Welcome to the first in our event management masterclass series. In these guides we’re going to be shining a light on the events industry, by discussing what’s involved in putting on successful events and how to bring everything together on the day. Each post will include practical advice and guidance, whilst hopefully imparting an appreciation of just how much planning and preparation is required in pulling off a successful event.
As well as business owners and leaders, I hope this series will also appeal to other events industry professionals and inspire debate and discussion on some of the areas under discussion. Your comments are certainly welcome.
In this first article then, I’d like to start with one of the most important factors in event management and that’s selecting the right venue.
It’s important to get as accurate a figure on the number of attendees before choosing a venue. Even if your event is invite only, it’s still possible you may have some absences so make sure people RSVP so you know on the day what the attendance will be like. Your chosen venue may feel too big if a significant number of them don’t show up.
Too small a venue and your event will feel crowded and uncomfortable. Too big and it will feel empty and under-attended. Getting this balance right can be the bane of the event manager. As a rule of thumb you should aim to be just slightly under a venue’s capacity but not by too much. Typically the dropout rate for free events is around 40% and 5-10% for events that charge, so bear this mind when booking.
Another important consideration when selecting a venue is location and this will also hinge on your audience. If you’re putting on a local event then try to pick a location that suits as many people as possible, with good transport links and parking. Local events at a city or even regional level don’t pose as much as a problem as putting on events for an international audience. Picking a location that suits the majority of your attendees in this scenario can become a huge dilemma. One solution could be putting on a number of smaller events at a local level, but this might not always be appropriate. If this isn’t an option then it’s important to select a location that has really good transport links as well as parking, so people can easily use public transport to get to you.
It pays to put together a detailed list of what you’ll need to bring your event to life, from the catering to the staging and lighting setup. Many venues now provide this as part of their service but some won’t. If you want to bring in your own caterers you should always check with the venue first as some may impose restrictions on the use of outside caterers. In fact, the same goes for any outside contractors you are using. It always pays to let the venue know exactly what you are supplying and what you expect them to supply in terms of services, equipment and refreshments.
Security is another issue that you will need to check with the venue. Many venues will supply their own security but others won’t, meaning this is an expense you will need to shoulder. Last but not least, don’t forget to ask about parking. If the venue isn’t on a well connected transport route, you may have a lot of cars turning up and the last thing you want is for people not to be able to park.
Your budget will undoubtedly be the most important, as well as the most limiting factor influencing your choice of venue. With many venues now offering packages that include audio, visuals and catering, finding the right supplier is something that requires a lot of research and consideration.
Events tend to cost more than many small business owners think and there are always hidden expenses so creating a detailed financing plan is critical. When you speak to the venue, ask for a detailed breakdown of what is included in their fee and, perhaps more importantly, what isn’t.
With so many costs involved, it pays to secure funding before you start booking large venues. You should make sure you have secured and signed sponsorship deals for your event before booking the venue. If this isn’t possible, then at the very least you should be bringing in revenue from advanced ticket sales. If you’re budget is very limited and you’re worried about raising enough funds to pay for the event, you could consider using a crowdfunding platform. This way you can get prospective attendees to pledge for their tickets before the event raises enough money and is confirmed.
Economies of scale can be taken advantage of by working with professional event management agencies, as they may have a number of client bookings with a venue or a pre-existing relationships with the venue owners, allowing them to negotiate a more favourable rate.
Influences on the Decision Making Process
A piece of research from 2012 published in the Journal of Convention & Event Tourism throws some interesting light on which channels carry the most influence over the venue selection process for event planners. Despite the huge influence of direct marketing, printed media and online information from websites and search engines, it was found that personal interactions were still the preferred channel when it came to influencing decisions on venue.
For both event planners and the venue promoters who court their business, this highlights the value of genuine peer to peer interactions on social media networks and online forums, as well as in the real world. By understanding the experience of others in a similar position, event planners can take more informed decisions when it comes to venue selection.
The same study also found that meeting room information was the most influential information set a venue could provide when it came to swinging decisions, beating food services, nearby accommodation, attractions, exhibit space, tech support and event venue cost.
Whatever factors influence your decision of venue, it’s a decision that should never be taken lightly or without as much information to hand as you can possibly muster. Ultimately, your decision can mean the difference between a successful event and one that falls flat.