By Mike James

Organising a training, team building or morale boosting staff event can be a complex task, especially when the budget is tight – and when is it ever not? If you’re looking to make economies in an effort to stretch your allocated budget further, here’s an idea that may not have crossed your mind: could you get the venue for free?

One of the key skills of a great event planner is the ability to think creatively and flexibly while not losing sight of the end goal of the actual event. Believe it or not, there are many imaginative solutions to finding the perfect venue – you just need to be open minded and persistent enough to find them.

Here are 4 inspired ways to get your venue for nothing.

  1. In-house venue

Who says that your event has to take place away from company premises? If you can make a meeting room or other space available in-house, you may be able to save yourself the trouble and expense of finding an external venue. Plus, there are no additional transport or other logistical issues to consider – everyone knows exactly where to go.

External consultants are used to coming into people’s offices and will be highly adaptable to whatever surroundings they find themselves in. Ask them to let you know exactly what facilities and equipment will need to be provided in situ. From AV/IT equipment for a presentation skills workshop to tranquil surroundings for a mindfulness meditation session, or plenty of worktop space for a sushi making class, there’s no reason why this can’t be made possible at your office.

Another option is to use a private venue – perhaps one of the company directors has a rambling country house that would be perfect for a company barbeque, hog roast or pool party? Use your powers of persuasion to convince the MD that throwing his executive garden open for an afternoon is not just a generous gesture but a real morale booster for the entire team. Plus, of course, it won’t impact your event planning budget.

  1. Venue included

Here’s a thought. You only need to worry about sourcing the right venue for your corporate event if you make a separate booking for your chosen activity and the venue for it to take place. So why not combine the two?

Book an outdoor team building day to get away from the corporate world and learn hands-on skills such as bushcraft or orienteering. Into The Blue, for instance, offer a wide choice of outdoor team building activities ranging from Archery to Zip Wire at various locations around the country. Not only is this a hugely enjoyable way to spend the day but it’s great for team bonding.

Or find a training provider with their own premises, such as this one, or choose business courses held at prestigious universities like the London School of Economics, and send your delegates there. As long as the address is centrally located and easily accessible so that your course participants can get there without too much inconvenience, that’s your venue problem solved.

  1. Minimum spend venue

If you do need to find a suitable commercial venue for your staff event, there are ways to keep the hire cost low. Incredibly, there are also venues that cost absolutely nothing to hire. However, you need to know where to go, what to look for and how to negotiate.

This is where a professional venue finding agency can be worth its weight in gold. As seasoned events industry professionals, they know every venue in town and will work with your individual brief to come up with a shortlist of great venues, organise site visits and negotiate the best deal on your behalf. And the best bit? A venue finder gets his commission direct from the venue, meaning you won’t have to pay a penny for their services.

Look out for ‘minimum spend venues’ – these are commercial venues including many upmarket London bars, clubs and restaurants that will let you have the space for free, with the proviso of a minimum spend on the day/night. All they’re interested in is making a profit from your event, so as long as, say, your 100 guests each spend £25 at the bar (which, let’s face it, isn’t hard to do) and you’ve agreed a minimum amount of £2,500 with the venue, you’re in the clear. That way, you’ve managed to achieve the seemingly impossible: securing a fabulous venue with a zero budget!

  1. Community venue

Sometimes, the obvious solution is right before your eyes but you just can’t seem to see it. Community venues such as public open spaces, church halls, community centres, sports halls etc cost next to nothing to hire compared to standard corporate venue hire prices. Take a look at what’s available in your neighbourhood – websites such as My Community Space are a great starting point.

If you’re organising an internal event that doesn’t require plush surroundings to impress clients, could you not support your local community and use the available facilities? Think about using the local park for a company wide football tournament, or the community centre kitchen for bread making classes, or your local village hall for mental health talks or Tai Chi sessions for your employees… the possibilities are near endless.

You may need to contact the Local Authority about permissions and any rules and regulations, and check with the venue about booking fees. Should you need to raise funds, why not tie your event in with support for a favoured charity and pass a collection tin round during the event? The money collected could pay for the hall hire and the net proceeds go to charity.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.