Another key consideration in venue choice is whether or not the
group is composed of company employees or outside customers,
Pitchford said, noting that the former will not require the “wow” factor
that the latter will.
“If you are seeking to impress outside customers and push the presence of your brand, then it may be worth it to do something like rent a
battleship museum and shoot fireworks off the deck,” he said.
However, he doesn’t recommend being overly austere with an internal group of attendees.
“It’s walking a thin line,” he said. “You want to be prudent but also
show that the company is solvent and on the right track to continued
success. If you go too cheap, it sends the wrong message and doesn’t
help with company morale. This may be especially important during
lean times when you want to keep things moving forward.”
Matching the character and style of the venue with that of the orga-
nization is another important consideration, according to Miller.
“Sometimes it’s good to mix things up, but often people feel more
comfortable with something that fits in with their office setting,” she said.
Accessibility and whether or not people are driving to the venue
are other factors to consider, especially when the budget is tight, she
added. A venue that provides free parking will be a huge plus if most of
the group is arriving by car.
Breaking It Up
Large gatherings with different subgroups that require their own
networking spaces also dictate particular venue choices. According to
Hofford, venues with a mix of small and large function areas enable
the group to break up into smaller sessions when needed.
“At a recent corporate event at a large restaurant, we had a reception
together on their big lawn. It was a private space where we could make
announcements,” she said. “Then we broke into three regional groups,
so there could be hosted dinners with suppliers. We wanted to narrow
down the networking pool. Then we went back to the same space
where we had the opening reception for a dessert party.”
When it comes to getting a fair price for the venue, negotiating skills
really count. Even when venues offer a set package, it is worthwhile to
ask for added enhancements, according to Miller.
“I respect the packages the venue offers and usually feel they don’t
overcharge, but I always try to get my client the best possible value and
try to get other things included,” she said. “Multiyear contracts are also
a good way to get concessions. If I send a number of different clients
to the venue, it gives me an advantage. Having that kind of long-term
relationship makes a difference.”
Pitchford noted that some venues will charge separately for items,
including lighting. When possible, he recommends getting the services
that are needed bundled together in one price.
“There are some venues that will charge you for turning on the lights
or for using the screens even when they are built into the room,” he
said. “When you negotiate, make sure you are not being charged for
each feature. Get as much included as you can.”