Stop Paying for Venues for Small Events (Do This Instead)
Ohhhh man! The event host's struggle is REAL when it comes to finding an appropriate venue at which to host an event.
Before I first started hosting my own events for my own business, I would always advise my clients to make asks to venues: to negotiate venue costs, to ask for venue partnership and sponsorship...basically to do whatever you could do to make the price of your event go down (because we all know events are expensive, right?).
And then I realized: asking is HARD. But in order for you to get started (or go big) with events, you gotta get used to it. So I decided to beta test my own advice.
Almost a year ago, I started hosting events for my own business so that I could make sure I was giving the most accurate information to my clients.
And if you have the correct positioning? This shit works.
The reality is that not having the right venue (or being too afraid to ask for a venue sponsor) can be the biggest hurdle between event launch and an awesome idea that wasn't turned into a reality.
But I want all that to change! The next time a venue says "Sure! We're happy to host, and it will cost you XXXX dollars!", this is what you do.
1 | Thank them profusely, and take your business elsewhere.
I promise you, there is a venue out there that wants introductions to 15-30 new potential clients. There is a venue that is so slow on a Tuesday night, and given the opportunity, would JUMP at the chance to get a bunch of new people in their doors, especially if they may be buying drinks or food or Instagramming or telling their friends about it.
The best time to plan an event is before you HAVE to plan an event, so if you're looking to do your first event with a potential venue, make sure you've got enough time to send 20 emails or make 10 phone calls or visit 5 possible places.
Sometimes you get lucky (like I did) and the first venue that you ask says yes right away.
And sometimes, it takes a few phone calls, a few asks of friends, and a few more days or weeks before you find a good fit.
But trust me, there's a venue out there and if you can do right by them, it may be the last time you'll ever have to ask.
2 | Tell them what you're willing to do for them. And then do it.
I always tell venues that I'm willing to plan the entire event, bring my own staff in to run the event, promote it on all my social media channels, and list them as a partner sponsor.
And I do all that and much more if I possibly can. And after the event is over, I make sure to help clean up, return any moved furniture, and thank them with a gift and a handwritten note.
The secret to cultivating a long-term relationship with a venue is to keep giving more than they feel like they've given you. Keep mentioning them on social media. Keep promoting them to your friends. Keep stopping by and visiting and helping. Do everything you can to make sure that they know that you're a valuable promotional asset for them to have in your corner and you'll be able to create a lasting relationship for you to do more events in their space.
3 | Pick newer venues
No matter how successful you think a new venue is, remember that most new retail spaces lose money during the first 2 years in business. They normally have a minimum amount of things they need to sell each hour of every day in order to stay in business. Which means, they'd LOVE to possibly have 30 people in their space browsing through their sale rack...it brings them closer to that hourly amount of money.
So do your homework, stay up-to-date on new venues that have opened recently, and make sure you understand exactly how your audience and that venue fit together.
Almost every single event venue that I've ever picked has been less than 6 months old. They want the foot traffic, they want the social media AND if you've already got the leverage of a community in your corner, they want to know that YOU as the influencer will back them up and be one of the people who pushes more customers their way.
Think about non-traditional venues too: coffee shops that don't get tons of traffic, furniture stores, breakfast places that close after 2pm, bars on a Monday night, hotel lobby spaces that may not actually have a private conference space, book stores, paper stores...pretty much any retail space that has some flexibility could be a possible venue for your event.
4 | Leverage other events you've hosted.
If you've already had past event success, name drop. Name drop until you can't name drop anymore.
The one thing I learned from getting a venue to say yes to you is to show them that you've done it before and you've done it well. If that means hiring a photographer (or asking one to sponsor your event...another thing I've done), then do it. If that means doing a really small event in a new space so that you can do a larger event in another space, do that.
Business owners are competitive and if they know that you've been talking to other business owners (especially ones that are their competition) and that those other business owners said yes AND they had a good experience? That's great leverage to get them to say yes to you as well.
5 | Provide social proof
If you've done past events, take pictures and SHOW THEM that you have the community power to deliver a good event.
Send these along in your pitch email. Show them the venues you've worked with and get testimonials from your attendees raving about how much they love your events.
Businesses may have a hard time trusting you (the salesperson), but they may find it okay to trust you if you have real, genuine testimonials from fans.
Phew! That was a lot. In the comments below, tell me what are some methods or "ways of asking" you've employed to get venues allow you to come into their space for free.