For most events the single biggest expense will be the venue. It is also likely to be the longest and possibly the most detailed contact you will sign. So I have decided to dedicate a whole blog to helping event planners negotiate the best rate for a venue. Here are my top venue negotiation tips!
Ask for what you think is fair
You really can cut almost every cost without reducing the quality of your event if you just ask for what you think is fair. So here’s twelve practical tips on maximising value from your venue. Some of them are oldies but goldies and I think deserve to be included in the list. This isn’t a new list but it is a VERY IMPORTANT ONE.
Top Venue Negotiation Tips
1. If you are using a venue a few times throughout the year negotiate a special rate
You are in a very strong position if you can book the same venue a few times across a relatively short period of time. So consider doing this as it makes good financial sense.
There are other plus points too. Your attendees and your other stakeholders will be familiar with the venue and importantly the venue will be used to your particular way of doing things.
So improving the service you receive as well as reducing the price you pay is a great way to maximise value.
2. If you secure a good rate (as above) ask for it to be backdated
This may surprise you but if you do negotiate a reduced rate you just might be able to ask the venue to backdate that rate to your previous events.
I know this could sound very cheeky but as I said above; you’ll be surprised what is up for negotiation! If this works (and it does because I’ve done it a few times) you may receive credit notes for – who knows – a couple or a few thousand pounds for events that you have already run!
3. Book the venue for a few years if you are SURE that the event will continue to run
I did hesitate to put this on my list however it is relevant for a lot of events. I hesitated because as a Conference Architect I am amazed to see organisations signing deals for long periods (up to 20 years in some cases). However we are concentrating on securing the best rate for your venue so this makes the list.
It is undeniable that you are in a stronger bargaining position if you look to take your event to the same venue for a few years. But as I said there is a risk associated to this approach so do consider that if you follow this tip.
4. Even if you have found the ideal venue, think long and hard before you actually sign a contract
Can you keep the venue on first option and hold off a bit longer? Could you say location “London” on your marketing material instead of naming the particular venue?
Unless the venue is a crucial element of the event then not naming the venue is unlikely to affect your numbers; so don’t go confirming if you don’t need to. Most venues hold the price they have quoted for at least a couple of weeks.
5. Find the soft things to negotiate
If you’ve done your first round of negotiation and you still think there is some fair milage in more negotiation it is a good idea to concentrate on the areas where there is most margin.
When the venue uses an external supplier, for example a caterer or an AV company, they will have very little room to maneuver. However with the price of tea and coffee, room hire and equipment they own you are likely to see more movement.
6. Can you make anything easier for the venue in exchange for a reduction?
Busy venues value time as much as they do revenue. If you can save a venue some time you are likely to be able to see some movement on price. Recently I had a very price sensitive event in London.
We had negotiated on every possible area but we were still concerned about the cost. So I asked them if there was anything that we could do with our event that would make their life easier? The layout of the main room was something we negotiated on. I was flexible on the location of the stage in the main room and that meant instead of breaking down and moving the stage set it stayed in the same place. I “exchanged” this good will move for the free hire of a few plasmas and saved the budget a few hundred pounds.
7. Book low minimum numbers
Don’t be persuaded to increase your minimum number for a smaller Day Delegate Rate (DDR) rate unless you are positive you will achieve the numbers you agree. A lot of events waste thousands of pounds after being tempted by an increase in numbers for a lower per delegate rate.
The key is to secure as low a guaranteed minimum number of delegates as possible to secure the room you want but bear in mind a bit of scope for an increase in numbers.
The point to remember is that the more people you bring to a venue, the lower the delegate rate you can negotiate. So why not just go back and negotiate once you actually have the numbers?
8. Learn more about the venues DDR
A lot of time organisers assume that paying the DDR is the best way to reduce costs. This isn’t always the case. If you are considering a DDR you should also the venue to show you a breakdown of the costs in the DDR.
There maybe things in that rate which you don’t need, for example, it may come with a PA and AV or 4 x refreshment breaks. It might be cheaper to book things separately.
9. Don’t pay too little
A word of caution: this is about value and not just about cost. People who say they always get the lowest rates for things are the people who get the poorest service.
If you screw them down too much they will cut back on staff, refreshments and lunch and it will be your attendees who will be squeezed. It’s about finding the balance.
10. Really consider if using a venue booking agency is the best approach
Venue booking agencies are probably a separate blog so I will be brief. They say they are free but they get paid and they cost you money.
If an agency books your venue the venue will have much less room for maneuver as they will have already paid between 8% – 10% to the agency.
So if you use an agency make sure you get as much value from them as possible. However armed with these tips, a knowledgeable team and a crack negotiator you probably won’t need a booking agent.
11. Don’t go for the squeezed middle
The next two points can be quite controversial so I will speak from my own personal experience. I don’t think there is anything wrong with running events on Mondays or Fridays. And in October I ran a client event on a Saturday which worked splendidly!
Venues charge their highest rates for Tue, Wed and Thur so if you want maximum value avoid these days. You will still get the same level of service from the venue no matter what day you choose.
12. Book off season
Everyone wants to run event in certain months of the year. You will all know which months I mean. However I’ve ran several successful events in January, July and December.
I’ve also run events during half term and other school holidays. You can imagine how good a deal you can cut on those days! You may lose a few attendees but the amount you will save may make up for that on the bottom line. Saving money while delivering a great event is the number one venue negotiation tip!
Every percentage counts when maximising value
When choosing the venue for your event it’s vitally important to get a good price for the hire. In the world of events it is fair to say that everything is negotiable.
The venue is likely to be your largest single expense, so a small percentage saving here and there can allow you to move money to other areas of the event or on to your bottom line. And these little venue negotiation tips are how you maximise the value from your event.