Booking Venues on a Tight Budget

Written by Paul Jan 29 2015

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Booking venues on a budget

While we are enjoying an ever blossoming economic recovery many organisations are still keen to look after the pennies. Meetings & events spending is not back to pre-recession levels, and in the ever transparent world we live in many companies, charities & public bodies are keen to ensure they are not seen spending lavishly. Of course you can still organise great events and here are some tips for booking venues of a tight budget.

You’re not feeding Henry VIII - Many venues, especially the more mundane, are struggling to differentiate themselves in a crowded market place so are re-thinking the way they cater events in a bid to stand out. Bowl food, world food, street food, interactive food, we are seeing huge leaps in the variety and the standard of conference fare being offered. Great as that is there’s generally a cost involved and you’ll be footing the bill for it. If you’re on a budget and not looking to ‘wow’ people then stick with sandwiches and crisps, chances are no one will complain as long as it’s all edible. Remember that no matter how good the food is, if the content of the event is a load of pish it will be money down the drain.

Lastminute.com - Usually best for smaller, internal and simple events. I wouldn’t risk it for a 300 delegate, ticketed conference, requiring 10 event spaces, but if it’s for staff and is relatively simple i.e. conference suite for 50 with basic catering, then you may be best off leaving a booking to the last minute. Venue hire is a transient business, you can’t hire out yesterdays conference suite today, at least not to anyone of a sane mind or without the ability to time travel. This means sales teams are under pressure to get maximum occupancy, so a last minute booking that would fill and otherwise unused space is always welcome. That said many sales teams have to maintain an average rate or stay within certain parameters, so don’t think The Ritz will bite your hand off if you have a day delegate rate budget of £20, no matter how last minute it is!

Location, Location, Location - If I had £1 for every time someone needlessly told me their event needed to be in London I wouldn’t need to be writing this blog now, that’s for sure. Look at the event demographic, are people coming from all corners of the UK? If so there are plentiful venues in well connected areas, look at Reading, Oxford, Coventry for a start and see how much you can save. Same for those multi-day residential events, just because people live/work in London, doesn’t mean they aren’t glad to get away every now and then, and there are some great venues within 20-40min drive/train journey away where you’ll see considerable savings and picturesque views.

Look at ‘out of the box’ venues - Think that venues are just conference centres & hotels? Think again. I doubt there have ever been as many venues in existence as we have today. Many of the current new crop are what we deem to be ‘secondary venue’ i.e. a venue where the primary revenue stream comes from an activity other than venue hire. These venues include sports stadiums, universities, churches, museums, civic buildings etc. If you’re on a budget then universities offer great spaces, usually well equipped with AV systems, and excellent rates. During the summer holidays it’s also possible to rent accommodation alongside events at staggeringly good value prices.

Be Flexible - So this probably encompasses most of the above but it’s worth remembering that if you are treading a financial tight rope then you may have to compromise on a few things. Before looking for a venue figure out what your ‘must haves’ are and what your ‘nice to haves’ are, hint; most factors will come under ‘nice to have’. Factors such as natural daylight, room set up, breakout spaces, catering and location should all be available for compromise.

Haggle - Don’t be afraid to ask for money off, most venues will quote with some leeway in price. Like all businesses most venues will want to undercut one another to win business, up to a certain point anyway. If you can show them a cheaper proposal from a competitor then this may be the incentive they need, just make sure the other venue is a competitor, Claridge’s aren’t going to try and compete with your local village hall. If you don’t like the thought of bargaining face to face or over the phone then stick to email.