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Starting and Opening an Event Venue Business - 20 Secrets From Experts

How to Start an Event Venue Business: Two Experts Share 20 Secrets for Opening an Event Space

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Best Practices, Business, Business Management, Catering, Event Vendors and Suppliers, Event Venues, Marketing, Sales, Tech, Tools and Software, Venues

Opening an event venue comes with a long checklist of items that must be in place for a successful launch … and chances are, as a new event space entrepreneur, you’ve probably already read a dozen or so articles that have run you through the basics.

But while these checklist articles can be helpful, they don’t answer the one vital question you should be asking: “What things do seasoned experts know that I don’t about how to successfully launch a venue and be profitable in Year 1?”

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but when you’re in the midst of starting an event venue and you are new to this, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. 

To help you fill in those gaps and provide you with new insights that aren’t already on your to-do list, we interviewed two of our clients and long-time industry pros to tell us the secrets that helped them along the way and maybe a few things they wish they would’ve known when starting an event space business. 

Join us as Dianne Kohler, CEO of Camrose Regional Exhibition Center, and Michael Hallford, CEO of Hallford & Hallford event and venue management firm, open the vault on their most-valued industry secrets for launching a new venue.

Building out your processes and internal operations ahead of time is critical to generating revenue as you prepare to open your new venue. Planning Pod’s all-in-one platform gives new event facilities 20+ easy-to-use tools to set up systems for managing booking calendars, sales, client communications, contracts, billing, payments and more. Sign up for a free trial today!

Michael Hallford, CEO of Kitmo Venues; Dianne Kohler, CEO of Camrose Regional Exhibition

#1 – Researching your target audience, competition and location area is easily the most important step in opening a new venue

Chances are you’ve come across plenty of articles that mention you should evaluate the competitive landscape and identify your ideal client base. But according to Dianne and Michael, this isn’t just another item on a list … in fact, it should take priority over just about everything else, because if you don’t get this right, your new venue won’t be in business long.

“Before you write out your business plan, you need to already know who your target audience is, and that’s who you build your venue for, so this starts with research long before you build or buy a venue,” said Michael. 

Michael also warns about automatically trying to go for the clients with the deepest pockets. 

“Keep in mind that your target audience doesn’t necessarily have to be your wealthy ‘Beverly Hills’ type client because that audience isn’t necessarily your highest profit margin,” he added. “Those luxury clients tend to be really demanding and expect a lot. And if they don’t get it the way they think they should get it, then you’re going to have issues afterward with PR. That’s just not something you want to have to deal with.”

“Your best market is probably going to be whoever is the largest demographic in your area who is willing to pay for your services. But you need to plan for that. You’ve got to know what they want, how they want it, when they want it, and why they want it. Then, be prepared to meet those needs as you put together your business plan and buildout plan.”

Dianne agrees that assessing your target audience’s needs and what venue options are already in the area should be done long before you lay a single brick for your new conference center or event space.

“Knowing your market is the number one thing that’s most critical to succeeding with a new facility,” said Dianne. “Because if you don’t understand what the market expects or wants from you, how are you going to provide it? You do this by doing a market needs assessment on other existing venues and the population and demographics in your surrounding community of who you want to sell to.

She also credits thorough upfront planning as an indicator for an event center that will both launch successfully and survive the long term, a challenge for all new small business owners. 

“If you’re building a new venue, you’re building something based on your demographic’s needs for the next 10 years,” she said. “To do this, you need to reach out to your target market and ask them questions and collect data, because the more data you can get before you build or buy a venue, the better.”

“The type of venue you buy or build depends on their needs and the needs of the community you serve. Yes, maybe nobody in the area has a ballroom that’s 30,000 square feet. But are there events that require a ballroom with 30,000 square feet? These are the things you need to consider.”

“All this market research and data is then going to drive your marketing engine for when you’re getting ready to launch.”

#2 – Devising a business plan makes the process of launching an event space business vastly smoother

Once you’ve narrowed in on your audience, you should focus next on developing your business plan. This document can be quite lengthy and in-depth because it fleshes out every detail regarding your venue business – from facility and organizational structure to finances, budgets and marketing. And just like with your target audience, it should be well-researched and realistic if you want it to be useful.

“A business plan is a must, and your plan must budget for covering your first six months of business expenses with zero or little income, just in case,” said Michael. “You should also plan for overages in construction, like around 30%, as that’s just normal.”

In addition to understanding how you’re going to build a special events venue for your ideal client (and what that’s going to cost), you should narrow in on how you will market them.  

“Along with your business plan you have to have a marketing plan that outlines your marketing, branding, PR goals and expenditures, including the few months prior to opening day,” added Michael. 

#3 – Getting your pricing right will prevent lost business and vanishing margins

Before scheduling your first customer walkthrough or booking your first party, make sure your pricing is dialed in properly. Are you charging too much? Are you charging enough? Dianne says that understanding your target audience’s needs, your competitors’ price points and your cost of operations (overhead, mortgage/rent payments, staffing, food and beverage costs, utilities, cleaning, out-of-pocket rentals, etc.) will help you develop the perfect price point that will make your customers happy and keep your venue in business.

“An important part of your business plan is setting your pricing and this goes back to knowing your market,” Dianne reminds us. “What are your clients willing to pay for your services and how are you going to provide real value to them?

“Your market survey and research should include your competitors’ pricing to make sure your pricing is in line with what others charge for similar services. If you want to charge a premium, justify why you can charge it. If you charge less or at a discount, why would you do that and why will it serve the business better?”

One tactic that some new business owners of venues take is to start out by setting their prices lower in order to land more event clients out of the gate (but not so low that you are losing money) and then adjusting their rates upward once cash is flowing regularly.

However, these are all questions you need to ask yourself before pricing and pitching your space.

#4 – Planning out your space thoroughly before you build will add value for your customers

Designing a banquet hall may seem straightforward (just provide ample room for social events and corporate events, right?) but Michael warns that not thoroughly thinking through your design pre-construction can leave you wishing you would have made different decisions.

“If you are in pre-build, the most important step is that you really need to plan your space,” said Michael. “You have to have a plan for adequate storage, proper ingress and egress, about what your fire marshal and local building codes are going to require, how much office area you will need, and if you are going to need a full kitchen or prep kitchen.”

You should also consider what are going to be the biggest elements of your design with regard to ergonomics and those areas where clients and guests expect high quality. 

“An example of this is that people really care a lot about venue washrooms and want them to be bigger, clean and nice. So you should invest more there,” suggests Michael. “If you are going to have food and beverage on site, those are probably two of the biggest things that customers will remember after they leave the event, so those should also take priority in your building and preparation.”

Michael stresses that thinking through these things before you engage a construction contractor will save you many headaches during operations and prevent a remodel down the line. From capacity minimums and maximums down to the number of doorways you will need, “It’s really getting to those fine details, before you actually even design a space. You have to plan for how the space is going to be used.”

And while you’re planning, be sure to add in a little extra room for storage. 

“Surprisingly, you actually need a lot of storage,” exclaimed Michael. “Tables, chairs, linens, staging, dance floors, even just your daily products like cleaners and mop buckets, all of that has to go somewhere. And the worst thing to do is to build a venue and not have enough space for your items.”

#5 – Surprise your clients with unique and flexible design elements

When building and designing your space, Dianne recommends giving it a unique element while leaving room for flexibility for all types of events and setups. She mentioned that over the last five years, more and more event planners and their clients have been searching for places that are unique and new.

“One thing with venues that has been trending for the last five years and will continue is the demand for unique spaces,” said Dianne. “Clients don’t want to book events in empty, spare looking ballrooms or meeting rooms. They want a unique space that is maybe shaped differently or has interesting grounds or flexible decor. So you should consider far in advance what could you add into your space to make it unique for your audience. It doesn’t have to be crazy and cost crazy money. Maybe it’s interesting paint choices or programmable uplighting or downlighting.”

With people really looking to bring the wow factor to their event and to post it on social media, they need an event space that is unique enough to stand out amongst the sea of conference centers, but is also flexible enough to be completely reimagined to meet an event planner’s vision.

“You also want to make your space sizable and flexible for different sizes of groups so you can host groups of 25 as easy as you can 500,” said Dianne. Which means you may need to consider dividable spaces that you can partition off for smaller groups or for hosting multiple parties that can overlap.

#6 – Decide early on if you are a venue rental business or event producer (or both)?

If you’re running a wedding venue or party venue, you’re going to have slower off seasons – times when your event space may sit empty. So, you’ll need to account for how you will handle those empty calendar days.

“As a venue manager, you understand that it’s normal that you’re going to have dark periods where nobody’s renting,” said Dianne. “So, you have to make the determination early. Are you going to rent? Are you going to just ride through the dark areas? Or are you going to get into self production as a way to fill the space on typically dark nights and boost overall revenue? It’s part of the planning process to consider this.”

Starting an Event Venue Business - Event Production

Some venue owners do decide to cushion their wedding receptions and private events bookings with their own productions (like music performances, seasonal parties and staged shows) on days that their venue tends to sit unoccupied. It can be a great way to cushion income and even perhaps draw in new business, but will take additional resources, marketing and event planning.

Also, if you offer full catering services, you may want to consider offering off-premise catering to maximize revenue from your full-service kitchen (but remember that this comes with its own costs and challenges like maintaining a full-time kitchen staff, marketing, delivery, etc.).

#7 – If something isn’t right with your buildout, speak up with your contractor now (or risk living with elements that turn off your clients)

“Once you’re in the building phase, be very, very picky with your contractors,” said Michael. “If it’s not done exactly the way you want it done, have them redo it. This has got to be part of your contract with each vendor, whether you’re using a general contractor, or you’re contracting things out yourself.

“So if you’ve got a trim carpenter who’s doing crown molding, and there’s a little gap, well that needs to be filled and resanded and repainted. You don’t pay them their last dollar until every single thing is done to your liking.

Reserving the right to thoroughly inspect the work of your contractors, and even stop them in their process to change or correct something, will ensure that your build is completed exactly how you (and your potential clients) envision it. Remember, even if you aren’t being nitpicky, your guests and customers will be, and shoddy workmanship can lead to clients taking a pass on leasing your space.

#8 – Design your venue to impress your most difficult client

When designing, building and finalizing your event venue, you have to oversee the buildout or remodel with the eye of your most difficult customer in mind, says Michael. 

“You’ve got to think about what your most discriminating client is going to look for when they walk through your doors, and you must have that covered,” says Michael. “Because you’re going to have event planners and very discriminating clients who are very picky — whether it’s about the decor, floral arrangements, or food options — and they’re going to nitpick it all.”

Without research, it can be difficult to know exactly what elements are turning potential clients away, and that’s because, as Micheal says, “if they walk through and see something that’s not right for them, they’re not going to say anything to you. They’re just going to take you off their list and move on.”

To avoid this, you may want to have your architect or venue designer create a few different mockups and show them to your target audience members as well as local event planners to get their opinions and feedback.

#9 – Full kitchen or prep kitchen? Decide which is going to work best for your space, your audience and your bottom line

Most venues either opt for a full-service kitchen that they either staff themselves or reserve for their preferred caterer, or they go with the less expensive option of a prep kitchen that outside caterers can use to stage pre-cooked cuisine. Our experts have some slightly different preferences and insights on both of these options, both equally illuminating.

“In our venue, we currently have a prep kitchen,” said Michael “We’ve got the refrigerator, ice maker, two hot boxes, plenty of counter space, sink space, the whole nine yards. All a caterer has to do is come in, bring in a few specialty pieces that they need and they are set.”

“A full service kitchen ideally would be my preference because you get the freshest food,” Michael adds. “If you’re building a facility from scratch, I would recommend planning an actual full kitchen, but it takes a little more prep work in advance because you have to know what kind of grease hold you need to have, what kind and size of venting you need to have in place and things like that. But that sets you up so you can either offer the kitchen space to an outside vendor as a prep kitchen or to an in-house vendor as a full kitchen.”

Dianne counters, “If all you’re doing is banquets and you have a large banquet hall, invest in the full kitchen. But I’m not a fan of full kitchens unless you know you’re going to book out 300 catered events a year in your event center. Remember that kitchens are costly, and your gross margin on a kitchen and food is almost always going to be razor thin. Ask yourself ‘If you build it, do you have all the business to support it?’”

“For example, we closed our staffed commercial kitchen in 2019 because we had been losing money,” said Dianne. “It has now been turned into a prep kitchen. And honestly, unless you have a hotel or conference center with restaurants and room service and you can make money outside of the event space with those other options, a full kitchen requires lots of staffing and the food costs are only going up, which cuts your margins even more.”

Dianne also offers that there are many great caterers in practically every market that your clients can choose from, so if you take the prep kitchen route it can lower your costs on your kitchen build (one time) and staffing (ongoing) and also provides more flexibility for your clients and event planners.

“By having a prep kitchen that we let any client bring their caterer into, it opened up a whole new revenue stream for our private events [as opposed to requiring clients to use our food and beverage services],” added Dianne. “And anyways caterers are going to have better pricing than you, the venue, because it’s all they do and they usually have less overhead and lower staffing costs.”

#10 – You can still make money outsourcing to caterers, too. 

“Our relationship with our in-house caterer and our preferred beverage vendor is that they give us a specific percentage back on the back end of their food and beverage sales,” said Michael. “In exchange for that, they are our in-house provider.”

This partnership means that Michael consistently recommends and sells his catering partner to her clients, only relenting when clients are persistent on bringing in their own food vendors to fit their vision.

Micheal has also established a similar partnership with his beverage vendor, which he doesn’t budge on because this in-house vendor also carries the proper alcohol licensing that covers Michael and his facility from a liability and regulatory standpoint, giving him peace of mind. 

Dianne does have a different viewpoint and finds value in her choice to leave catering options completely open to her potential clients. 

“I’m not a big person for official suppliers, especially caterers,” said Dianne. “I kind of buck the trend on that one, because I want the client to come in and bring in who they trust and who they work with as opposed to me telling them that they have to work with an in-house caterer. You lose the bigger piece of the business – the space rental – over providing food, which is usually making little to no margin.”

Reviewing your target audience can help you decide whether partnerships will be right for your client base. If your ideal customer isn’t an expert at planning their own corporate or social events, they may appreciate the simplicity of choosing from a preferred vendor list. However, if you frequently cater to professional event planners and event production firms, it may be a smarter choice to allow your customers to bring in their own vendors.

#11 – Establish vendor relationships early on

If you’re building an in-house team of preferred vendors, then building relationships with quality vendors can be extremely helpful to a venue startup when launching a wedding venue or conference space. 

“Before you’re even in the facility, it’s all about your networking, starting with who your preferred vendors are and what kind of relationships are you going to set up with them,” said Michael. “Do you want to do a cross referral back and forth with commissions you send each other’s way? That’s not a bad thing at all, but you do need to establish good business boundaries and respect for each other. And you really need to have vendors who are going to go above and beyond for you whenever you need it.”

When searching for and selecting the vendors you want to work with, Michael suggests trying to find a vendor for each category that you don’t already serve in house (catering, beverage, floral, DJs, AV, etc.) then narrowing it down to who has the best reputation. Try to create and build on those relationships well before opening so you already have a team of vendors who understand your business and your facility, and who you can refer clients to.

Even if you decide not to have preferred or in-house vendors, simply compiling a list of reliable local vendors for your clients (so they can choose their own) is a great value-add … and it also helps ensure that the vendors coming through your doors are responsible and committed to delivering on behalf of your clients.

Making vendor connections can happen anywhere, but our experts recommend that venue owners start with attending local networking events for event planning professionals as well as asking around about vendors that stand out in your local hospitality industry.

“Visit the bridal shows, look for vendors who have the best setup and talk with event planners there because they’re going to give you the 411 about who you need to know vendor-wise,” said Michael. “Then, take them to lunch, take them to dinner, send them a gift, show them the progress on your space. They will love it because they’re excited about creating that relationship and that new potential business.”

#12 – Hire flexible, multi-skilled staff who can do everything

In addition to acquiring a list of quality vendors you can lean on, you should also build a team of multi-talented employees who can serve in multiple functions in your event business. 

“Our full time staff members don’t have job titles,” said Dianne. “Because today you may be doing marketing, tomorrow you’re creating an event, the next day you might be answering the phone, the day after that you’re working as a bartender … because all our staff are certified to serve alcohol.”

Dianne suggests that, instead of filling each slot with a specialized person, you should create a “lean-and-mean” team of generalists who are interested in learning the industry and enjoy the flexibility and freshness of an ever-evolving position.

“Even though my staff could probably go out and get any variety of jobs, they love working here because they’re not doing the same thing over and over again and we pay them good money,” said Dianne. “This way it keeps them learning and engaged and there’s always a challenge for them.”

She also warns against overextending yourself and your staff by trying to run full-time, night-and-day event operations with a part-time staff. Instead, try to build a solid crew of reliable full-time employees and supplement where needed. See where and how you can stretch your resources without creating staff burnout.

#13 – Start your marketing efforts long before opening your event space (at least six months out)

When you open the doors to your new event space, you already want to have your event and meeting rooms pre-booked with as many weddings, birthday parties, corporate events, conferences and festivals as possible. The way to do this is by marketing and building an audience before cutting the ribbon on opening day.

Michael says that venue owners who haven’t created a venue website and built a following online via social media platforms (especially Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) prior to opening have a harder time filling their calendar and tend to have a slower start. 

“You’re going to be paying rent or a mortgage, all these utilities, employee expenses, and if you don’t have a following yet, you won’t be able to start covering all these expenses out of the gate,” said Michael.

“Six months out from opening day, you need to begin your social marketing,” added Michael. “You want to show your progress, announce new relationships with vendors and get them to reciprocate via social media.

“You will need a website built with search engine optimization and with pictures, and if you don’t have pictures yet you can at least have architect renderings and staff pictures.”

Of course, all of these tactics should line up with your overall marketing strategy outlined in your business plan.

#14 – Hire a sales manager six months prior to opening

When you launch your marketing campaigns, you’ll need to have a sales manager in place who can speak with potential clients as well as start an outbound sales effort.

“If you’re not planning six months in advance with hiring a sales manager, then expect your first 90 days in business to be really hard because you’re not going to have those immediate bookings that can begin to pay your bills after your opening,” said Michael.

Sales Manager for Opening an Event Venue

Some venue owners may assume responsibility for generating sales themselves to stay lean, but Michael suggests that hiring someone to cover this task while you focus your energy on getting your startup venue in shape is a wise investment.

“Unless you can generate sales yourself while you oversee all the details of your construction and all of the other obstacles you will face … and there will be a many … your best bet is to hire a sales manager to focus on getting clients in the door when you open,” said Michael. 

Michael suggests leaning on existing networks and checking out local Facebook groups to find talented salespeople who aren’t already attached to a property and may be interested in your vision. Just don’t poach staff from other venues, which will create a bad first impression and negative word of mouth in the industry, something you don’t need before you launch.

FYI … Here’s a great resource with expert insights for growing event sales for venues.

#15 – Don’t skimp on venue management software and tools … and have them in place when you hire your sales manager

Once you have your marketing and sales team in place, ideally, you’ll start to receive bookings. This means that you should also have your software and systems in place. Trying to piece it together as you go can create a chaotic flow and disjointed processes for you, your staff and your clients and can cause some costly mistakes early on. 

Michael suggests getting a Planning Pod account set up as soon as possible so that you can begin to manage your bookings, business, sales and marketing efforts. Planning Pod also allows you to build reusable templates for contracts, proposals, invoices, BEOs and floor plans so that you can create these ahead of time before you launch.

Micheal also recommends setting up a voice-over-IP phone answering service so your personal cell phone doesn’t become the business phone … which you will regret as your business grows. He also stresses that you should get your important legal documents in order before you start booking events and have an attorney draft your contract so that it’s ironclad with regard to cancellation, refund and damages policies (a painful lesson learned by many special events venues during the coronavirus pandemic).

#16 – Don’t forget to institute safety measures and policies … and don’t try to save by not insuring yourself

“Safety is a huge priority when considering operations,” said Dianne. “Whether it’s food safety, setting up furniture or stages, guest safety, fire safety or capacity requirements. If you’re not an expert on facility safety, hire a consultant, because if you don’t get this right it will bite you in the bum faster than anything else.”

Dianne also mentioned that human resources and insurance policies should be things that you put in place very early on (general business, property and liability policies are a must).

#17 – Have all your furnishings, equipment and supplies on-hand and available three months before opening day

As part of your timeline for opening an event venue, you’ll need to determine when you should order all your supplies and furnishings so that it’s on premise in plenty of time for your opening.

“Three months before you open is when you want to make sure that you have all of your furnishings on hand and in the facility,” said Michael. “This includes all of your tables and chairs, tableware, plateware, silverware, chargers and linens.”

Some pieces can be outsourced, and Michael actually recommends looking into using a linen service at first, which can save you money as you start a venue business. However, he emphasizes that, “tables and chairs should be bought upfront because within just four to six months you will have paid in rental costs what it would have cost you to purchase initially. Just think of this as an investment of getting started.”

And if you aren’t sure which style chair to go with, Michael has an affinity for Chivari chairs, simply because they are very classic. He warns against wooden chairs, which typically need to be replaced in less than a year’s time due to wear-and-tear.

“You can opt for the resin-over-steel-frame version, but I would recommend the clear polycarbonate resin because they have a much longer life and they’re not going to change color,” said Michael. “It’s a much better investment long term. Also make sure the tables and chairs you buy can stand up to tough cleaning products, because you are going to be cleaning these quite often.”

If you plan on having a busy rental business side of your venue, you may also want to purchase items like dance floors, stages, podiums and decor, as you will end up saving money much like you would by purchasing chairs and tables upfront.

Whatever style you choose, just make sure to order them in time. Some items may take longer to fulfill than expected, and things can get backstocked, lost in transit or arrive damaged. When your items do come in, you should inspect each piece and log them into your inventory system, especially if you’re planning on leasing items.

#18 – Practice makes perfect and mock-ups can help sell new clients

Dianne believes that new and seasoned venue owners alike should take advantage of dry runs. Running through a dummy event can help you and your team iron out kinks in your processes and also makes clients feel more confident knowing that you have rehearsed things.

Setting up your room in various styles also helps potential clients visualize your space and gives them an idea of how flexible you can be in realizing their vision.

“I would go in and set up rooms and spaces with tables, chairs, decor and drapes, all in various styles – classrooms, banquets, whatever,” said Dianne. “Then, I’d create floor plans based on these setups and take pictures so you can show your customers and put them on your web site. That way, they can realistically see what things will look like.”

That last idea is a great tip, because these dry-runs and mock-ups give you photos and images that can be shared on your social media profiles and posted on your website until you have photos of actual events.

#19 – Make the most of your grand opening 

Your grand opening needs to be so much more than sending out some email invites and putting out a few appetizers and beverages for whoever stops by. It’s really about making valuable and necessary connections in your industry and community while showing off everything you have to offer. You are an event venue, after all, so your grand opening should be extremely well planned, immaculately executed and heavily attended.

“Always, always do an open house,” said Dianne. “Invite industry people in to snoop around, because they love it. If you’ve got food and beverage in house, this is when you’re highlighting the new menu and getting people to savor it.”

Starting and Opening an Event Venue Business - 20 Secrets From Experts

She also said to make sure to chat up all the local event planners, meeting planners and people who produce big events. She encourages venue owners and sales managers to join local associations way ahead of time, even if you have to sign up as a supplier (which is usually more expensive), just to get your name out there and to get these key contacts to attend your event.

“Long before your grand opening gala, you need to get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce, a local Rotary Club, local chapters of industry associations like ILEA [International Live Events Association], NACE [National Association for Catering and Events] and MPI [Meeting Professionals International] and local wedding association chapters like ABC [Association of Bridal Consultants],” agreed Michael. “And don’t just sign up, but be actively involved with them and make those relationships. That way, when it comes time to announce your open house, they are all on your invite list and eager to attend.”

Michael also recommends sending out a press release about 30 days prior to your grand opening gala, and he swears by using an experienced PR firm that will have the experience and media connections to help capture the attention of local reporters. 

Dianne’s insider secret is to “invite politicians, like your mayor or city council members to your grand opening, because they will let every media outlet in the area know that they will be attending. It’s a good news story for them, and you’d be amazed at how many other people will attend if they know a politician is showing up.”

#20 – Become a integral part of your community and it will pay huge dividends

“Your mindset prior to and long after your launch should be how you can serve and immerse yourself in your community,” said Dianne. “The more you put into the community, the more you will get back in goodwill, word of mouth and bookings.”

Dianne recommends building business by becoming a community staple, and to do that, you may want to consider offering some spiffs and freebies early on.

“Think about how you can participate in your community, in organizations and on boards, and how you can promote other businesses in your community, because they will reciprocate if you become their trusted partner and promoter,” said Dianne. “If you get involved in the community and be a good community member, I practically guarantee you’ll have success.”

Some tactics she has used before include using dark nights or unbooked days to let speakers host engagements for free or offering her facilities or meeting rooms as a monthly meeting space for local nonprofit groups.

“When you first start out, you simply want boots through the door to check out your new space and kick the tires,” said Dianne. “The more people see it, the more they get familiar with it.

Donating unused, un-rented space to help the pillars of your community doesn’t cost much and can lead to much bigger returns.

“These groups may only have 20 or so people at their meetings, but they all have social networks, and because you are doing them a favor, they will spread the word into the community about you. You’d be amazed how many community group organizations that we’ve helped out have promoted us on social media, and that became another big marketing channel in driving clients through our doors.”

Starting an event space? Don’t forget to talk to seasoned pros like Dianne and Michael

Launching any new business comes with its fair share of learning curves. However, relying on the advice and experience of industry experts can go a long way in helping you gain insights from their successes and prevent making the same mistakes that they did. Experts like Dianne and Michael come with decades of experience of hosting all types of events (and the hard-earned lessons that come with it).

At Planning Pod, as a venue management software solution used by hundreds of venues, we come across our fair share of experienced venue owners, from L.A. to New York and everywhere in between, who wish they knew what they know now before they opened an event space.

As such, we encourage you to reach out to other venue owners and pick their brains about what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing as you move forward with your event space startup. This might require you to join a professional organization like ILEA or MPI, to reach out to hospitality business owners outside of your area or to even hire a venue consultant to help you through the process.

In the end, all this preparation is worth it because it starts you down the right path to success. Having the right tools and processes in place is part of this preparation, and that’s where Planning Pod comes in. Our all-in-one venue management software provides everything you need to manage your bookings, sales, billings, communications and more. Sign up for a free trial.


  1. Denise Laidley

    This is an excellent guide!

  2. Marja

    Very thorough and practical advice. One of the best resources I have come across so far – thank you!

  3. Sarah

    This was amazing content. Easy to understand. I learned a lot of new things I never thought to consider. Thank you!

  4. Carol Musoke

    Excellent!!! A very easy guide – all things I feel are doable! Thank you!

  5. Robin Blanchard

    Awesome step by step content! I loved the part where you mentioned to design your venue to impress your most difficult client! Very informational article – Thanks!

  6. Eric Reaves

    WOW!!! Just WOW!!! Can’t even imagine what this info would’ve cost! I’m 10x more excited to break into the event venue bus in. Now. THANK U THANK U THANK U!!!

  7. Murjana

    Wow! Great. The content is very very informative. Thank you.

  8. Fola

    Very detailed explanation, I gained so much insight into this new project and I am really excited about it


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