I have seen entrepreneurs blow their budget all because of an expensive, over the top, unnecessary venue. Yup! I’ve seen it, I’ve heard about it and I’m here to prevent you from making that mistake.
Planning an event is exciting. It makes you all giddy inside when you think that your vision is finally coming to life. This is your chance to make a stamp on the live event industry and a first and lasting impression in the minds of a special group of entrepreneurs. I get it. But don’t allow any of those emotions to distract you from making sound, logical decisions.
When planning your event, your venue is the first thing you’ll spend money on and it’s not a little bit. It’s 25 percent of your event budget. One-quarter. It’s a big decision and very crucial. Your venue is one of the first physical parts of your live event attendees will experience. So a lot of emphasis is usually placed on it. Hence the reason it takes up a big chunk of your budget.
If that makes you a little nervous, don’t worry. I’ve got three tips to help you choose the right venue without blowing your budget.
First tip, figure out your budget. This is a no-brainer but someone needs to hear it. Unless you have unlimited money in the bank (and even that still doesn’t matter actually), you should not be planning an event without a budget. This is one of the main keys to a profitable live event. You need to sit down with a pen, paper and your business bank account, and figure out how much money you’re comfortable spending up front before you recuperate during ticket sales. Let’s say you don’t have an overall number in mind, then write down a number you don’t want to go over. If you’re a first time organizer, I always suggest a workshop or retreat with a dozen attendees or less. So let’s go off of the assumption that you are a first-time organizer and you'll take my advice. As it relates to luxury, what kind of experience are you hoping to create? Maybe you want to create a bare bones experience where there’s nothing fancy, just the essentials. Or a mid grade experience where there are a couple statement luxury items surrounded by essentials. Perhaps your vision includes a showstopper experience with no stone left unturned. Whatever it is, it’ll help guide your research and give you an idea of what you could expect to spend. Let’s say you want a mid grade workshop for $10,000. Then you know that come what may, you will not spend more than $2,500 on your venue.
Second tip, be flexible. Before you even schedule appointments to tour venues, you should do some legwork online first. This helps you narrow down your search to the places that really interest you. You should be looking at the venue’s website, their social media accounts, Google listing and more. Also, don’t forget the reviews. Read through as many of the negative ones as possible to see if any of the problems they noted is a deal breaker for you. After you’ve done that, schedule appointments to tour the venues. Don’t fall in love with the first venue you tour. On these tours, you’re keeping an open mind as you look at each venue, taking note of the different selling features and picturing your live event in the space. If after touring all the venues, there’s one in particular that you can’t stop thinking about, but that date is not available, then you need to be flexible. Change your date. If the venue has another location in a nearby town that more suits your budget, then you need to be flexible. Reconsider your location. If you wished the venue had a feature or two as other venues, but location is perfect and within your budget, you need to be flexible. Grab it before it’s gone. What’s important is that you stay within your budget. This is non-negotiable.
Third tip, note the extras. Venues usually have extra fees and add-ons that can easily blow your event budget. That $2,500, 25% of your budget, should be inclusive of all taxes, fees and add-ons. If you’re lucky, the venue rental will include the tables and chairs. Here are a couple of possible add-ons. First, AV equipment rental. This may include the stereo system, projectors, screens, microphones, podium and more. Although you may know a guy who knows a guy who can get you AV equipment rental at a reasonable rate, most venues have strict rules that you can only use their preferred list of vendors. Second, insurance. Some venues will allow you to use your liability insurance if you already have it for your business. But you’ll have to make sure that it stipulates the venue’s name and address, and has the appropriate coverage amount for your event. Along with taxes and fees, these can quickly add up and blow your location budget. Make sure you ask these fees and add-ons questions during the tour and be sure to get the items and prices in writing via email or brochure on the day of your appointment.
BONUS: Consider event dates during the week as opposed to events dates on the weekend. Weekend venue rentals are usually more expensive than those during the week.