Whether you’re debuting an inaugural conference or hosting an annual gala that’s outgrown it’s space, finding the right convention center for an event can be a challenge. After all, we understand that you want your guests to feel comfortable.
Ideally, the space you choose should cater to your event’s needs; you shouldn’t have to cater to the shortcomings of the space. Knowing the right questions to ask an event planner before booking your space can save you a lot of headache in the long run. We sat down with Natalie Alford, Director of Catering and Convention Services at Oasis Hotel and Convention Center, to hear her recommendations about what you should be asking before you book a space.
1. How many people can the event host comfortably?
Most people lean towards asking about how many people a venue can hold, but it’s best to ask how many people the venue can hold comfortably. For example, although each table might be able to seat 10 guests, would 8 guests to a table provide more legroom? If your event planner says the venue can fit 25 tables, consider only placing 22 in the space so your guests won’t feel crowded. In addition, make sure to ask about the number of parking spaces and bathrooms.
2. How much should I expect to spend on food and beverage?
It is important to set aside the right amount of your budget for food and beverages. In fact, some venues require you to spend a minimum amount on food and alcohol, and some venues might let you use the space for free if you buy their food and alcohol. Take advantage of the event planner’s expertise and ask them to help you estimate how much food and alcohol you should order. Ask the event planner if you can pay for a set amount of alcohol and then open a cash bar once that amount runs out. Another good question to ask is how many bartenders you will need to adequately serve your guest.
3. How can you use the space to make the event unforgettable?
When it comes to making an event memorable, decorations play a huge role. Ask what type of decorations the venue has on hand. For example, the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center has centerpieces you can rent to add an elegant touch to your tables. “When talking to the venue’s event planner, remember this is their house and they know it best,” Alford says. “Ask them about the room setup, audiovisual equipment, lighting options, table arrangements and past themes. You can also ask for recommendations on entertainment, florists, décor and visitor information.”
4. What food can the venue’s chef prepare?
The type of food and beverages you serve at your event can leave either a positive or negative lasting impact. Many venues have in-house chefs, and typically you must use this service if you book the space. Many chefs can add their creative flair to create a menu to match your theme. For example, Executive Chef Peter Tinson at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center has created menus to fit an Island theme with tiki bars, a Japanese dinner with Wagyu Beef, a masquerade dinner with deconstructed Beef Wellington, and a drive-In movie theme with gourmet sliders. After growing up around the world, Chef Peter moved to Springfield where he owned and operated Gallery Bistro for ten years. During that time, he also was a Chef Educator at Ozarks Technical Community College.
5. Can you see the contract?
Once you have met with the venue representative and outlined the scope of your event, ask for a proposal. This will lay the groundwork for the event from agenda to budget. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what is included in the venue rental, and how much these rental items will cost. Some rental items to ask about include:
- Audiovisual equipment
- Extension cords and power strips
- Tables and chairs
- China, glass and silverware
In addition, check to see if the contract mentions how many staff members will be available to help with your event, including bartenders, servers and coat checkers. You should also ask who your point of contact person will be on the day of, when the final headcount is due, and whether or not you can make changes on the day of the event, such as adding more chairs to the rental agreement. Always look for hidden additional fees in the contract before you sign it, such as valet fees.
Begin Your Search
Now that you know the right questions to ask an event planner before booking your space, it’s time to start looking. If you’re planning an event in Springfield, Missouri, we’d love to show you our space at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center! If you need some inspiration to guide the theme of your event, check out our Pinterest page.