Marion Lowrence is an award winning PA winning both ‘Yorkshire PA of the Year’ and runner up ‘PA of the Year’ for Executive PA Magazine in 2011. Marion has worked in administration and management for 26 years. She worked with the Civil Service and the NHS among others, before joining her current role as a senior PA in the higher education sector in Yorkshire. Marion is secretariat to the Yorkshire Universities Board, the Executive Management Group and the Finance Sub-committee. She is PA to the CEO and is also the Office Manager managing HR, estates and overseeing the smooth running of the company. Marion loves to network and has a mission to promote the PA profession.
Choosing a venue can be daunting and the specifications will vary depending on type of meeting or event you're organising. I'd recommend the following tips for getting the right place to hold your event at the best price:
- As far as possible ensure that you see the venue before you book it. A picture on a website can be very different to the actual room and seeing it for real. This also gives you the chance to meet the events staff and you can usually tell what service you will receive by how well they sell and promote their venue. If they seem disinterested or they cannot wait to get you out of there think about how they might be if you were holding your event there.
- Do not be afraid to be cheeky - never accept the first quote. Be prepared to bargain but be realistic. If you're planning an evening event and you're using their catering and/or bar services you can often get the room hire included at no additional fee.
- If you're planning an event with food ask for a sample lunch before you book to ensure that the qulaity of the catering service meets your needs. Ask who the chef is, how long he/she has worked there and if he/she has catered for this type of event before. It's also a good idea to ask where they source their products from: a lot of venues now use local sources to help the local economy for many companies (mine toO), this is important.
- Check that they cater for all dietary requirements and that they can provide vegetarian, wheat/gluten/nut/shellfish free, halal or other options if necessary.
- Check if there is disability access and all the facilities provided at your event are accessible.
- If you're doing a 24 hour delegate rate for an event make sure you check the bedrooms to ensure that they meet your requirements in terms of quality and are are what you are looking for. A venue room/hall can be fantastic but the bedrooms can often be disappointing which can tarnish your event overall.
- Look at more than one venue and weigh up the benfits and provisions of each one, and then compare quotes. Remember, the cheapest is not always the best – look at quality and service too.
- Check out local venue searching companies. There are many free services that will do everything for you. They can check out prices and see if the venue is available on the date you need which saves your precious time. When you get the list of venues with quotes you can then visit the ones you're interested in or if you have not got time the venue searching company are very good at matching your needs and giving advice. They will have lots of useful information and some will barter the price for you as well.
- Do not accept a quote straight away – think about it and say you will ring back once you have looked at all the possibilities. A venue may even drop the price a little more or offer an incentive for you to go with them such as 1 in every 10 delegates goes free or the organiser stays free. There are a lot of venues out there so you can be fussy about what you require.
- Once you've decided which venue matches your requirements make sure you read the contract carefully. Ensure that you check what costs you are liable for if the event was cancelled for some reason. This is usually on a timescale slide so if you cancel, the cost to you will increase the nearer the event is BUT some venues charge the full price once you have signed the dotted line so be careful.
- Try to go on a familiarisation visit with a venue finding service if you do a lot of events. They show you around various event spaces and this will give you an insight to what space is available in the city you have most of your meetings in. I have found out about venues I did not know existed by doing this.
- Remember it is not only hotels who hire out events space. There are lots of varied venues throughout each city. You can also book manor houses, art galleries, museums, universities, theatres (for eg. The Domion Theatre in London) and purpose built events spaces (For eg. etc.venues in London) if you look around. If you need bedrooms you can still book these separately at a local hotel to the venue.
- Take time out to visit events and hospitality shows as this gives you the chance to meet venue providers in person and arrange to visit their venue for a show round or just to have their information on file if you do need to contact them at a later date. There are plenty of shows that I find useful as a PA but I particularly recommend:
- All of the above will give you the chance to meet venue, training services and office suppliers but also give you the option of some excellent dedicated PA training, seminars and excellent networking possibilities.
Are you planning an event and need venue suggestions? Feel free to leave your questions and comments below or click here
For a chance to explore high end venues in London, keep an eye on our blog for venue showcases with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) PA Club.
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