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Getting It Sorted

So, you’ve got a shortlist of venues that you’re thinking of using for your event:  what’s the next step?

Well, it’s likely that all the venues you’ve included on your shortlist will be ones which seem, on the face of it, to offer all the facilities which are most central to your requirements. But do they, in fact, and what are the costs involved?

One tried and tested way of discovering this is via a document known as an RFP (Request For Proposal). This is a wish list of all the things you would need a venue to provide.  It is put together, and then sent to all the potential venues. They send back a proposal (naturally) which indicates how they intend to meet the requirements you’ve specified, and what their price is for doing so.

Many venues offer an on-line RFP service; their web-site includes an on-line form, which you fill in: a very useful and convenient process, in some circumstances.

However, if you use their forms, it means that you have to re-jig your requirements for each venue, and that you have to describe your requirements in their terms, not yours. The RFP is a document which should allow you to specify directly what you need, it is then up to the venue, rather than the customer, to use their imagination, in order to fit what they can offer to what you’ve determined is involved.

If you have more than two venues on your shortlist, it is probably more effective to construct your own RFP, and send this identical document, to all the potential suppliers.

So what would a typical RFP (for this purpose) have on it then?

  • Identification – your name, your organisation, your position, the name or title of your event, etc.
  • Deadlines – What are the provisional dates for your event? When do you want the proposals in by? How flexible can you be on these dates?
  • Budget – An indicative budget figure. Make this quite low and you can then ‘horse trade’ on things like complementary coffee, transport to/from the venue etc, when the venue management find they have to go over it.
  • Type/purpose of event. Be quite descriptive so the venue have an idea of what, generally, they should expect.
  • How many attendees are you expecting? What accommodation will they require?
  • What meeting rooms are required.
  • Give some indication of your agenda. How long is each room going to be in use for? What’s the format? Talk then break-out then talk, or something else?
  • If break-out rooms are required, ask about the locations available, do they have a sufficient suite of meeting rooms all in one place? Or will individual meetings have to be held after a long traipse along corridors, resulting in some people getting thoroughly lost?
  • If this event has been run before, you can give actual figures of attendance etc, for the previous occasions.
  • Technical resources – audio/visual equipment and so forth. It is best to be as specific as you can, indicate the software you will be using, etc.
  • Entertainment/activities. I.e. everything which is envisaged other than the ‘core’ activities of the event. The venue may well be able to help to arrange these.
  • Transport to and from the venue, what arrangements can be made?

When you construct this document, it is likely that many of the details of your event will not be fully determined. Try to be as descriptive as possible, in order to elicit a helpful response from the venue. If the venue is off-hand and singularly unhelpful, to the extent that you’re left in doubt about the kind of charges which might accrue for the different items, then the question to ask is, do you want to use them anyway?

And this is an absolutely crucial element. The RFP process is the means by which you start getting to know the venue and its management. The critical points are, yes, of course, can they supply what you need? But also, equally important, will you find it easy/possible to deal with them?

You have to be as clear and informative as you can about your requirements; they need to demonstrate that they’ve given these due consideration.

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