It is true to say that selecting the right venue is one of the founding principles to successful event management. A venue can say so much about your event and its objectives. Equally important is the venue’s location and the distance delegates have to travel. Venue finding has always been a basic key skill to master within the event management handbook and many would like to think of it as an art form.
So much of an art form, many larger event management agencies have entire departments dedicated to venue finding where teams sole purpose is in finding that perfect venue.
Being an industry veteran, I have always seen hotel knowledge and relationship building as key to successful venue finding. I can only propose what I know, so I have always tried to know a lot in an attempt to have that next brilliant venue no one else knows about up my sleeve.
Strategic meeting management and cost consolidation is now a key focus within the event management industry. Event Management agencies are seen as cost savers rather than cost generators and this of course starts with venue finding.
Venue finding often has to be achieved in record time – it’s not unknown for a venue for 500 delegates with multiple rooms to be pulled out of the hat in a matter of an hour!
In our online ‘cloud’ based world we live in where Strategic Meeting Management reigns supreme, clients want speed, efficiency and instant solutions. Venue finding needs to be turned round in a matter of hours, rather than days and as such what solutions are there?
Online venue finding is highly subjective and has now become the new next step within the event management handbook, but where do you go, what do you use and how should it be approached.
Online venue finding is not googling. ‘Google finding’ relies on the knowledge of the searcher rather than the search engine and as such, is only seem as an information gathering tool, rather than a finder. So for me, that doesn’t work.
There are of course directories, which have been the traditional venue finding tools that many of us grew up with. This could be anything for the Square Meal Guide to looking at the Conference Blue and Green guides on www.venuefinder.com. Certainly, there seems to be an online shift by city convention bureaus and venue find directories, all offering one stop shop venue finding tools.
Online tools such as these are far more effective then the old fashioned directories collecting dust on office shelves. But, in my experience, they only work for UK venue finding and provide information that everyone has access to, including your competitors. Often directories are out of date and information varies dependent upon what your looking for.
For me, using directories can give a great feel to what’s out there, but they don’t necessarily provide a cross section of original options. Often venues have had to pay to be listed (meaning that you aren’t getting a true reflection of what’s out there) and hunting albeit on a website or through a brochure can be time consuming and labour intensive!
With any type of directory, albeit online or offline, you are relying on the knowledge and experience of the person conducting the venue finding. The new holy grail in venue finding, it has been said, is on using one of the new integrated venue finding tools such as CVENT. Larger agencies have created inhouse systems based upon their own preferred supplier agreements, nonetheless they are often powered by one of the ‘off shelve’ providers
These new venue finding tools offer a fully automated solution which starts from venue suggestions, to sending out the RFP and not only that, collating the responses so they can be sent directly to the client, all from one centralised dashboard. Clever stuff, so it seems!
Clearwater Events has recently tried CVENT and I must admit, its pretty powerful as within a few clicks, our team can access a myriad of venue data, which even my little niece could master in a few strokes of the keyboard. Voila, a few clicks and your venue find is complete. The great thing about CVENT is that its free to use, but be prepared for some heavy ‘ad on’ selling!
Since using an online venue finding tool, we have certainly delivered quick returns on our venue finding and have been impressed by the reporting that aligns to client’s strategic meeting management programmes. We have been able to pull customisable reports through a centralised dashboard and track spend and sales with particular venues, all online.
Venues are quick in responding to our online RFP and the data sent back is usually to a standard that we can work with. With time being a huge commodity, these online environment can really help. So where is the catch?
For me, I feel that these tools are only as good as its user. Without the prior knowledge and understanding of the venues, then our venue finding and our core event management solution becomes worryingly dependent on pixels, graphics and venues that have agreed to be become part of the online database.
Venue finding is key to an events success. Although seen perhaps as a procurement check box, it still forms the basis to the event management handbook. Surely knowledge and experience should be used to power these online venue finding tools rather than being the other way around?
Personally, I have find online venue finding to be a fantastic tool, but I see my own knowledge and experience as the driver to its use. Without an experienced user at the helm, the tool really doesn’t work and delivers based upon computer assumptions and an events technician entering data.
As a result, I still believe the best way to be effective in venue finding is to go out there and learn! This means going to trade shows and taking up hosted buyer opportunities. It means accepting invitations for supplier appointments and learning all there is to learn. With this knowledge comes power and its this power than can help manipulate an online venue finding tool into a useful and effective RFP solution.
These solutions are important venue finding tools and are incredibly effective in delivering excellent event management solutions. However, the Event Manager who is doing the venue finding needs to power the tool through their own knowledge, instinct and experience to create an informed search. Otherwise the tool powers itself and you simply make the entire venue finding process nothing more than the much argued procurement check box.