Contact possible venues
So by now you’re building an idea of how far your budget will stretch, and you’ll be considering the approximate cost per head and what this will include, and armed with this information you can now contact venues and request quotes. Again, the larger your company, the benefits of using an external party planner becomes clearer as things start to become very complicated and costs can spiral. It’s also common for venues to have their own in-house Events Manager(s) to help you plan so do your research and make contact with the venues to try and build a shortlist of suitable options.
Make provisional reservations
If you’re ahead of the game with the luxury of time you can often make provisional bookings with several venues before having to pay any kind of deposit and making a commitment and depending on the type of event you’re hosting and whether you're in or outsourcing, it makes sense to arrange a site visit. This will help to visualise things better and to establish any constraints or limitations be this for the purpose of theming, accessibility, fire escapes, staffing arrangements, furniture and even the post-party clear up. Don’t leave all of this to the last minute in case you need to source a new venue or recruit an entire team of waiting staff.
To really lay on the bash of the year and the most memorable experience, you may incorporate an overnight stay for guests. This is sometimes possible within the venue itself say for example if you’re opting to occupy the ball room of a prestige hotel and booking out a number of rooms as part of the deal. Alternatively you may find yourself booking rooms at a less expensive hotel nearby, and again in either case booking early is really important here so as to maximise your choice.
Book for minimum headcount
You may find it a good idea to insure yourself against the inevitable possibility of no-shows and to make provisional bookings for a minimum headcount allowing for finalised guests numbers to be provided later on. The venue will be keen to receive a deposit for the event so before any money changes hands it’s important to get all the facts straight and to protect yourself from any unexpected headcount changes in either direction. This is also your chance to try and identify any hidden charges say for example if there are any drink budget allocations that are exceeded, or extra charges for security, cleaning, or any guests staying over decide to charge room service in the early hours.
Most venues have revenue targets to achieve and they'll be keen to reach these targets earlier in the year. As such there is often some flexibility within the price depending on numbers and the size of your event. Don’t be afraid to push back on costings; negotiation is a skill and can be poorly approached without practice, but if you don’t ask for flexibility in pricing you won’t receive any discount. Therefore, the earlier you approach the issue the better your chance of receiving preferential rates. The closer you get to Christmas, the best venues will be getting booked and the motivation to offer discount will soon disappear.
Release unwanted reservations
Once your venue has been confirmed and contracts signed you should cancel and release any other held bookings. This is not just a courteous thing to do, but importantly making apologies and cancelling at the first opportunity will make sure you avoid tarnishing your reputation and that of your company. After all, you may need them next year. At the same time, it's advised to delay making any final commitment until you’re as certain as you can be around the suitability of your venue to accommodate your needs around theming, food and drinks.