Choosing the right venue is the single most important factor of an event. Here are some helpful tips to consider when scouting the right space.
- Location: A successful event planner will put the needs of the guests at the heart of most, if not all, of your decisions. Therefore, when choosing the right location for your event you should strongly consider the guest experience. How will they travel to your event venue? Is it conveniently located and easily accessed? What type of transportation will be required? You will want to consider things like parking, access to alternate transportation (e.g. taxi service), if they will be consuming alcohol or whether charter services will be required. You will also want to consider the neighborhoods and safety of your attendees. For more complex events and conferences, proximity to lodging and dining should be at the top of mind as well.
- Availability: Again, know your audience when considering the timing for your event. You must take into account demographic factors such as age, agility, and lifestyle. Other factors include seasonal weather, other events taking place, transportation issues, staff or entertainment availability, etc. Once you have weighed all of the different factors and come up with a list of possible dates, we recommend making phone calls to the top 4-6 event venues that you are considering to get a sense of timing and availability. This will allow you to a) gain a sense of general market availability (helpful when negotiating later), b) shorten your list to only those that meet your timing needs, or c) allow you to make decisions quickly Insider’s tip: we have often found that talking to someone vs. sending an email can get you a better chance of having highly desired dates be “put on hold” for you. If a favored venue is not available, this is also a good opportunity to ask for recommendations- a great way to get information you may not have already known!
- Services Provided: If you are a small team or on a limited budget choosing a raw space vs. a more established venue, it can require significantly more investment to make it what you need. For example, working with a hotel or professionally operated event venue often comes with an embedded level of service for things like setup, cleanup, on-site amenities, janitorial services and more. Therefore, as you examine a space, think carefully (and ask questions) about the level of service- or assistance in production- that you can expect from each venue. Then give each venue a weight for how “easy” that venue will be to produce your event in.
- Walk Through: If you are in the live events business, then you are already bought into the idea that face-to-face is critical! In the same vein, you would never select a venue that you hadn’t walked through in person or met your on-site coordination support team, right? We are always surprised to find when people secure event venues without walking through them- only to find that the rooms don’t look like they did on the internet, or that there is a flight of stairs (with no elevator) between sections of the space. Just as we said at the start, event venues can make or break your production- and knowing your audience is key. Therefore, you must put yourself in your audience’s shoes, literally, and walk the space before signing the contract!
- Your Budget: Just as we outlined regarding services, when you are doing your venue comparisons, it is important that you are not just looking at rental costs of the venue but also weighing all of the other factors as well. What is included in the rental fee? What might be included at one venue may be considered a la carte services or add-ons at another. Some of this might be outlined in their price sheet or the rental agreement. We still highly recommend asking that simple question: “What a la carte services or add-ons do you offer?” Not only will this perhaps shed some light onto hidden costs/ fees that you may not have budgeted for but also will give you a sense of what kinds of services you may be able to take advantage of.
- Accessibility: Sadly, too often than not we have had clients select venues without considering how those with disabilities might experience the event. You must build an accessibility plan into every event you produce. Even if your event is not public facing or you aren’t required to by your organization (government event planners, you know this one!), think about if you broke your leg, could you access the event? Oregon State University publishes a really insightful guide for their events that is worth reading- if only to give you a sense of things to consider.
Image Source: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Uported