How to Get a Venue for Free for Your Workshop

PS There's a free downloadable swipe script that I use when approaching venues and sponsors. Click on the black box at the end of this post and it's all yours!

The one big cost that can be make or break the budget for most workshops, conferences, or retreats: The venue cost.

Also? The venue is the biggest hurdle to you having your first (or next) event. Because, much like people who run online businesses get stunted with the technology of hosting a webinar, people who want to run a live event get stuck on finding a place to host it.

No more, I say.

Since most events take place in conference spaces in large hotels or other similar "event venues," the first place that a lot of people look for event spaces is to large hotels. These can be so pricey and often, they'll entice you by saying "we'll give you the space for free...if you hit a food and beverage minimum of $1500". Which, for most small events and workshops, can be killer for profitability of an event.

Nope. No. Uh uh. No, thank you very much.

Unless I'm doing a big workshop with a lot of high-paying attendees (which you can absolutely do), I only look for venues that will host my event for free. Which often means, relationship building, targeting the right venues, and simply...asking (we'll get to all these things in a minute).

So how do I actually go about finding a venue for free?

Target the Right Venue

The biggest VALUE that you as the event organizer/host has is being able to bring an audience to the event and that you're taking the time to go out and get potential customers in the door. Not to mention that events build a certain buzz around a venue or location, with the opportunity for social media shares, possible professional photography, and the word of mouth marketing.

Thinking about all this, who would want all of these benefits?

Businesses struggling in a crowded market. Businesses who are brand new and want to keep their launch momentum going. Businesses who simply need people in their doors to potentially make a retail sale. Businesses who target a similar audience as you.

Some examples:

•New hotels that don't have event space, but have lobby space that they could lend in the early days of their existence

•Coffee shops that close after a certain time and may be interested in hosting an exclusive after-hours event

•Retail stores that want to cross-promote your services and their products (think furniture stores for stylists and designers, paper stores for calligraphers and letterpressers, yoga studios or natural food stores for health coaches, baby stores for mompreneurs...etc.)

Build a Relationship

Building relationships with retail store owners (especially biz owner to biz owner) is a really great way to take the 'suck' out of asking for free space. Plus, most business owners that have retail spaces WANT to host events...they just don't quite have the time or the brain space to do it. If you can convince them that you'll market and promote the event on their behalf, that is definitely convincing enough to get a yes.

Some examples:

That brewery that you spend all your time in to the point where you know the counterman? May be a great opportunity to for you to show your artwork (they need decor too!).

That bridal store that just opened? May need a good caterer to recommend for their bridal clients.

The co-working space that you rent every now and then? Definitely needs more people to present on an area of business where you're an expert.

Ask directly and show the benefits of the partnership

Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. We build up a lot of reasons why we can't ask, and wonder "what if they say no", but the truth is...if they say no, then keep asking. It gets easier each time you ask, until soon people will be asking you to host an event.

If you're uncomfortable doing it in person, ask via email, but be sure to have at least a little bit of a relationship with the person you're emailing...even if it's just that you live in the neighborhood. Identifying things you have in common is one way to