How to Select the Right Venue for Your Event

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Selecting a venue is undoubtedly the most impactful decision you need to make when planning an event. The venue sets the scene for your event, influences the attendee experience, and probably consumes more of your budget than any other factor.

So if you’re feeling the pressure to find the perfect venue, here are some helpful tips:

1. Get Detailed. Before you can begin your search, make sure you have an understanding of these key areas:

  • Budget (see our recent blog post on Budgeting for your Event)
  • Date preference
  • Number of attendees
  • Ambiance/type of event

2. Select a Destination.Find a city that caters to your event needs and has some tourist spots to attract additional attendees.

3. Start planning early. If you’re able to plan far enough in advance, being flexible on the date could give you cost advantages.

4. Search Smart. Try the local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau as a starting point, or use an online tool, such as Peerspace or Unique Venues, to help narrow your search.

5. Remember Goldilocks. Keep in mind that you can hire a show decorator to transform a space to fit your needs. The right vendor can turn an almost-right space into the perfect one – and actually save you money in the long run.

Other factors to consider when choosing your venue:

Cost.  Does the venue charge a rental fee?  Are you required to book sleeping rooms, meet food and beverage minimums, use the venue’s in-house A/V service? Remember to factor in taxes.

Room Capacity and Layout.  Keep in mind the total attendees, speakers, staff who will attend your event.  Does your prospective venue have rooms to fit everyone comfortably?  What types of activities will your event include?  Will you need space for registration? A stage? Demo area?  Consider the flow of traffic and acoustics in your various event areas.

Note: Make sure to consider accessibility for those with special needs and for guests of varying ages. 

Location How will attendees travel to your event?  Consider a venue near an airport or choose a single location to mitigate valet and shuttle fees. Think also about the area around the venue. Are there entertainment options nearby that could boost attendance? Can attendees walk there? Is the venue in a safe neighborhood? Consider what attractions the hotel or conference center may offer so attendees don’t necessarily have to travel.

Parking.  Does your venue offer parking?  If not, are there lots nearby?  Services like Uber and Lyft often offer new user credits via a discount code.

Food and Beverage.   If your venue has a kitchen and in-house catering service, you may be required to use their service, or you may be required to use the venue’s preferred catering vendor.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, consider a venue that allows you to bring in your own caterer.  Are there food and beverage minimums you will be required to meet?  Find out if the venue provides tables, chairs, and linens, set up and clean up crews, and security needs.

Branding. Can you brand the event to match your organization’s needs? Ask your venue contact if you can add signage in the escalators, elevators or on the outside marquee.

Audio Visual. Does your venue offer A/V capabilities? Some venues require you to use their in-house A/V service, others have a built in audio-visual equipment for you to use, and others will require you to bring that in yourself. 

Internet.  Internet can be an expensive line item.  The venue’s basic service may not support your needs, so make sure to determine your bandwidth needs and whether you’ll need to outsource that service.

Other groups.  Ask if other groups will be using the venue on the same date and time as yours. Does this impact your set-up or rehearsal?  Is the group a competitor?

Don’t forget to research your prospective venue’s reputation and track record.  Ask the venue for photos from similar events to get a better idea of how yours might fit. Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to narrow down your choices and make a decision.

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