13 Important Things to Consider When Choosing Your Event Venue
Like most event coordinators, your first task for any new event is securing a venue. It is the most important piece of any event. In most cases, the other details can’t even be arranged until the venue has been decided.
“Yes, cuisine and entertainment are also important factors,” says Jeff Kear at Planning Pod. “But the venue sets the scene, dictates many choices related to the event, and influences the experiences of your guests probably more than any other factor.”
Plus, you need to know the venue before you can begin inviting attendees and arranging presenters and performers.
Even though selecting a venue the first take, it’s also the most difficult. There’s a lot to think about and a lot riding on your choice. Here are the variables you should consider when choosing a venue.
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1. Cost (and your budget)
As you can imagine, everything comes down to cost, so we’ve listed it first. Your venue will take up a significant portion of your budget, but it can’t eat your whole budget. You’ll still have to buy food, signage, supplies, and maybe entertainment and staff.
Fortunately, you have some leeway with your event venue’s cost if you’re willing to be flexible with the date of your event. Get prices from venues for different times of the week, month and year. (A summer Friday night would be most expensive, for instance.) Plan ahead as far as possible so you get a favorable reservation rate.
2. Ambiance and mood
Creating an atmosphere that relates to your topic and appeals to your audience is a critical part of setting up an engaging event. Modifying or decorating a venue is expensive, so it’s smart to choose one that already aligns with your theme.
If you want to create a luxury atmosphere, choose a ritzy hotel. If you want to create a trendy scene, rent a modern space. If you’re hosting a tradeshow, choose something industrial and open.
3. Capacity and size
Every building is limited by the number of people who can occupy it at any time. Some rooms are limited as well. Before you start sending invitations, it’s important to make sure the venue can legally and comfortably accommodate your guest list.
Physical size is important as well. “What a lot of people miss when thinking about venue size has less to do with capacity and more to do with the physical size of the venue,” says Funny Business. “It is important to ask questions like ‘How tight will the seating be?’ Will your guests be able to move freely through the venue space without any uncomfortable hindrances on their movement? How big does the space feel? Is it cozy and comfortable? Is it open and spacious? Two venues with the exact same max capacity might feel entirely differently based on room layout.”
4. Access to Wifi
A strong Internet connection throughout the venue is absolutely critical these days. Your attendees will expect to be able to check their email, text their friends and family, and post to social media throughout your event, especially if it takes place over several days. Make sure the venue has an excellent Wifi connection that’s strong throughout the entire space.
Parking is a deciding factor for many people. They need somewhere to leave their car, but they aren’t willing to abandon it on the street or pay $50 for a day’s spot.
Ideally, your venue should have some parking arrangements, even if access requires an additional fee. If parking is important for your guests, choose a venue that has their own lot/garage or a venue where parking space can be secured nearby.
In unique situations, some event coordinators provide a valet service for attendees, even if the venue doesn’t. Valets ferry cars back and forth to nearby lots. (This solution is generally only suitable for events with large budgets.)
According to event planning resource BizBash, some venues won’t do business with you unless you have appropriate insurance. Have a conversation with the venue about the type of insurance necessary and who is expected to provide it.
If you need to provide all or a portion of the insurance, your general liability agent should be able to help you for your event. Just make sure you contact him or her early.
7. Acoustics and sound
If the sound in the venue is too low or too loud, your attendees will become unengaged and bored. No one wants to cram up front to hear the speaker or have to shout over the volume to chat with their friends.
A venue with poor acoustics isn’t worth your time, no matter the price. Low ceilings amplify sound. Huge open spaces create echoes. Find a venue with a good balance. Test it out if you have to.
Location is an important concern because it can influence who attends your event (attendees and speakers). If your venue is in an undesirable location or too far from transport systems (like airports), you’ll limit the number of people who show up. Then again, a venue in the heart of New York City is accessible, but expensive.
Your venue’s location should be easy to find and not arduous to reach. There should be easily accessible information to help attendees find the venue.
You should also consider if your attendees will consume alcohol, recommends Event Planning Blueprint. “You don’t want attendees to drink and drive so have free transportation options available after the event so they can get home safely or ensure taxis are ready when people leave the venue.”Securing a venue is the most important piece of the event planning process.CLICK TO TWEET
Your technology needs will depend on your event, so it’s smart to have an idea of the types of attractions you’ll host. Professional presenters will need projection screens. Performers might need lighting systems. Everyone needs access to good audio.
10. Food and beverage minimums
If your venue will be providing food and beverages, ask them about minimums. In some cases, a venue will charge you for a minimum number of guests, even if you don’t invite that many. If, for instance, the venue supplies food (and charges you) for a minimum of 300 people, you’ll want to make sure you invite at least that many so you get your money’s worth.
“In addition to décor, factors like space layout, seating and table arrangements and signage, can really make or break your event, especially when it comes to how people will flow through the space,” says Brian Pesin at Event Farm. “This is especially important if you have things like keynote speakers or a performance that will need to be on a stage, and also tends to get more complicated as you deal with larger spaces.”
As you examine potential venues, picture in your mind how you’ll set up the space. Before you leave, ask the venue for an illustrated floor plan so you can compare it to other locations.
It helps to have an idea of the types of activities, presentations, demonstrations or exhibits you’ll have. As you review the space, ask yourself these questions.
- How will traffic flow throughout your event?
- Do you anticipate any popular attractions? Where would those be located?
- Is there adequate space for open mingling?
- Where will the bar setup? Is there enough room?
- If a stage isn’t available, can one be set up?
- Do people have to walk long distances to reach rooms or attractions?
- Where are the emergency exits?
- Where will guests register or check in?
- Where should audio and video equipment be stationed?
12. Additional services
It’s quite possible that a venue offers a service you would have never considered, but would make an excellent addition to your event. For example, a conference center might offer rooms with interactive whiteboards. You may not intend to use a tool like that, but once you know it’s available, it may become an important part of your event.
The only way to learn a venue’s entire menu of services is to ask. “Do you folks offer any additional services that might interest me?”
Then, make sure to ask these questions to get a comprehensive understanding of exactly what’s offered.
- Is there a kitchen that can be used by you and your team?
- Are there any outdoor seating options?
- Does the venue have any partnerships with food vendors?
- Are bathrooms present and easily accessible?
- Does the venue offer security? Is that necessary?
- Do they have adequate tables, chairs, linens, silverware, etc.?
- Will a cleaning crew make sure the venue is clean before the event and clean up afterwards?
- Are there sufficient audio and video capabilities?
13. Special access/amenities
First, it’s important that your venue is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act so it’s accessible to people with special needs.
Consider the ages of your guests as well. If you expect babies, make sure the restrooms have changing tables. If you expect an older crowd, make sure there is plenty of seating.