How can you book event space without a budget? Money makes the world go round, in the events business as much as everywhere else, so who could possibly be interested in letting you have a venue for free? And won’t the success of your event, whether it’s a business function or a private celebration, depend on how much budget you’re able to throw at it?
The good news is that, while money is clearly an enabler, it is absolutely possible to source great event space with no venue hire budget at all. The trick is to be very clear about your ‘must have’ venue requirements but to be flexible and creative with regards to the ‘how’ and ‘where’.
Next, make life easy for yourself by getting some professional help, again at no cost to you. Venue finding agencies make their money via commission from the venues so they won’t charge you for their services. Working with a reputable, independent agency will give you access to valuable expert knowledge and an extra pair of hands to get the show on the road. Crucially, they know the events industry like the back of their hand, have an encyclopedic knowledge of every venue known to man, and are used to thinking outside the box.
Here are 4 ways you can find the perfect free venue for your event.
1. Agree to a Minimum Spend
It is a fact that many of the UK’s best bars, restaurants, clubs and private hire venues don’t charge a venue hire fee. They will let you use the space entirely without charge as long as you bring in some extra revenue that generates a profit for the establishment at the end of the day (or night).
A minimum spend venue is perfect for event organisers who have no funds available for an upfront venue hire fee. The proviso is that you agree to a minimum amount that has to be spent at the venue on food and drink during the event. For instance, if the required spend at your chosen bar is £1,000, and there are 50 guests spending at least £20 each at the bar, the venue is free to you. It’s a genius way to secure an otherwise out-of-reach luxury venue when there’s no budget.
2. Tap Into Your Business Contacts
If you’re looking for a commercial venue but don’t have the funds to hire one, do what most charities do: beg, borrow and barter. This where your friends, business contacts and networking skills come in very handy. Perhaps you already know someone who has suitable event space that could be approached? Does anyone owe you a favour that could usefully be called in?
The trick to being able to source a complimentary commercial venue is to make it worthwhile to the host company. Could you build a strategic corporate partnership or run a joint marketing initiative? Do your respective goals and values, or those of your proposed event, align? Could you help with profile raising, brand promotion or lead generation? You may need to come up with a strong proposal but if you are successful, this could be a hugely beneficial arrangement for all concerned.
3. Engage With the Community
Aside from the world of business, it’s worth tapping into your local community resources to see whether your event could be held at a local school or sports hall, a church or community centre or even in a public park. Community buildings and organisations may well expect some form of recompense for the use of their facilities, but there may be creative ways to deal with this. Perhaps you could offer a professional service in return, or collect for a charity donation amongst your guests?
For events that take place in a public place, be prepared that you will need the local authority’s permission. Every local council has slightly different rules and processes to be complied with regarding what is and what isn’t allowed – here’s one example – and there may be fines for any transgressions.
4. Use Your Own Venue
Of course, if you have commercial space of your own, whether it’s an office or a shop, a factory or a warehouse, you shouldn’t dismiss the totally valid option of hosting the event yourself. Who says you can’t transform your office premises or industrial space into a suitable events venue, with a bit of imagination? Challenge your assumption that the only way is to provide a luxury venue to impress your guests.
In fact, it may even work in your favour to let people see behind the scenes of your business operation. With nothing to hide, and perhaps even a little bit proud to show off some of the inner workings of your company, this is a great way to open up, connect and build trust.
Finally, have you considered using the private home of one of your senior managers as a venue for smaller meetings or social gatherings, or even for a grand outdoor summer event? Quite apart from the absence of a venue hire charge, adding a personal touch is perfect for building and strengthening business and personal relationships.