We all know that submitting an RFP for a venue is a tedious process. From determining a ‘scientifically correct’ room setup and guaranteed participant numbers to food & beverage + technology choices that don’t disappoint – multiple variables mean exponentially higher chances for things to go wrong on game day.
After working with thousands of corporate meetings planners, we believe that there are seven less obvious questions that event planners should always consider during the planning process.
What do you want your participants to achieve in by the time they leave? We typically categorize the events we host into four goals – informative (learning), generative (brainstorming), evaluative (making a decision/s), and social (networking). Your event venue should have suggested packages, materials, and equipment which aim to facilitate these goals, and offer suggestions on how best to achieve them with best practice examples from other, similar events that they have hosted in the past.
What do you want your participants to feel or talk about after they leave? We believe that space is the body language of your organization, so the venue that you choose should reflect the feelings that you want to re-create for your attendees. That often means focusing on the senses – sight (a venue that is attractive and welcoming), sound (a venue that provides audio capabilities to keep your participants focused or uplifted), touch (a venue that offers ‘toys,’ soft seating, touchscreens to control the room, high-end glass whiteboards), smell (pleasing venue scents, strong espresso on-demand, fresh flowers), and taste (On-site chef prepared cuisine, AM/PM sweet and savory snacks, favorite candies from childhood). Asking your next venue how they can help with these aspects takes your event from good to great!
Based on your meeting goals, your room should be setup to accommodate both the variety of people and various outcomes of the event you are hosting. Since the room setup may need to shift throughout the agenda, you’ll need to ensure that the venue has enough space and enough movable furniture (ideally on-site) to accommodate your transitions. If you need additional help, check out our recent ebook, The Mad Science of Seating, which deep dives into 8 optimal seating configurations based on your meeting goals.
Professional meeting planners always make their decisions on this as a key criteria. There always needs to be enough space for social interaction and networking, often in a separate room within the venue. It’s also a must that venues make it easy for participants to find their way around and not get caught in dead-ends and corridors that lead nowhere. Venues that take it one step further accommodate for participants who have special needs, such as a mother’s room which offers a quiet, sanitary place away from the main activities.
It’s always one of the biggest expenses and also one of the biggest worries of an event. Your next venue should not only be able to deliver reliably, but also provide you with a Plan B/backup options should things go wrong (and they always do). Having staff on-site is always a good thing, because they are familiar with all of the equipment, the venue’s quirks, and have had to go to Plan B in the past with other clients. Since technology is such a big category in itself, we provided a separate article which has 27 more questions for you to consider.
Your agenda may be such that lunch needs to be served at 2pm. In certain environments, that may be the time a venue’s staff is required to take a break. If there are any dietary restrictions among the group (gluten free, kosher, vegetarian, dairy-free, etc.), that may mean the venue’s caterer cannot accommodate or will charge a very big premium. Including these needs in the RFP will ensure that you get transparent answers right away so you can either adjust budget accordingly or find a more appropriate venue. We find that food is one of the best ways to surprise and delight participants, so ensuring that the menu is seasonal, tasty, accommodating, and approachable is your best bet to win their hearts and minds.
Do you want natural lighting in your event space? Do you need special security for attendees like celebrities or political figures? Do any guests require accessibility accommodations? These are some of nuanced, taken-for-granted considerations that are always worth double-checking and ensuring that your venue can provide these without a lot of additional clauses or tradeoffs.
Ask Sooner, Win Later
The earlier the planning, the better. If you’re programming an event for 100+ people, start a conversation with your venues at least a year in advance, or six months if you’re working with 50 people. If you have never planned for a large event before, have no fear, read our Guide to Planning Your First Large Event!