by Whova | Last updated: September 1st, 2016
Image courtesy to Cydcor
When organizing an event, you are confronted by many decisions. However, choosing a venue is the one decision that will have the largest impact on your event. Critical planning information, such as the date for the event, is dependent on the venue you select. Understandably, making this choice can be a bit intimidating as it can be hard to know what to look for when selecting a venue.
Before you begin your search, there are a few things you’ll want to have a strong understanding of:
- Number of attendees
- Type of event (formal, high-tech, etc.)
Once you have an idea of these three things, you can begin your search for a venue. Having the venue booked at least six months in advance will ensure that you have the date of your event set in stone. This date will inform the timeline and milestones you’ll need for event planning and event marketing.
Finding the right venue for your event can take up quite a bit of your time. Thankfully there are a few shortcuts to help you save time:
- Contact the area’s local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to inquire about venues that best suit your needs.
- Use an online tool, such as Peerspace or Unique Venues, to help you parse through the many venues to find the one right for you.
When you’re ready to search for the perfect venue, consider the following 10 important factors:
As a cost-conscious organizer, you may want to keep the venue cost down to allow more room in your budget for food and beverages and entertainment. Being flexible on the date can be a great negotiating tool, as certain days of the week tend to cost less.
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 will 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.
How to help attendees have all the necessary information about venue is another important thing to consider. Nowadays offering attendees a mobile event app is a good way to inform them with maps, a right direction to venue, an up-to-date parking / shuttle arrangement information, and local attractions. A top-notch event app like Whova usually supports interactive indoor maps and also driving directions and parking instructions. It allows attendees conveniently navigate and find the exact building as well as indoor booths.
Pay special attention to the existing decor inside the venue. What style is the architecture and what does the building’s interior convey? 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.
4. 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. Consider the following:
- Does the venue have a kitchen and can it provide catering to your event? If so, often a venue will waive the facility fee and only charge a down payment along with the cost of food for each attendee. Other venues may not have kitchens. Those 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, and negatively impact the experience of your attendees. If you can’t book a venue that serves food your attendees will enjoy, it would be better to select a venue that allows you to bring in outside food vendors.
- Does it have tables, chairs and linens you can use? If a venue 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.
- Does it have a setup/clean up crew? If you’ve found a venue which provides a setup and clean up crew, rejoice! This isn’t always the case. If these services aren’t available you’ll need to build your event team.
- Does it 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.
5. Capacity and Minimums
- What’s the capacity? If you’ve followed our advice, you already know how many attendees to expect. 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.
- What are the F&B 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 in line 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.
- How to make adjustment based on attendee feedback? It is important to be able to make an informed adjustment for rooms and F&B quickly right before or during your event. Many organizers find that a live polling provided an event app helped headcount to estimate attendance on the last day of an event or a reception dinner, which helps make a quick and informed decision that saves time and money. Here lists 5 use cases of a live polling.
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.
- If there’s only street parking available, you can encourage them to use Zirx, an on-demand car service that will drive them from their parked car to the venue.
- 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.
- You can encourage attendees to share a ride. An event app like Whova can help them coordinate with one another through a group chat or an event bulletin board.
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 for each 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?
Accessibility refers to the possibility that everyone, especially those with special needs, can access the building and its amenities. Before you can answer this question, you’ll need to understand who your attendees are and what their needs are. Meg Hall, C.E.O. of PartySpark.com elaborates on the importance:
Often when novice event planners are touring a venue they forget to consider guests of all ages. Meaning – if your event is going to have a lot of children or babies, check the restrooms for diaper changing stations. If you will have elderly guests, consider finding a venue that is ADA compliant or has minimal stairs. I am also considerate of guests special needs as I create a seating chart.
You’ll probably know whether there will be children at your venue, but you may not know if there will be individuals with other special needs. In this situation, reviewing recent events hosted by your organization may give you a sense of this.
According to BizBash, some venues won’t even do business with you if you don’t have insurance. Amy Hallquist-Hamric, president of Hallquist Insurance Agency agrees with BizBash. “There are several venues that require a certain amount of liability as well as them named as additional insured for the event,” states Hallquist. “Typically you can ask your general liability insurance agent for this endorsement for your event. It is also a great idea to START EARLY in planning to have this added; as well as to have all of the wording required, address, etc. prior to contacting your agent.”
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. Acoustics is just a fancy word for how sound travels through the venue. 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 be-all and end-all of your event, there are things you can do to improve them such as making good use of patios outside the venue, or as Armstrong Ceilings states in their article written for the American Institute for Architects’ website, you can use 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.
Once you decide a right venue, now it is a step for you to consider how to keep your attendees informed with up-to-date information and how to engage them and get their feedback to make the event run more smoothly. Would you like to know how Whova can help you? If so, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org