Organizing an event can result in you being confronted with many tough decisions, but choosing the right venue and location is one 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 what to look for when making your decision, what to consider, and how to do better.
When to Start Looking for a Venue
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when looking for a venue is the earlier the better. You can begin your search once you have a good understanding of the following 3 factors: budget, estimated event size, and space requirements.
Book a venue at least 8 months in advance so you’ll 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.
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What to Consider When Searching for a Venue
1. Services and Amenities
- Does the venue have a kitchen and can it provide catering to your event? If so, venues will often waive the facility fee and only charge a down payment, along with the cost of food for each attendee. Those without kitchen facilities may have a partnership with a food provider that you’re required to use, so you may want to check their food in advance to keep track of any potential allergens or dietary restrictions. Make sure to go with a venue that serves great food or allows you to bring in outside food vendors for the best attendee experience.
- Does it have tables, chairs and linens available for use? If a venue does, this can save you a great deal of money and effort by using what they have, assuming it matches the theme and ambiance of your event.
- Does it have a setup/clean up crew? Venues that already have a dedicated set up and clean up crew are extremely rare, and should be appreciated, as this isn’t always the case. If these services aren’t available, you’ll need to build your event team or find volunteers.
- 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.
A venue’s location is probably something you’ve already considered. For a local event, you may be looking for a venue within a reasonable distance from most of your attendees’ homes or places of work. However, if many attendees will be traveling from out of town, a venue near the airport or their hotels would be more beneficial. In whichever case, don’t forget to consider traffic, transportation, and parking options.
If you want to reduce the chances of your attendees being late, provide them with a mobile event app, which is essentially an industry-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 has won multiple awards including the People’s Choice Award in the Event Technology Awards (also known as the ‘Oscars’ of event technology), and is rated 4.8 out of 5 on G2.
3. Capacity and Minimums
- What’s the capacity? You’ll need to know the room capacity of the venues for a few reasons. First, 500 people (if it is your estimated event size) can’t comfortably fit into a room with a 250-person capacity. In this case, it may be smart to invest in some sort of capping software for your sessions in order to make sure you don’t overpopulate certain rooms with your attendees. For example, Whova’s session capping feature is great for managing session attendance. Second, there are always 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 and sets a minimum food and beverage spending amount (known as an F&B minimum), ensure that the past F&B records from the previous events are in line with the minimum. If you estimate much more F&B spending than what the venue requires, it means you would be a good customer to them. Negotiate whether they can provide complimentary service (e.g. upgrade Wi-Fi or A/V support) in return if your spending reaches a certain level.
- How to make adjustments based on attendee feedback? It’s important to be able to make an informed adjustment for the size of a room or F&B right before, or during your event. You can easily headcount or collect instant feedback through live polling on an event app, which saves you time and money. Here are 64 event survey questions in ready-to-use templates.
4. Wifi and Internet Access
Does the venue grant your event access to wifi and internet use? Furthermore, do they offer wireless connections in their hotel rooms, conference rooms, and lobbies? Staying connected, especially in today’s modern era, is extremely important. Not only is it useful for your attendees and staff to utilize to check your event schedule, connect with other attendees, but it also allows event goers to spread the news and fun online, promoting your event and generating buzz.
Does the venue have a parking lot or valet parking? A venue with enough parking slots is mostly preferable. 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:
- Reserve nearby parking lots for your attendees and either include the cost in the ticket prices, or have attendees pay when they park.
- Take a look at Uber and Lyft discounts offered for events. You can negotiate with them to set this up and distribute the promo code to your attendees.
- Provide a way for attendees to share a ride or a cab with each other. It would also be a good chance for them to interact with each other. A conference app like Whova provides a Community Board and a group chat feature to help on this. Get more information here.
- 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.
Despite the fact that locating a venue usually comes earlier in the planning process, you’re still going to want to have a general idea of what kind of activities you’ll be including, the amenities you’ll require, and the needs of your team and attendees.
When narrowing down your selection, make sure to 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.
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. What areas will have high traffic at the event? Registration? The auditorium doors? Keep this in mind when choosing your venue, and additionally, realizing that how you set up 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?
After landing on a venue that has a layout and floor plan that best suits your event’s needs, feel free to upload it into Whova’s floormap feature! It’s a great tool that allows your attendees to visually see where everything at your event is at, creating an easier experience in navigating the many activities you have to offer.
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7. Ambiance and Accessibility
Consider the existing decor of your chosen venue. How a venue looks will greatly influence the atmosphere of your event. Pay attention to the architectural style and the message conveyed by the interior design. If you’re planning a gala, your requirements will differ from those of an expo. If the venue’s ambiance doesn’t align with your event’s desired tone (e.g., upscale or high-tech), you might need to invest more in decorations to bridge the gap.
Furthermore, accessibility at an event is crucial. It ensures that all attendees, particularly those with special needs, can fully utilize the building and its amenities. To address this, understand your attendees and their requirements. While you might know if there will be children, you might be unaware of other special needs. Reviewing past events organized by your team can provide insights into this.
Let the venue’s existing style guide your event’s ambiance. Consider accessibility for all attendees, including those with unique requirements. By assessing past events, you can anticipate potential needs and tailor your arrangements accordingly.
According to popular event industry resource 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 been to an event where the noise level was so overwhelming that you strained to hear others and even ended up with a hoarse voice, all in just one night? This is often due to the venue’s acoustics, which impact how sound travels within the space. For instance, a venue with a low ceiling might create a cozy atmosphere, but when it’s crowded, the noise becomes amplified. On the other hand, a large warehouse-style venue can lead to echoes, a phenomenon architects call “reverberation.”
While acoustics might not be the sole factor determining your venue choice, they do play a significant role. You can enhance acoustics in various ways, such as utilizing outdoor patios adjacent to the venue. In an article by Armstrong Ceilings for the American Institute for Architects, they propose using acoustical clouds or canopies as effective measures to enhance a venue’s acoustics.
10. Contract Flexibility and Force Majeure
It’s often a good idea to negotiate flexible contract terms with your venue as well, 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’ve already registered. If the venue includes a force majeure clause, you can check if they can add disaster-related clauses that protects you from losing all of your deposit.
11. Flexibility on Event Date
Being flexible on the event date is 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 and find a venue fast.
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12. Internal Service Provider Obligations
Does your event’s venue require that you go through their internal service providers? Lots of event venues come with their own favorite or exclusive service providers that they require event planners to use for specific needs. These service providers are usually connected to the venue through contracts or partnerships, so they know the layout, rules, and what’s needed. These venues often have these in-house providers for things like catering, audiovisual gear, decorations, and security. It’s always best to make sure if your event’s venue requires usage of these internal service providers, as it makes it much harder to use your own.
What to consider for your RFP (Request for Proposal)
Using a Request for Proposal when searching for an event venue is crucial. It lays out your needs clearly, making sure potential venues understand your requirements. With multiple proposals in hand, you can compare options efficiently, negotiate better terms, and maintain a professional and organized approach to finding the perfect venue for your event.
We’ve compiled all the things we think you may need when creating an RFP, and conveniently centralized them on one template below!
How to Search for a Venue
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 & Visitors Bureau to inquire about venues that best suit your needs.
- On event listing websites, such as 10times, eventful, etc., find similar local events to yours and see where they host events.
- Use an online tool, such as Peerspace, Unique Venues, EventUp. They help you parse through the many venues to find the one right for you.
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.