about any promotions and incentives currently being offered by various venues to score the best deal.

Make Use of Free Online Sourcing Tools

In the past, planners were forced to manually research destinations and venues and send RFPs a real headache, and a hindrance to really finding the best venue and deal. Fortunately, free online sourcing tools and electronic requests for proposals (eRFPs), often considered the "Expedia" for event venue selection, are becoming the go-to for simplifying the sourcing process and reducing costs.

These tools allow you to search detailed profiles of hundreds of thousands of event venues worldwide, send RFPs to the most qualified venues and then compare bids, availability and offerings with side-by-side reports, making it easy to select the best venue for your event.

By Bharet Malhotra, Cvent Vice President of Sales