How you deal with venues, from sourcing through to relationship building and contract negotiation can be difficult for events industry professionals. MEaT Director and Founder James Bacon was recently in London at the BNC Event Show discussing the topic, which proved to be quite a lively panel discussion.
Speaking at the BNC Events Show, James explained why he believes transparency and relationships with venues are a valuable resource to event planners.
Is there a logical or best way to get a venue to issue their lowest price at the beginning?
"As an agency you almost have a sign on you when speaking with supplier and venues stating - best rate only! It's true that many agencies pride themselves on getting the lowest rate. Fantastic...great for your margin and almost a trophy to show to your client. "
"When negotiating rates, I think it's important to be realistic. If you've never worked with the venue why should you get their best rate? It's like a stranger asking you to do a load of work, but then only paying you half your salary...you wouldn't do it!"
"Of course, negotiate the best rate you can, but recognise that by pushing hard on rate, you may end up losing in other areas such a service. If your venue sees it as a poor deal, likelihood is they will not be that interested in your event on the day. Be shrewd, be respectful and over all be realistic in what you are negotiating."
Should you let a venue know if you are also talking to other suppliers?
"Of course. Transparency and honesty is the key to building any relationship. Plus let's face it, they would be surprised if you were not talking to anyone else?
"Don't try to hide away facts that are pretty obvious really. Besides, by not advising of any competition you could be losing a valuable bargaining tool in terms of pricing."
What should I be looking for in order to get the best venue for my event?
"Going on site visits with a clear mindset of what type of event you are looking to organise helps. I tend to look at venues much like when you are house hunting. As soon as I am on a site visit you can feel whether it's right for your event. Or you can picture what type of event would work best and what clients it will suit."
"Trying to make the venue match your event is only going to cause you problems. Just because you like the venue or you have a great relationship with them...best rates etc. It doesn't mean it is going to work for that particular event."
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
"Dietary requirements...! So with a name and company name like mine you would think we would be on the ball with this one. I learnt pretty fast that you cannot just assume the venue will follow your directions exactly - especially overseas. Always check, check and check again that there is a complete understanding between you, the client and the venue that every attention and service is made to those who have specific requirements."
Which technique is most successful in getting the cost down at a venue with high or 'fixed' costs"?
"The best way to get costs down in reality is putting business with the venue. The more you work with any supplier the more open they will be to look at rates and how best to work with you in the long term. However, for those in larger agencies or corporates, you may be in a position where you can book across a set term. So if there is a venue you like and you have the ability to be able to lock in a set amount of events with them across 2 or 3 years. Then you could always discuss a fixed term rate. That way you wont have to worry increased rates due to inflation etc. It will also help you manage and plan budgets on that basis for events across that period."
We would love to hear your views on all things regarding venues. Is there a particular area you are having difficulties with? Are you finding that sourcing venues time consuming? Is best rate the most important factor, or is it relationship building?
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Thank you to the BNC Show and Matt Chung Photography