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Event Organizing 101 – The Venue

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Oveview of an outdoor event with people standing close to the stage

Working in the event industry you are confronted by many decisions; and, choosing the perfect venue is the one decision that will have the largest impact on your events. Nearly every other decision you will make is based on the space you choose, including the date the event will take place. So, understandably, making this choice can be a bit intimidating as it can be hard to know what to look for. We have come up with a short list of elements you will want to consider at the beginning of your search process that will help ensure you have a venue perfect for your needs!

Before you begin the search, consider the following three things:

  1. Budget
  2. Number of attendees
  3. Type of event(formal, high-tech, etc.)

Once you have an idea of these three things, you can begin your search! Keep in mind that having the venue booked at least six months in advance will help to ensure that you have the date of your event set in stone. This date will inform the timeline and milestones you’ll need to work with until your event happens. Additionally, this will give you plenty of time to market your event. Knowing the budget, the number of people you expect (or want to be able to invite), and the type of event you are hosting sets the tone, now, lets consider a few other elements that will help you in your search!

1. Cost

As budget is usually at the top of the priority list, you may want to keep the venue cost down to allow more room in your budget for food, beverages and entertainment. Being flexible on the date can be a great negotiating tool, as certain days of the week tend to cost less.

2. Ambiance

Pay special attention to the layout and existing decor inside the venue. What style is the architecture and what does the building’s interior express? If you’re holding a gala, you’ll likely need different venue accommodations than you would for an expo. The less the ambiance matches the desired feeling of your event (upscale, high tech, etc.) the more decorating you’ll need to do to make up for it, which, in turn, will drive up the overall cost.

3. Services and Amenities

In addition to the appearance of the site, it is also important to take into consideration the services and amenities that the venue offers. If the venue has a kitchen and can provide catering, often times the facility fee will be waived and only a down payment along with the cost of food for each attendee will be charged. Venues without kitchen facilities may have a partnership with a food provider that you’re required to use, or you may be free to bring in your own vendors. Many venues have an exclusive relationship with certain vendors, typically food vendors. This can be great if the venue has partnered with a fantastic vendor. If not, it can create a huge headache, + negatively impact the experience of your attendees. If you can’t book avenue that serves food your attendees will enjoy, it would be better to select a venue that allows you to bring in outside food vendors.

Also, are there tables, chairs and linens you can use? If avenue has these items, you can save a great deal of money and effort by using what they have, assuming it matches your theme and ambiance. Finally, does the space have AV capabilities? Some venues have a built in audio-visual equipment for you to use, and others will require you to bring that in yourself.

4. Location

A convenient location means different things for different events. For an event with attendees within a limited geographic range, a venue within a reasonable distance from most attendees’ homes or places of work may make sense. However, if many attendees will be traveling from out of town, hosting the event at a venue near the airport or their hotels could be beneficial. Better still, if attendees are being housed at a single location, hosting the event at that hotel mitigates the need for valet parking and the chance that attendees will be late due to getting lost.

5. Capacity and Minimums

You’ll need to know the room capacity of the venues for a few reasons. First, for general and practical reasons, 500 people can’t comfortably fit into a room with a 250-person capacity. And second, there are fire and safety codes that the venue has to abide by.

Additionally, what are the Food and Beverage Minimums? If your venue offers food and/or beverages, find out what the food and beverage minimums, also known as F&B minimums, are and get this information in writing. If you have past attendance records for this event, ensure that those records are inline with the minimums. You may have plans to attract an even larger audience this year, but you also want to make sure that your bases are covered in case attendance expectations are not met.

6. Parking

Does the venue have a parking lot or valet parking? A venue with a parking lot is what dreams are made of. If that’s not the case, are there parking lots nearby which attendees can access and use? If there is no parking available, you’re not completely out of luck as you have a few alternatives:

You can rent out or reserve nearby parking lots for your attendees and either include the cost in the ticket prices, or have attendees pay when they park. Uber and Lyft often provide a credit to new users. You can work with them to set this up and let your attendees know the new user discount code and encourage them to carpool.

You could offer valet parking for the event, even if the venue doesn’t. Providing a valet may be essential if the event is an upscale event such as a gala.

7. Layout

Even though you’ll be finding your venue early in the event planning process, you’ll still want to have a rough idea of what types of activities you’ll be including, the amenities you’ll require, and the needs of your team and the attendees. While narrowing down your selection, get an illustrated floor plan of each venue, and walk through your favorites at least once, making note of important things such as where the outlets are and where AV equipment is or can be located. The layout and floor plan will greatly affect a few different aspects of your event:

Flow of traffic. Think about the flow of traffic through your event. The kind of flow you’ll want will be different foreach event. What areas will be high traffic at the event? Registration? The auditorium doors? Keep this in mind when choosing your venue, realizing that how you setup the tables and decor will greatly affect this as well.

Event activities. If you want to have keynote speakers at your event, you’ll either need a stage, or a spot to place a rented stage. Will you need a demo area? Will there be a bar?

8. Acoustics

Have you ever attended an event at a venue that was so loud it was hard to hear others, causing you to strain your hearing and lose your voice, all in one night? That’s caused by poor acoustics. A low ceiling will make the venue seem cozy, but it will make it louder if it’s packed. Alternatively, a large warehouse-style venue will result in echoes, or what architects refer to as “reverberation”. Although, acoustics aren’t the end-all, be-all of your event, there are things you can do to improve them; such as making good use of patios outside the venue, or using acoustical clouds or canopies.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when choosing your event’s venue. However, if you take the above into consideration when doing your research, you’ll find the perfect venue for your event.

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