Updated: Apr 19
For anyone planning an event, venue selection and contract negotiations can be a daunting and time-consuming task. However, it doesn’t have to be. With a little help, you will be able to better understand the steps and avoid any potential mistakes that have the potential for serious financial repercussions. So where do you begin?
Securing an event venue begins with an RFP.
What is an RFP? An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a solicitation from the person or organization planning the event to the potential venue such as a convention center or a hotel.
Submitting an RFP means that you are interested in that venue’s services for your event - whether that be a meeting space, hotel rooms for guests, and, or food and beverages. You are asking them to submit a proposal for hosting the event.
It is important to send an RFP regardless of whether the venue is new to you or it is one that you've used in the past. If you’re planning an event in a location that you are unfamiliar with, or you don’t have an existing relationship with the venue, an RFP will provide the venue with the information they need to create a proposal and determine if the venue is the right fit.
Planner Tip: Provide as much information as possible (in an organized and concise format) so your first round of proposals provide you with as many details and prices as possible, eliminating all the time going back and forth filling in the blanks
If you’ve planned an event at this venue previously, your needs and what the venue offers may have changed, and you may be working with a new sales rep. An RFP will allow you to see if they are still a good option, and ensure that you are requesting the same information from all venues which will provide you with an apples-to-apples comparison when you are making your final selection.
Don’t submit just one RFP. Even if you have your heart set on one venue, it is still important to obtain more than one proposal - ideally three or more. You want to make sure you’re receiving the best value, both in cost and overall level of service, and can use other responses when it comes time for negotiations.
Creating an RFP that is well thought out and executed will help to save both time and money for the planner, as well as the venue. There are a lot of parts, so it takes some time and patience. However, some venues make it easy by including an RFP form on their website. Every RFP is best submitted in the same format to help the planner better compare and evaluate what each venue offers.
Once you’ve received the RFPs, you can then compare your options and make a decision. By comparing at least three different venues, you will know what questions still need to be asked and where you can negotiate. The next step is the contract itself!
4 Must-Know Contract Tips
Once you’ve received and accepted a proposal, it’s time to look over the contract. No matter your level of experience in this area, there are strategies you can use to help you achieve the result you want.
Pay attention to the fine print
When it comes to contracts, you need to read every line. What may seem at first to be unimportant, could actually contain critical information such as inadequate security, additional fees, or one-sided protections. It is well worth your time to look through every last word, including the fine print, so you can feel safe knowing you’re protected.
Consider long-term contracts
If the event that you're planning is an annual one, you should consider securing a long-term contract (book multiple dates within one contract). You will likely get a better deal, and save a significant amount of time and effort. However, you want to be sure that you include a clause that protects you in case you’re not fully happy with the first event.
Be sure to take your time
Don’t let a venue try and persuade you into signing a contract right away. Be sure to take your time to fully review and understand the contract. Request a "pencil hold" on the dates with the first right of refusal. If they pressure you into making a quick decision, they may not be the right fit.
Understand what you are signing
Force Majeure: Force Majeure is when acts of God or natural disasters cause suspensions in production that would have otherwise occurred without these unforeseen events taking place. The force majeure clause should also include language about pandemics and travel bans. Just because the venue is open for business, does not mean your attendees are able to get there.
Hidden Fees: Due to the pandemic, hotel and event venues have been increasing their fees associated with hosting events. Be sure that you're protecting yourself by including a clause that says “You aren't responsible for any additional expenses not set out in this contract."
Attrition: While it's hard to predict how many people will attend your event, there are ways you can reduce the risk of losing money if they don't show up. One way is negotiating for an attrition limit. One common example would be an attrition cut-off date 90 days prior to the event where you can lower your room block, meeting space and/or food & beverage minimum without liability.
The Art of Negotiation
You’ve read through the contract, and for the most part, it looks great. However, there may still be a few things that are missing or need to be changed. Now comes the final step of the contract process - negotiation.
Here are a few things you need to know to help you master the art of negotiation.
Identify your non-negotiables
Before starting negotiations, you need to identify your non-negotiables. These are the things you are not willing to budge on. You want to be sure to communicate them clearly so there are no misunderstandings.
Although there may be some things you don’t want to let go of, it’s important to have some flexibility. Just as you have your wants and needs, so does the venue. Think about some aspects you may consider altering that won’t affect the overall value of the venue itself. By being flexible, the venue may offer some concessions when it comes to their pricing or may offer additional services.
Ask for concessions
Unless you’ve been in the event planning process prior or are an experienced event planner, you may not be aware that you can ask for complimentary items as part of your contract negotiations. A couple of examples that you can request that may not cost the hotel additional money or resources are:
discount on banquet menus
discount on in house AV
free / discounted parking
waive resort fees
double hotel points
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
When it comes to finalizing a venue contract, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, no matter how small the detail. Negotiating event contracts is all about compromise. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what is possible. You may be surprised at the answer you get.
Given the current uncertainty, planning ahead is more important than ever. Make sure you outline clearly what will happen if your event needs to be canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 or any other unforeseen circumstances. When the situation is out of your control, make sure the contract includes a force majeure clause, a termination clause, and an indemnity clause that protects you.
Planner Tip: Just because the clauses are in the contract, does not mean YOU are protected. Be sure to read the fine print, request any modifications, and ensure that pandemics, travel restrictions, postponements, and the like are included.
Consider an expert
By hiring an event planner experienced in venue contracts and negotiations, you can rest assured knowing you are protected and are getting the most for your money. An event planner can create and send an RFP, manage the proposals, negotiate terms, and most importantly, make sure you are fully protected.
Hiring an event planner at the first stage of planning is a great way to see if they will be a good fit for you throughout the planning process. You will be able to establish a relationship with them, experience the quality of their work, and feel more comfortable, knowing that they will plan and approach your event as if it were their own.
Be Bright Events has secured and negotiated with dozens of venues and has a proven process and checklist to ensure you and your attendees will be well taken care of.
If you’re just starting to plan your event, book a call and let's chat about your event space needs and if our venue selection services are a good fit for you!