When organizing an event, you're confronted with many decisions, but choosing the right venue and location is the one decision that will have the largest impact on your event. Everything from the date of the event, speaker lineups, catering options, and attendees experience depend on the event venue and location you select.
Does this sound a bit intimidating? You don't have to feel that way. Here are some guidelines about when to make decision, what to consider, and how to do better.
The earlier the better. Once you have a good understanding of the following 3 factors, you can begin your search for a venue: budget, estimated event size, and space requirements.
Book a venue at least 8 months in advance so that you will have enough time to plan other critical things, such as securing great speakers, creating an event program and website, starting ticket sales, engaging with attendees, and more.
You've probably already considered this. For a local event, you may be looking for a venue within a reasonable distance from most attendees' homes or places of work. If many attendees will be traveling from out of town, a venue near the airport or their hotels will be beneficial. In whichever case, don't forget to consider traffic, transportation, and parking options.
If you want to reduce the chance for your attendees to be late, provide them with a mobile event app, which is essentially a standard these days. With maps, driving directions, and parking/shuttle information at their fingertips, your attendees will feel confident and assured heading into the event. If the venue is within a large campus or institute, utilizing maps with pinned locations can help a lot. For events with exhibitions, posters, or parallel sessions, interactive indoor maps will help attendees conveniently navigate.
Take a look at Whova as an example. Whova won multiple awards including the People's Choice Award in the Event Technology Awards (also known as the 'Oscars' of event technology).
Does the venue have a parking lot or valet parking? A venue with a parking lot is what dreams are made of. But if that's not the case, see if there are parking lots nearby that attendees can access and use. If there is no parking available, you're not completely out of luck -- you have a few alternatives:
"Getting an official contract with the venue provider is a must, because having to change the event venue is probably the last thing you want to see," says the founder of SoftwareHow, who organized an industry conference with 300 attendees.
However, with the great uncertainty of the pandemic, it's a good idea to negotiate flexible contract terms with your venue, as your event might be postponed or canceled due to unforeseen factors. For example, a lockdown order or natural disaster might prevent people from attending your event even if they registered. If the venue includes a force majeure clause, you can check if they can add COVID-related clause that protects you from losing all of your deposit.
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:
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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."
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever attended an event 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 often caused by a venue's poor acoustics, or 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 won't necessarily make or break your choice in a venue, there are some ways you improve them, such as making use of patios outside the venue. In their article for the American Institute for Architects, Armstrong Ceilings suggests using acoustical clouds or canopies to improve a venue's acoustics.
Being flexible on the event date can be a great way to negotiate with venues. They may have open dates on their calendar that they want to fill. By providing 2-3 date options, you are more likely to get discounted pricing.
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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:
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.
After the event date and venue is set in stone, now it's time to create event websites and agendas, promote your event, sell the tickets and start engaging attendees. Would you like to see how to make your attendees happy while saving your time from those tedious event management tasks? See how Whova can help. Request more information or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.