Experienced planners know the right venue can make or break a successful event, but site selection is often the most challenging part of planning a meeting. The smallest oversight during the site selection process can snowball, causing major disruptions the day of the event. Once you've thoroughly defined your group's meeting space and accommodation requirements, the real questions begin. What is the best way to search for, and then select, the ideal destination and venue? How can you compare venue availability, group transportation options, AV vendors and caterers, accessibility to local attractions, and reasonable pricing? With so many variables to keep in mind, these best practice tips will help you stay organised and get the most from your meeting budget.
Explore Alternative Destinations
Unless your audience is confined to a specific region, your first planning decision should be to select a meeting destination. Every destination has peak and off-peak seasons, and major cities can quickly consume tight budgets during their busy seasons. For more cost-effective options, explore secondary and tertiary markets. For example, if you are interested in hosting a 3-day meeting in Los Angeles, see what surrounding locations such as Irvine, Ontario, or Santa Ana have to offer. These destinations can provide the quality facilities you need, the excellent service your attendees expect, and the smaller price tag your budget requires.
Quick Tip – Consult the Destination Guide
To help direct your search, visit the Cvent Destination Guide, where you'll find detailed information on thousands of destination cities worldwide. The Destination Guide is an informational resource for the modern meeting planner and helps you quickly evaluate average room rates and food costs, browse area attractions, view typical weather conditions, and transportation options for your attendees. Check it out today!
Define Your Event Requirements
A quick online search for venues in your preferred destination may reveal hundreds or thousands of properties to evaluate, and search overload can quickly overwhelm even the most seasoned planner. Use a search engine designed specifically for meeting and event sourcing to filter results based on square footage and breakout room requirements to quickly eliminate many venues from the list. From there, create a short list of venues that can fully accommodate your event. Once you've done a thorough search, send your request for proposal (RFP) to these select, pre-qualified properties. Provide as much information as you can upfront in your RFP - including room setups, AV needs, and food and beverage needs so venues can respond accurately. By creating a venue shortlist and stating your requirements up front, you'll avoid wasting time sorting through inadequate proposals.
Quick Tip - Investigate Alternative Suppliers
Many venues include in-house A/V and catering services in their proposals. While convenient, these “preferred suppliers” often charge premium rates. To get the most out of your budget, find a venue that allows you to select your own vendors.
Be Flexible for Better Pricing
Guest rooms and meeting room rental fees vary greatly depending on the time of year and city-wide availability. During slower periods, venues try to put as many "heads in beds" as possible by offering lower rates. Planners who are flexible and provide venues with alternative dates can often negotiate better pricing. To secure the best deal possible, let venues know if there are any additional dates that would work for your event.
Quick Tip - Consider Multi-Year Deals
For recurring events, hotel sales managers will be more flexible if they can count on your business more than once. If you can fill a seasonal lull each year for the next few years, you'll have more leverage than just a one-time event.
Know Your History
Knowing what your meeting is worth to the hotel will help you negotiate better rates and concessions. To define the total value of your meeting, keep accurate records of past years' registration totals, historical attrition rates, and room nights consumed, at the very least. Venues want to be confident you can meet your guarantee before reserving rooms and function space. Accurate records and good historical numbers will help negotiate reasonable room rates, reduce food and beverage costs, and avoid unreasonable contract terms.
Quick Tip - Use the Right Tool
Best-in-class electronic RFP tools, like the Cvent Supplier Network, can make it easy to keep track of your historical rate information. By automatically saving RFPs from past years, the Supplier Network can be your go-to location for comparing requested and actualized rates. When all your meeting history is stored in one place, it's easier to quickly pull a report to share with venues. You can even clone and update previous RFPs, instead of starting from scratch each year.
Consider Alternative Venues
Hotels, conference centers, and convention centers are just part of a wide range of available venue options. Planners who book at unique venues typically see increased attendance for a substantially lower price. Special event venues appeal to attendees' sense of novelty - a new museum is more exciting than the hotel you've gone to in the past. Keep your event requirements in mind when you begin the site selection process and consider sending your RFP to a restaurant, aquarium, outdoor space, art gallery, or another type of special event venue.
Quick Tip – Keep Transportation Simple
Make sure the event venue is easily accessible. If attendees will be based at one location for the event, select a venue that is close to an airport or public transportation for easy arrivals and departures. When your conference has off-site activities or multiple venues, try to cluster these sites as closely as possible. Doing so will decrease attendee travel time, reduce transportation costs, and reduce the carbon footprint of your event. To begin your site selection process and put these tips in action, visit the Cvent Destination Guide and Cvent Supplier Network to start researching potential event locations and venues for your upcoming event.