As an event planner, booking the perfect venue for your event is key. It is the moment where everything feels like it starts to come together. Once you have the venue, the rest of the event logistics and details more easily fall into place. However, finding that ideal venue is not always a simple process.
The right spot for your event will depend on your event size, type, location, budget, and various other factors. Even when you think you’ve found the perfect place, you’ll still need to make sure it’s available on your chosen date(s)!
Venue finder websites like Splacer or Peerspace are a good option for event organizers beginning their venue search. They give access to thousands of unique event spaces for all different kinds of events, from conference venues to spaces for meetings and special events. Social media is another great way to look at different venues and get inspiration for your event. You can also use google images and yelp to see what the venue looks like before booking a tour.
To help you on your quest to find the perfect space, we’ve compiled these tips on what to look for while on your next venue search.
Every year when we host our own 1,000+ person event we follow the event up with a questionnaire to understand the importance of different aspects of the event from the perspective of our attendees. We generally get 150-200 responses on this questionnaire. Here are the results from last year.
As you can see, venue is the number one attribute our attendees care about and I imagine the same is true for your attendees. Don’t slack off when it comes to picking the perfect venue.
Whether you’re planning a corporate event, organizing a conference, or looking for a wedding venue, location is key. Try to look for a venue that is convenient for guests. If there will be many out of town guests, it’s ideal to choose a venue that is easy to get to from the airport/ train station and has hotels nearby. Consider guests or attendees who may be driving and select a venue that has ample parking and/ or valet service.
Pro-tip: Check where Uber and Lyft will drop off guests so that you can make sure the proper signage is in place.
The next variable to consider is probably the most important: cost. Before you begin scouting locations, be sure to set the budget for your event. Establishing this budget will let you know how much you have to spend on venue costs. This may help you narrow some of the options right off the bat.
In addition to rental costs, be sure to ask about any minimum spends. Some venues will have food and beverage minimums that can increase the total expense for the venue. There may also be additional fees for the venue open past a certain time, so take this into account if your special event ends later in the evening. A few hidden costs that have hit us over the years include, trash removal, needing to bring in an outhouse to handle additional capacity, tenting the entrance for check-in when it rained, parking for vendors, electrical costs, and union labor fees.
Capacity and Layout
Before looking for a space to host your event, try to get an idea of the estimated attendance. Your attendance numbers needs to include guests plus all staff and vendors as the capacity of the venue is set by the fire department and they don’t differentiate between guests and staff or vendors. This number will help with venue planning as many locations will be too small or way too big. In general, it’s a good idea to look for a space that can comfortably accommodate your estimated guest count with room for slightly more than expected. A lot of venues have floating walls that can be used to subdivide the space.
For example, if you expect 500 guests to attend your conference, looking at banquet halls with a 500-person capacity would limit your numbers should more people try to buy tickets. On the other hand, looking into a convention center with a capacity of 10,000 wouldn’t make sense either. Instead, try to choose a slightly bigger venue than you think you will need so that you have room for unexpected growth.
In terms of layout, think about how you will be using the space. Networking events will use space very differently than a keynote presentation that requires seating. Will you have breakout sessions that require specific meeting space and technology? Will you need a registration area or a stage? If you are booking an outdoor space, does the venue have a backup option in case of bad weather? These are all questions to keep in mind when determining whether a venue suits your event goals.
Depending on the type of event you’ll be hosting, food can be an afterthought or the star of the show. Either way, the quality of the catering contributes to the overall event image and should be considered when choosing your venue.
Some venues will have banquet teams or private dining that offer in-house catering services, while others will outsource to an exclusive preferred vendor, meaning you can’t use any other caterer if you decide to book with that venue. If this is the case, be sure to organize a tasting so you can vet the quality of the food before you book a venue.
A venue may require you to find your own catering which will need to be factored in to your budget. If you are bringing in your own caterer make sure that they have an area to setup and it has a sufficient electrical supply for the portable ovens.
When planning an event, it’s important to consider all of your venue requirements as well as the services you’ll need to offer guests or attendees.
For example, if you’re organizing a conference, you’ll need to make sure that WiFi is available to attendees, and charging stations would be a nice added touch. We’ve had success selling sponsorship of our charging stations. It’s great exposure because someone is stuck staring at the sponsor’s logo for 30 minutes while they charge their phone.
For any events where alcohol will be served, make sure your selected venue has the required licenses.
If your event will include presentations or will have any need for audio-visual equipment, find out if the venue can provide what you need or if it is even equipped to handle the A/V setup at all. Often venues have an exclusive contract with an overpriced A/V provider so you’ll want to get a quote from the A/V company when building your budget. You can also check whether the venue has tables and chairs that you can use if you need them (and if they fit with your overall decor theme) or if you need to rent them from outside.
Before securing a space and signing any contract with a venue, it is recommended that you do a site visit. Even if the venue has provided you with photos and a floor plan (which you should absolutely request), nothing is better than seeing it for yourself. You’ll be able to walk through and get a feel for the space and determine whether or not it is actually right for your event. We like to bring a role of blue painters tape with us to mark off the floor plan at the venue and get an idea of the attendee flow. The venue tour is also an opportunity to snap some pictures for social media and promotion of your event!
Finding a practical and unique venue is a crucial—if sometimes frustrating—part of the event planning process. Meeting venues are not always ideal for hosting a wedding or gala and vice versa. So, it’s important to keep your needs and goals in mind when starting your venue search. With this list in hand, you’ll be that much closer to honing in on the perfect space and executing an amazing event!