11 Critical Considerations When Choosing your Event Venue
It’s the most significant decision you make early in event planning. So many aspects are predicated by this decision: attendee occupancy, amount and location of sessions, number of speaker invitations, travel possibilities to the location, availability of nearby accommodations and entertainment.
Your choice of venue says so much about your event. Will it be a cozy, boutique environment or a massive hall with something for everybody? Will it be in the heart of a city surrounded by a variety of outside entertainment options or located out in an out-of-the-way location where off hours are primarily dedicated to group activities or personal time? Do you need catering, a kitchen, extensive A/V equipment? All of these issues, and hundreds more, impact which venue you select for your event.
It can often seem imposing, but you won’t find the perfect location until you’ve thoroughly reviewed all of the variables. Here are some of the big ones you will need to get settled before selecting your event venue.
Budget and Flexibility
It’s rare to find a venue with a price that remains fixed throughout the year or even throughout the week. Typically, the cost to rent a nightclub on a Sunday will vary significantly from its price on a Friday -- just as rates for locations in ski towns shoot up during the peak of the ski season. The “when” and “where” will send venues sporadically jumping on and off your wish list.
Conversely, if you have some flexibility in the date of your event, you may be able to find a venue at a discount. Most venues charge top dollar in peak seasons, which means there is an offseason when prices may be more reasonable. Many venues have dates in their calendar that they struggle to fill. When negotiating price, try to provide the site with a couple of options for your desired date.
Establishing a budget for the venue – and sticking to it – is essential. While securing the location is critical, it is only the first of many costs to come. If you overspend on your site, you may find that you are short on cash for other essentials such as catering, entertainment, signage, and supplies. So, set a budget and only consider the venues that fit in your price parameters. It may mean that a dream location has to fall away. That can hurt, but it hurts less than having to go with your cousin DJ’ing from his iPhone because you could no longer afford a band.
Location, Transportation, and Parking
Where your venue is located has a lot to do with the accommodations you need to make to ensure your guests arrive both safe and happy. If most of your attendees are locals, you may opt for convenience and select a place that is centrally located and easy to find; or you may go a different direction and surprise attendees with a little-known gem. However, “little-known gem” usually translates to “out-of-the-way,” which can mean that it is challenging to locate, travel to, and park once someone arrives. You can help mitigate this by providing shuttle service that regularly leaves from a central location. Another idea is to partner with a service like Lyft or Uber.
If many attendees are traveling from out of town, you probably want a venue with plenty of hotels nearby. Many venues offer shuttle services from the airport to the venue or nearby hotels. If that is not an option, be sure to alert attendees about the best way to get to the venue from the airport: taxi, Lyft/Uber, train, or bus.
If you secured a venue with an attached parking lot, you’ve struck gold. However, some locations charge for parking, which can annoy attendees. Try to prepay for parking with the venue (you can add a couple of bucks to the ticket to cover these costs). If there is no nearby parking, you should provide valet service. Again, make this complementary (insofar as attendees have already paid for it with their ticket).
Travel and parking can be a lot of information to convey to several hundred people. The easiest solution is to create an event app that includes detailed driving and parking instructions with a GPS enabled map to the location. If your venue is large or there is even the slightest possibility of someone becoming lost, you can also include a GPS enabled layout of the venue itself.
Capacity and Layout
Every location has a legal limit on the number of people it can hold, but some venues can feel very full even it is well under the legal limit. 50 people in a 500-square-foot room will feel very different depending on whether the ceilings are low or high.
So, before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to envision your intended layout. Where will the caterings tables go? Do you need a stage? Does the room have columns (which can make an open space feel smaller)? Will there be unavoidable bottlenecks? You don’t want to shell out for a space that will feel cramped once everyone arrives.
Asking the venues to provide an illustrated floor plan can help you strategize. This will help you determine where possible blockages may exist as well as the ideal placement for tables, speakers, and entertainment. It will also help you compare potential traffic flow from venue to venue.
Throughout the event, you will need a strong internet signal; attendees will need a strong signal; exhibitors need a strong signal. The point is: a strong internet signal is essential for any event. The venue will assure you that they have enough bandwidth to accommodate your crowd. However, you may want to get a second opinion from brands that have held previous events to ensure that the signal can handle the needs of your crowd and that there are no “dead” areas in the venue.
“Did you catch that?”
“What did he/she say? I can’t hear the speaker.”
Many aspects can negatively affect a speaker’s impact, and one of the biggest is poor acoustics. While an empty hall will sound different than one full of people, you still want to be aware of any acoustical issues during your site walkthrough. Also, if multiple events will be occurring in the venue, be sure to check who is going to be booked next door.
If you are serving food and drinks, many venues have a food and beverage minimum where you are required to pay for a certain amount even if your attendees do not consume it. If minimums are in place, make sure they are reasonable when it comes to your expected crowd. Also, you may be able to negotiate discounts if you exceed the minimums by a specific amount.
This will be covered in your paperwork, but it can help with your budgeting to find out if the venue expects you to provide coverage on your umbrella insurance plan or if the venue supplies the risk coverage. Having to shell out extra for the coverage could move a venue from the “maybe” column to the “no” column.
Securing the perfect location can start your event off on the right foot. If you could use a partner in your search, the Event Architecture team has worked with big, small, conventional, and eclectic venues in all 50 states and overseas. Give us a call at 972-323-9433.