best of brand marketing distilled

Best of Brand Marketing Distilled – 12/9/11 – Event Space Rental Tips

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Best of Brand Marketing Distilled is our weekly (and sometime less frequent) distillation of the best of brand marketing and business intelligence. We hope these posts are fuel for your organization’s planning and success.   This week’s edition provides a distillation of our top workshop and off-site space rental tips.  We have rented many workshop spaces over the years as the venue for delivering Distility 1day1brand workshops to our customers, and we have learned a number of lessons along the way.  We hope this distillation will assist you with your next workshop, corporate retreat or off-site venue rental adventure.

1.  What do you need in a workshop event rental location?

Before you start your search, make calls, or send emails, you should determine what you need.  Your needs may be straight-forward if you are looking for space for 25 people to meet in an empty room or boardroom setting, you have no audio visual requirements, you will serve minimal non-alcoholic beverages and you don’t plan to serve any food.  However, you will likely need more than that.

For our workshops, we have detailed specifications based on our needs, including overall square footage and dimensions for the space, wall colour or screen availability, furniture set-up options, ability to set up our own equipment, Internet, number of participants and food and beverage requirements.

Once you have a reasonably good sense of what you need, then you can search and reach out to potential venues to find out if they have a space that fits your needs.

2. When do you need it?

There is no need to figure out if the space meets your needs if it isn’t available when you need it.

We suggest that one of your initial filter questions is about availability on you desired dates.  If it is available, then ask a promisingly looking venue to hold the space for you while you decide if you will book it.  There should be no charge to hold the venue, but be forewarned that, if your booking is challenged by a competing renter for your date, you can expect to have to book or release it within 24 hours.

3. How much will it cost and what will you get for your money?

The quoted rental rate for the space is rarely the entire cost.  Actually, in our experience it never is.

To get to the full details of the cost, you need the Rental Agreement (sometimes called the License Agreement), any standard terms and a detailed estimate from the venue. Getting the Rental Agreement and the detailed estimate should not be an afterthought.  Space rental agreements are not all the same, and looking at the agreement and the estimate is the only way to be sure there are no unexpected costs.   A key (and perhaps common sense) lesson is that it is essential to get both the agreement and the detailed estimate before you commit to a space and before you confirm the date and location with your team or customer.

You should also make sure that the workshop event rental location agreement (including any standard terms) make sense for your event.  In addition, you should not be shy about asking for reasonable changes to the agreement (including the standard terms) before you sign or send your deposit cheque. We generally find that venues are open to making reasonable changes to approve our putting up Distility signage, bringing in our workshop equipment and addressing our concerns.

You should also beware that some spaces may be less expensive since you are bearing more risk or have to rent everything needed to use the space (furniture, linens, venue staff to obtain access, and more).  In addition, for some spaces, like Universities renting out their lecture halls, the agreement may include a clause that they can cancel your booking in favour of one of its own events; you will likely want that term deleted or not rent that space to avoid risk of losing your event space.

Questions to ask before renting a workshop event location

The following is a list of some of the questions which we suggest asking to help avoid surprises, zero in on the end costs and make informed choices.


  • What is the rent for the space? For that rent, what is the time period that we get access to the space, including set up and tear down time?
  • If our daytime event will runs past 5 p.m., can we book by the hour or do we have to book the entire evening?  What is the charge?  Will this impact food and beverage and staffing charges (see below)?
  • If the space is not rented, can we set up the night before?  Will there be a charge? If not, can we have our equipment delivered to the venue the day before, is there a secure space for our equipment to be stored and how early on the day of our event can we have access to the space to set up?
  • What furniture is part of the basic rent?  Does a furniture or linen rental charge need to be paid?  Is room set-up by venue staff included in the rental rate?
  • What Internet connectivity is available?  Is it included in the rent or an extra charge?  If Internet is essential for your event, consider obtaining a dedicated quality connection for your event and ask how much that will cost.
  • What venue staff services are included in the rent?  Are there any other required staffing for our event and what is the cost?

Food and Drink

  • For food and drink, can we use any caterer? Or does the caterer have to be from the venue’s preferred caterer list? Whether there is a preferred caterer list or not, you are well advised to get a basic catering quote before you commit to the venue.
  • Does the caterer or venue have a minimum food and beverage requirement, and, if so, what is it?  The minimum can be very high – especially if your event includes both day and evening space rental.
  • Does the venue charge a landmark fee on food and beverage (a fixed % on top of your catering bill)?  A landmark fee is not uncommon, and can make sense where the venue provides amenities to support the catering.
  • Does the venue provide a standard set of linens, plates, dishes, etc. Or does the caterer rent (and charge for these)?  The rental of these items can be surprisingly pricey.
  • You should ask about the full catering costs and not simply the food and beverage costs.  Strangely, for some events, the actual food charges are smaller than the costs of rentals, staff and delivery charges.  Caterer costs may include the costs of a food and beverage staff member being present for your entire event (or for a specified a minimum amount of time), even if they are simply dropping off and setting up sandwiches for your guests.  For large events, this can assist ensuring that all goes smoothly, but it can be a big per person cost for smaller groups.
  • Liquor licenses vary from venue to venue.  The end result is that for some venues, you end up having to add additional serving staff person if you plan to serve alcohol.  In some venues, the additional cost of a champagne toast to end off an event is the cost of the champagne and, in other venues, it is the cost of the champagne plus hefty additional costs, including a separate server for 4 hours and additional glassware rentals.