Whether you’re planning a ten person office party or a one thousand person product launch, the first concrete decision that needs to be made is the same: the venue.
Once you have the venue, everything else can start falling into place – the exact date, the decor, the entertainment, the food… all of it. Without the venue, you won’t be able to move forward on anything else with real certainty.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should simply pick a venue that you like and then form an event strategy around it. While that can work in some limited cases, most events start with a specific goal in mind. Maybe you’re trying to fundraise for a charity. Maybe you’re celebrating your company’s Anniversary. Or maybe you would like to honor a particular person.
Whatever the case may be, here are a few important things to have in mind before beginning a venue search:
- When will the event be?
Some events need to occur on a particular day, others in a particular season, and some may be more open-ended. Whatever your date requirements, it’s usually a good idea to start planning at least twelve months in advance. (Check out our recent post for more on when to start planning!)
- What type of event will it be?
A conference will have very different requirements than a gala. A product launch will have different requirements than a non-profit event.
- How many people will attend, and what demographics will be represented?
Is this an experiential event for everyone in your office, or perhaps an intimate presentation for potential investors? Should the event appeal primarily to college students, or to professionals at the top of their fields?
- What is the goal of the event and does the venue impact that?
As previously mentioned, you’re putting on your event for a particular purpose. As you develop your event strategy, the goal should be at the center of every decision. For example, an incentive program that encourages spouses to attend would be best suited in a recreational or resort type facility. While a sales conference with an all-business no play objective would avoid such a space, focussing on a more conventional venue.
Aspects of the Ideal Venue
With the above underlying considerations in mind, you can begin your venue search. As you make your list of possibilities and begin touring the options, these are some of the most important factors to consider before making your final choice:
Cost – As with car shopping, don’t test-drive a venue that you know you can’t afford. You’ll only end up feeling disappointed with the venue that you “settle” for. Know your budget, and also be conscious of what costs might be subtracted or added with particular venues. For example, one venue might include parking while another venue requires an additional expensive permit.
Size – An otherwise beautiful event in a half-filled room can end up feeling underwhelming. Likewise, if your guests are struggling to move around, that can cause problems of its own.
Location – Will everyone from your office need to drive an hour to get to the venue? Will guests coming from out of town be able to get there easily from the airport? Are there nice hotels nearby? Keep the needs of your specific attendees in mind, and remember to inquire about the costs of parking and/or whether a valet service is available.
Event Flow – Whether you’re planning an event that needs multiple break out spaces, a separate cocktail area, or that needs to host a sit-down dinner, you need to consider not just the overall space, but how individual rooms or areas can be utilized.
Weather – Especially if you’re planning an outdoor affair, you need to be cognizant of the weather. It is impossible to know exactly what will happen until the event arrives, but you can plan ahead to help ensure that everyone is warm or cool enough.
Lighting, AV, and Technical Needs – Some venues are old pros when it comes to screenings, complex lighting, electric decor, etc., but not all. Be cognizant of the technical services offered by the venue, whether the venue requires that you use their equipment or a particular vendor, and just how accommodating they will be if you need to bring in outside support.
Ambience – If you’re planning a product launch, you may be on the lookout for a venue that’s essentially a blank canvas – a space that you can turn into whatever you need it to be. If you’re planning a fundraising gala, you may like a more formal, stylized space.
Restrooms – This element is often overlooked but is extremely important. During your visit, be sure to make note of how many people the washroom can accommodate. You do not want to inconvenience your guests with a long wait time to use the restroom.
Exclusivity of Space – Are you sharing space with others, or is your event the only one that day and time? If there is another event happening in the space, make sure you will not be in competition for venue resources or have to contend noise from the other event. Depending on the type of event, sound carryover may not be an issue
Loading Dock Access – Make sure that the venue has appropriate entrances, ramp access, large enough elevators and door frame dimensions. Is it possible to unload the equipment without blocking streets or alleys? Are there specific loading times that may interfere with your deliveries?
Preferred vs. Exclusive Vendor Lists – Preferred vendor lists allow for more flexibility in product choice and are also familiar with event space. Exclusive vendor requirements may limit the ability to secure competitive pricing and reduce the number of options and services.
Security – This is an additional factor that tends to be overlooked. Think about the security needs of your event. What is the cost of effectively securing the space?
To learn more about finding an ideal location, or if you could use a second set of eyes for your next event, give us a call.