Life is full of questions, and as an introverted male I’ve found that most can be answered in 5 words or less. However, some queries warrant a response that can only be wrought from much soul-searching, introspection, and research. Questions like:
“Where did the universe come from?”
“What is the meaning of life?”
And the ultimate unanswerable question that causes us to dive into the very depths of our souls:
“Where do you want to go for lunch?”
This question is troubling. It seems so simple, and yet the answer perpetually eludes my wife and I. It’s not for a lack of good dining options or due to our very selective taste. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There are too many places to choose from and they all offer something that would suit our palate.
This also can be the plight of the event planner. Whatever type of event you’re planning, there are literally hundreds of venues that would bend over backwards to host you. And many of them offer similar facilities, amenities, and prices. So, how do you decide where to go?
To make an informed decision about where to geographically, you first need to understand the desired outcomes of your event. Thinking critically about what experiences you want your attendees to have will bring clarity to your venue search. For instance, if your event will be centered about keynote sessions and breakouts/workshops all day, then one of your top priorities in venue selection needs to be availability of several presentation-quality meeting spaces.
Similarly if the primary reason for your gathering is fellowship and networking, then you need to seek out a place that has lots of common areas that will foster socializing. And if your event is designed to re-open the lines of communication and build cooperation among the team, then a facility that has a team building program would be a great choice.
Beyond the goals of your event, the second consideration for event planners is budget. For some, the question of how much money is available to spend is answered for them by their organization. But for many events, the attendees will be footing the bill for food, facilities, and travel. And while there are tons of resources on how to structure event pricing, the key as it regards to venue selection is knowing your constituency. “What is the purchasing threshold for my average attendee?”
By the time you enter the RFP process with a venue, you need to have a strong grasp of what your per-person costs need to be and what costs will not be covered through the venue. Knowing your baseline will help you make clear decisions on price and will quickly eliminate venues that aren’t going to be compatible for yours or your attendees’ budgets.
This all seems so intuitive, but the sad reality is that many meeting planners are like my wife and me trying to find a restaurant. Even though we’re inundated with choices and fresh options, we often settle on the same places we always go. Before you make the predictable decision, think! Think critically about what your attendees are hoping to gain from your event and how much they’d be willing to pay for it. Hopefully it will open your eyes to new opportunities for putting on a great event.