The Right Fit
The first thing to do when planning any event is to sort your venue. Without a venue you can't secure a date, can't start planning an event programme and certainly can't start inviting people.
The amount of times we've seen conferences and events scheduled without a venue is shocking, there's nothing worse to an event planner than seeing 'Venue TBC'. It literally sends shivers down our spine!
The venue is the central linchpin to all events. It determines when you will hold the gathering and who will be able to come, it also sets the tone of your event which could be classical/modern/unique or corporate perhaps. In our eyes, it is also the single most important item to consider when setting event budgets.
Remember, venue sourcing shouldn't be a bore or a chore, you can make the experience a lot of fun. Think of it as a road trip. We are constantly on the road looking at venues which advertise their event services as well as those who don't. With a bit of creativity some of the most rewarding work we do is transforming locations not intended for events into creative spaces.
A city hall can become an Arabian dessert with the right draping, lighting and decor. A simple veranda can become the setting for the perfect wedding reception with seating, an alter and floristry. A hired apartment can provide the best backdrop for a dinner party. Car parks... well believe it or not, these are often the best blank canvases! But remember, don't try to force a square peg into a round hole, if the venue doesn't feel right, chances are it isn't right and no amount of money will transform it into the perfect location.
Here's a handy checklist when checking out venues:
- Is it easy to get to? (Not everyone drives and public transport can be essential.)
- How far away is it?
- Will it cost your guests a lot to travel there? Will they make the effort to go?
- Be a considerate event planner.
- Is it easily accessed or is it diffcult to find?
- Do you need additional signage?
- Do you need wheelchair access?
- Is there a car park? What are the charges?
- Where can event staff park?
- Is there a VIP entrance for certain guests?
- Is it child-friendly?
- Consider all your guests!
- Does it create the right atmosphere?
- What do you guests expect from the venue?
- Does it feel right?
- Sometimes a surprise is good but remember, not everyone has an open mind...
- Do you like the catering at the venue?
- Do you have the option to use your preferred supplier instead?
- Are you tied into minimum spends? (eugh! #pethate)
- Is there enough choice?
- What's the quality?
- Are portion sizes value for money?
- Do they cater for all dietary requirements?
- Dare we say it... is there a dreaded corkage fee?
- Will they offer a sampling session?
- Do you need an additional alcohol licence?
- Food is important. Everyone remembers the food...
Set up and breakdown
- What are the access times?
- Will there be anyone to help unload?
- Where can you park your car/van?
- Do external suppliers need insurances/risk assessments/method statements?
- There's nothing worse than having an hour to set up and an hour to break down. The venue should allow you sufficient time.
- Are the AV facilities sufficient and functional?
- Will there be an AV technician available on the day?
- Wi-fi? (Silly question but there are still some silly restrictions and charges at certain venues)
- Does the furniture fit with your theme/concept?
- Do you need to hire in external resources such as staging, lighting, AV etc?
- Do you need staging and lighting for atmosphere?
- Are there any resources you can borrow from the venue team? (and is there a charge?)
- If you're suddenly creating a long list of add-ons you need to sit down and truthfully decide whether this venue is right for you.
- Does the venue fit your expenditure projection?
- Is it worth spending that little extra for the right experience?
- What are the surcharges?
- Do they require a hefty budget?
- What is the payment plan?
- What is the cancellation policy? (a must for all contingency plans)
- Your guests will no-doubt love an 'experience-venue' but they may not be open minded to sky-high ticket price. Don't alienate your audience with bad budgeting.
The right fit
- Does the venue fulfil your events' objectives?
- What would your boss or client like/dislike about it?
- Would guests remember this venue or would it fall into insignificance?
- Does it represent 'you'?
- It sounds a bit strange, but to us, so many conferences on tech and digital strategy are held in older, more traditional venues such as stately homes or hotels. A more modern and contemporary backdrop is always more beneficial for anchoring the content in our opinion.
and finally. . . Hospitality
- Do you get on well with the venue team?
- Were they smartly presented and approachable?
- Do they communicate quickly and effectively?
- Were enough staff visible when you visited?
- Can you trust them to assist you on event day?
- That last one is an important question as your day will be busy enough and you need to rely on them! If you have doubts about their proficiency or knowledge, move on.
And never forget to look at venue option B, C and D because you never know if an issue is going to spring up at venue option A. Make sure you have a few venues on standby as part of your event's contingency plan.