What should you expect and plan for when booking a convention center? A former event planner and current convention center Director of Sales shares three focus areas and questions for planners.
After over a decade of work as an event planner, I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to join ASM Global as the Director of Sales for Cox Business Convention Center (CBCC). I found myself on the other side of the table gaining far greater understanding on what event planners need to know and what they can expect when booking a convention center. It all comes down to three questions and focus areas:
- What are your deal makers and deal breakers?
Being able to share your event’s overall goal, vision of success, and budget upfront helps the convention center lead the event to success right from the start. What are the most important items when it comes to contracting, negotiating, and booking the space? What are your deal makers and deal breakers?
Knowing and sharing budgets upfront is important in convention center booking since many venues (including CBCC) base rental rates on food and beverage minimums.
Sharing challenges and budgets upfront can also help when convention center rental pricing isn’t within your budget since a Sales Manager might know of discounts, hotel rebates, or other funding from the CVB to offset rental costs.
- What makes your event unique?
Each event has a unique goal and audience, and convention centers need to know about both since the two are heavily connected. For instance, does your event require registration and need the registration area near the keynote event space? Will this same area need a grab-and-go breakfast area? Does your event speaker need a dressing room next to the performance stage?
CBCC prides itself on being a “one-stop-shop” for event planners and offers many in-house services and some exclusive services (such as food and beverage and IT). Ask questions upfront so you know what all is available to you and where a third party vendor is needed. Quickly share the technical needs of your event so the convention center is able to provide an accurate quote during the bidding process. It’s important to know convention centers work with third party decorators while also having décor and furniture items available for clients. Just like any décor vendor, a convention center does not provide these items for free. Plan ahead and anticipate your event needs. For instance, if your event needs 20 breakouts be prepared to share how many guests (and chairs) will be placed in each breakout. Having upfront discussions like this with your Sales Manager and convention center team will ensure success and eliminate financial surprises later on.
- What makes convention centers unique?
When you book with a convention center, you’re not just getting a Sales Manager but instead an entire team. One client will have a Sales Manager, Event Manager, Catering Manager, Tech Producer, and even more help behind the scenes (Marketing, IT, Security, etc.). While conversations and meetings are streamlined, it’s important for clients to understand the team dynamic and different points of contact while also being available for questions and phone calls as the need arises.
With exclusive in-house SAVOR…catering and an Executive Chef with over 40 years of culinary experience, clients should expect great food at Tulsa’s CBCC. Food and beverage teams in convention centers are experts at serving lunch to thousands, perfecting a 20 minute break, and creating one-of-a-kind cocktail receptions. Expect creativity and customized food and beverages aligned with the goals and uniqueness of your event. Convention centers have the capacity to create anything you can dream of in the space, so share the dream and the goals upfront because your new team at the venue is ready to help you make it happen.