It can be very difficult and time-consuming to find the perfect venue for your event; struggling to find the right location, within your budget, with enough space to fit your guests and still capture the atmosphere and theme you’ve chosen.
While you may be tempted to sign immediately when you find a space that seemingly works for your event, it is highly recommended that you thoroughly scrutinise your contract to ensure you do not run into any legal issues.
It is necessary for you to know the right questions to ask at the booking stage to ensure that you not only receive maximum value, but to avoid bad surprises and expenditures.
We have devised a list of questions you must ask your venue before putting you name on that dotted line:
1. What are your cancellation terms?
Before handing in the non-refundable deposit on a venue, you must check the cancellation policy as they can vary significantly from venue to venue – and even within the same brand. Pay attention to the sliding scale, which follows along a timeline up to the day of your event from the date you sign your contract. Some elements of the policy may vary depending on the size of your event, and the charge for cancellation can be as much as 100% at 60 days ahead.
The BDRC have conducted research amongst chain event venues that have revealed the average cancellation charge to be 82% of the hire fee for up to 15 days in advance. For up to 30 days in advance, the cancellation charge is 59%. Lastly, for 60 days in advance, the fee is 43%. Your contract may differ significantly from these statistics, but it is best to confirm before signing.
2. Will there be a cancellation fee if the space is re-booked?
If you cancel your booking, the venue has the right to resell the event space. It is best if you confirm with your venue whether you are required to pay for your cancellation (or whether it can simply be recalculated) if a payment is received for rebooking the space.
3. If fewer guests attend than expected, what happens?
The difference between the actual numbers and the anticipated delegate numbers is the term attrition, aka ‘slippage’. If the event is smaller than expected, many venues will require you to pay for damages whether that be for food and beverages or a sleeping room block.
The attrition is the minimum amount of revenue an event venue needs to be guaranteed from your event. At the contracting stage, if you’re aware of this, you can negotiate the slippage easily. The higher the accepted attrition percentage is, the lower you liability of providing disappointing attendance.
4. What are you paying for?
A common mistake for an inexperienced event planner is making too many assumptions as to what is free – catering, water and various other services may cost you. You should also never assume that fixtures such as projectors in the roof are included in the cost of the venue.
As well as these smaller costs, you may be surprised with service charges and taxes. These costs may be mandatory, but that does not mean the venue is obligated to inform you of them.
5. What are the capabilities of the Wi-Fi and how much does it cost?
In our modern world, it is imperative that we have affordable, reliable connectivity, however, do not assume that every venue will provide sufficient information about the charges and capabilities of their Wi-Fi. Be sure to confirm free Wi-Fi is provided and, if so, what the restrictions are. If Wi-Fi is not free, try to make it a package rather than a line item. Free Wi-Fi is industry standard, so don’t be afraid to be demanding.
6. What are the best rates room rates do you guarantee delegates?
It is worth the time and effort to check a few price comparison websites before booking your venue to ensure that you are getting the best room rates available. If necessary, it might be appropriate to request a clause in your contract to ensure the hotel agrees that the rate will remain lower than the rack rate and that it is guaranteed.
In the contract, the venue will specify the ‘cut-off’ date when rooms will no longer be held at the group rate specified in the contract. Unused rooms after this date will be released back to the event venue’s inventory so they can resell. Due to this, it is also important that in your contract you mention that available rooms will be given to your attendees after this date.
Lastly, it is highly recommended to clarify their ‘walk policy’ – an action the venue takes if your sleeping block has been overbooked. If all options have been exhausted, they are required to relocate guests to another hotel.
7. Do you allow the use of outside suppliers?
It is best to be clear about outside suppliers with your venue – some require you to use in-house, have a list of preferred supplies for you to choose or charge you for the use of outside suppliers. It could be detrimental to your event if you do not ensure the best production value or are limited with partners.
8. In terms of set-up, what access are you given?
One of the biggest necessities of event planning is knowing the load-in and set-up time. It can take anywhere from a few hours to an entire day to set up productions, and sometimes it may be best to book a room for more than the day of your event to ensure efficiency.
Ensure that your contract includes any associated fees. It is not uncommon for a venue to provide a day of set-up free of charge, but you should be ready to negotiate if this is not allowed.