November 22, 2022
By Mike Fletcher

According to Amex’s 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, in-person events of all types are bouncing back faster than anticipated. In fact, internal and smaller meetings have already surpassed 2019 levels, while conferences and trade shows are expected to increase by 3.3% for the year ahead.

Amex’s findings concur with several other studies, including Cvent’s own Planner Sourcing Report, carried out in partnership with Northstar Meetings Group. Some 70% of the planners surveyed for this year’s study expected that by the end of 2022, there would be a return to a more consistent level of in-person meetings, while almost a third expected the frequency of their in-person activity to be the same as it was in 2019.

With this increased appetite for staging face-to-face events comes the inevitable high demand for venues. And increased demand, coupled with record levels of inflation, means higher DDRs and a requirement for increased spend.

So how do you know if you’re getting the best deal on venue space? Plus, how can you ensure that a higher venue spend will meet your objectives for factors such as hybrid connectivity, measured sustainability, prime location and quality service?

Now is the perfect time to review your venue sourcing processes. So, let’s put the measures in place that will give you greater visibility and more control over finding and securing the venues that are right for you.

#1 Trust in technology

Venue sourcing can be a laborious task. All those open tabs as you try to compare capacities, credentials and locations. Technology removes this pain point by automating the process within one platform and giving you the capability to send out eRFPs while accessing virtual site visits for a more carbon-friendly approach.

Critical information like average hotel room rates, average daily meal costs, the total number of sleeping rooms, activities and entertainment, star ratings, promotions, and pictures of venues are all available to review and dissect, with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Use the technology as a place to store all previous bids and contracted rates, which you can then use as leverage when you’re negotiating with suppliers – this will be even more important to your bottom line.

Four benefits of venue sourcing technology

1) Spread the net without increasing costs

Despite rising costs, clients still want you to find the destination that perfectly matches their group needs and event objectives. Venue sourcing technology allows you to spread your search criteria over a wider geographical area and shortlist less expensive venues that you may not have considered before but still match your criteria. For example, instead of narrowing your search across five-star hotels, why not consider those four-star properties with updated meeting rooms and more competitive day delegate rates?

2) Improve RFP efficiencies

Venue souring technology allows you to build, clone and send eRFPs directly to venues or your personal hotel contacts. They can be customised to include bespoke questions, requirements and necessary clauses so that you’re comparing ‘like for like’ responses and creating a clearer picture to negate the need for back-and-forth communication.

Automating your RFP process in this way also allows you to share rate history and negotiating notes with other team members, plus track contract details and fees paid for your cancelled space to mitigate financial risk.

3) Enhance communication with venues

Use filters to shortlist venues that meet your specific requirements so that when you send RFPs you’re ready to delve into the finer details for more accurate comparison reporting. Venues understand that when they receive eRFPs via sourcing technology they need to prioritise these requests and respond faster since they’re competing with other venues.

Share your required room layouts and seating designs with the venue in real time via Cvent Diagramming and Seating. It will improve communication and reduce the need for multiple visits.

4) Be more sustainable

By sourcing venues and suppliers through one central system, you can apply environmentally friendly tagging and prioritise sustainability within search. You can also use the 3D floor plans to limit site visits and the maps feature to identify venues with close proximity to public transport or within walking distance from a certain hotel.

#2 Negotiate like a pro

Once you’ve received responses to your RFPs and compared criteria to create a shortlist of preferred venues, it is time to open negotiations.

First, you need to understand who you’re negotiating with and what decision-making powers they possess.

Many of the long-held relationships enjoyed between planners and venues pre-pandemic may have changed, due to staff leave and consolidation. So, arrange an introductory / get-to-know-you meeting or a Zoom call and use it as a chance to communicate the range and number of events you stage annually and therefore the potential value of your business to the venue or hotel.

Engage with the venue or hotel staff to determine how responsive they are to your requests. Are they getting back to you within a reasonable time, or does it take two-three calls before you get a response? Pay attention to responsiveness, and if they are interested in building a long-term relationship with you.

#3 Find pricing deals

Understand each venue’s pricing model. Some venues offer seasonal pricing, so the hire cost may be lower during certain times of the year. Find out what the costs are for your venue of choice on your desired date. If your dates are flexible, you may then be able to secure a better deal.

If your event has a short-lead time, ask your venue contacts to keep you updated on last-minute offers as there are often great deals to be found. If you’re planning an event that’s a long way off, consider those venues undergoing refurbishment or not yet opened. They’ll be eager to secure your business and may be able to negotiate more favourably.

#4 Hold multiple events at the same venue

Consider holding more than one meeting simultaneously on the same day. Occupying more space within the venue may enable you to negotiate a better deal, especially if that space would otherwise have gone unused during your hire period.

By scheduling multiple meetings you’ll also be able to save by sharing catering, transport and production costs. Only by having complete visibility across your company’s programme of events can you see where consolidating meetings or events into one venue for a better negotiated price is viable.

#5 Added value deals

Look beyond the hire cost and always ask what other beneficial elements can be included. Do you need early access for reducing the stress associated with set-up and rehearsals for example? Or does the venue team have luxury linen, candelabras, lighting rigs or other props and equipment that could potentially bring down your event costs if they were to lend items to you as part of the hire?

#6 Deals based on trust

If you’ve promised to ensure delegates have left the venue by a certain time or you’ve committed to leave the venue in a certain state of tidiness, ensure you keep your side of the agreement. Those venues where you’ve managed to build up a relationship based on trust are more likely to relax certain restrictions and allow you, for instance, to bring your own DJ or additional catering. Most venues will only allow clients they trust to bring more creative and outlandish theming ideas to life too.

#7 Secure long-term deals

Loyal business often leads to preferential dates or first refusal on high-demand packages or cancelled dates.

One pre-pandemic school of thought was never to use the same venue twice (in case the CEO noticed) but today, planners who need regular broadcast space for virtual events, reliable availability for training programmes or a flexible blank canvas that can be dressed (and redressed) in different ways are finding that one or two loyal venue partners have their own long-term rewards.

#8 Ask about hybrid packages

Planners unable to make budgets stretch to bespoke, and often complex hybrid set-ups, are now looking to venues to offer affordable technology packages, featuring mobile functionality and on-site support. Venues are responding with features such as more screens and AV equipment included in DDRs or unlimited remote attendee capacity at no extra charge.

So ask about pre-production services, a hybrid production manager and dedicated support on the day of your event. Venues that have truly thought about how to integrate virtual into in-person events will have considered how best to make it cost-effective for you.

Level up your 2024 venue sourcing strategy

For 2024, planners should continue to focus on ensuring that delegates are confident to return to in-person events of all types by focusing on your venue sourcing strategy.

With less-than-ideal market conditions, event costs continue to be a concern. The right technology can help you discover new venues that fit your budget while centralising data and automating workflows to be smarter and better prepared.

Negotiating and contracting may be challenges right now, but you can combat this by setting your goals, budgets, and contract terms upfront during the RFP process before proactively developing new venue relationships. From the first interaction to your initial site visit, you should be partnering with a venue that is fair and easy to communicate with, making negotiation and planning an easy process.

Event requirements may have changed over the past few years, but venues and hotels are evolving their offers to be more sustainable, more competitive and to provide a service that will ensure the success of your meetings and events for a long time to come.

For more insight into adapting, evolving and accelerating your venue strategy, download our venue sourcing ebook.

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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