The Venue, we're often told, is the biggest choice you have to make in creating your event. At least so it would appear from the marketing material that venues aim at agencies like Chill Out! and clients like you. Some events agencies offer "free venue finding" services and will offer to book a venue for you based on a telephone briefing or online form, with dates and availability being the main deciding factors - they are, of course, paid by the venue.
Here at Chill Out! we know two important things about choosing venues: firstly, that the venue is only one part - and generally not the most important part - of your overall event. Secondly that the venue can make a huge difference to the experience your delegates receive and the impressions they leave with. So at Chill Out! we don't start with the venue, we start with you – or more accurately your delegates and your objectives.
It's all about the experience!
We know that our business is actually all about your business. The venues we like to work with think the same way. They know how to give their corporate clients and delegates (and their agencies!) the best experience. After all, your content may be red-hot, but your delegates may only remember the cold coffee!
Of course, sometimes clients come to us with a venue already booked – perhaps because of a corporate marketing policy or global agreement. If we don’t already know them, we put them through our review process so that we all know what to expect on the day.
- What is their delegate experience? How easy are they to do business with?
- How well can they accommodate last minute changes?
- How well do they react to special requests from your very special guests?
- How do they treat all your guests?
You can only tell by building a relationship - and not just with the sales team who might not even be in evidence on the big day!
It's all about the fit!
A site visit before the final contract ensures that the venue works for your particular event. And even if we’ve used a venue before, your event is unique and will throw up different issues that need consideration. We have extensive checklists for all the many different aspects of an event we’re managing. If you’re doing it yourself, you might like to think about some of the following:
- Reception and registration – where will you site it? How will it flow?
- Refreshment areas – can you manage the numbers? Is the food choice available?
- Presentation suites – do they work with more or fewer delegates? Can your customers see?
- Public areas – can you handle the traffic flow? Will you lose delegates to the bar?
- Signage and branding – will the venue allow it? Where can you site it?
- Event day management – who will be your contact and responsible for your success?
- Green credentials – what is their recycling and wastage policy?
It's all about the contract!
If I could only give you one message, it would be: read the contract terms! It’s amazing what gets buried in the terms. For example, day delegate rates usually include morning tea and coffee – but often they don’t include anything on arrival and registration. Missing that can blow your budget or risk leaving your guests hungry and thirsty as they go into your all-important opening session!
The terms also lock down what can and can’t be changed and at what stage. Are you sure you will attract the audience numbers to justify that minimum spend clause? When must you confirm how many breakout sessions you need? When do you move from losing your deposit to being liable for all costs? And most importantly, who is responsible for tracking those deadlines – if it’s us, then stop worrying and chill out!
At Chill-Out, the venues we choose love working with us because we know what we’re doing, they know exactly what is expected and we both expect extremely high standards. We are proud to have received some great comments from some really great venues. Of course, there are some venues, even some big names, that just don’t deliver the customer experience we demand. Needless to say, all their marketing material is carefully recycled!