Your association may be in the habit of sending out Requests for Proposals for every event that you host, and we have written an article just for that purpose, What to Ask and How to Ask It , but often the RFP process is extremely time consuming and unnecessary. Through doing a venue screening as I explain below, you can save both your associations time and the time of the potential venues. Venue screening is especially useful for smaller scale events that you may not have as many hours to dedicate to planning. Venue screening is also useful for pre-screening potential venues to send out your RFP to, so instead of sending out an RFP to 100 potential venues you may only send it out to 20.
Narrow Your Choices From the Get-Go
Determining something as simple as your capacity can often limit your choices drastically. For example, you might know that you require a venue to fit 600 people for a dinner. Be sure to select a venue that will not only fit your event in terms of capacity, but that will also accommodate the type of set up that you want. For example, a venue’s website could say that they can fit 600 people, but that might be theatre style when you need to accommodate 600 people for a dinner with a large stage and silent auction area.
Your initial search may bring up 20 possible locations, but due to the capacity of the venue your options can quickly go from 20 potentials to five. It is much easier to compare and research a small number of possible venues than vetting through 20 proposals from potential venues that can’t even accommodate the capacity of your event.
Location and Access
Your next step after looking at the capacity of a venue is the location of the venue and time of year you want to host your event. By having a clear understanding of your members and their requirements and expectations you can continue to vet through potential venues. Some of the questions you may ask yourself to further narrow your choices should be:
- Do they already work downtown and will come to your event right from work?
- Do you have lots of out of town attendees that may favour a location closer to the airport?
- Do your members like to become part of the local culture?
- Do your members require a location that is close to transportation?
- Do they require hotel rooms?
Through looking at the locations and availability of potential venues, this could bring your locations from five potentials based on capacity to two locations.
More often than not your venue choice will come down to cost. Cost doesn’t just mean the venue rental cost, but the true cost of the venue. By this I mean looking at all costs, as sometimes those hidden costs are what can make or break your budget. Our article, Calculating the True Cost of Food and Beverages, covers the basics of looking at service charges and taxes as added costs. We suggest using a cup of coffee or buffet lunch as a benchmark to compare prices. Also keep in mind additional costs like in-house audiovisual, WIFI, electrical, phone lines etc. Most venue websites will have this basic information, but also be sure to look for any additional costs that affect the overall bottom line.
The capacity, location, cost and access of a venue is all information that can easily be found through an internet search. This will not only save your association time in creating a formal RFP, but will also show the potential venues that you value their time and have done your research in advance.