Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the wonderful world of events. Firstly I put a little infographic together on various seating arrangements and then I shared some top tips on how to negotiate with a venue. This week I’ll be looking at the venue itself, specifically how to conduct an on-site visit and what questions you should be considering when choosing a venue.

It goes without saying that the venue is a crucial part of the event, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered before you book the venue, but the number one priority is that the venue suits the event that you are holding. The place might look amazing, but if it is not practical, then you will regret booking it. For example, a friend of mine recently attended a conference on how technology can be used to market events, which was great except the venue didn’t have Wi-Fi and so the delegates couldn’t use social media to enhance their conference experience. A silly mistake but one that discredited the purpose of the event. The venue is not the most critical part of organising an event, a lot of decisions should be made before the site is even discussed. For example, the objectives and the budget should be confirmed way before where and when is decided.

So let’s assume that all the groundwork has been completed. You know why you are having the event, and how much you have to spend, you have conducted some research on venues, and you have a short list, so the next logical step is the venue visit. For Assistants, you may think that taking a day out of the office to go on a site visit isn’t necessary, especially if you are busy and have to be in the office to support your manager. Trust me it is essential! If you have been tasked with running an event, you have to see the venue before your company pays to use it. If the venue is inadequate for your guests, who do you think this will reflect poorly on? It will be you as the event organiser. You must insist on visiting the venue before agreeing to use it!

The site visit and other venue considerations

Here are ten things to consider when visiting a potential venue:

  1. How many people are attending, a reasonable estimate should suffice. At this stage, you should be looking at the rooms to make sure the guests won’t be too cramped etc.
  2. How many meeting rooms you require and how each room will be used (main conference room, break out rooms, formal dining etc.)
  3. How many bedrooms you need and if any VIPs will be staying that require a larger room. The price point for this can be negotiated.
  4. What is the food like? The venue should offer either a menu tasting or a free lunch so that you can sample the quality of the food. Can the venue cater to the number of delegates attending?
  5. Will your event consist of any team building exercises – is there enough space at the venue for what you want to do?
  6. Is the main conference room light and airy? If the delegates are going to be in there all day is there enough space for them to move around. Can they all see the screen /presenters?
  7. How are the staff at the venue treating you? Are they well organised? Are they taking pride in showing you the venue? Are they amenable and willing to negotiate? If there are only negative answers to these questions, you probably shouldn’t be working with them.
  8. How does the venue flow? Will your delegates be able to move around the venue easily between sessions, break-outs and refreshments? Is the venue so big your group may not get attention from the staff or too small that the team can’t handle the number of guests you have? The overall size of the venue, not just meeting rooms, is essential too.
  9. Don’t get sidetracked by parts of the venue that you won’t use. Yes the venue may look fantastic for a wedding, and the salesperson will want to show you that picturesque view, but that isn’t what you are there for.
  10. Don’t write the venue off if it is a bit unusual or not quite what your delegates expect, sometimes these are the best places to hold events.

Although compromise is a natural part of event planning do remember that the venue should work for the event and not the other way round.

What next?

Once you have completed all of your site visits (you should see more than one venue ideally) there are a few additional factors to contemplate:

Transport to the venue – how are your delegates going to travel to the venue? If the venue is in Aberdeen and all of your delegates live in Cornwall, this probably isn’t going to the be the best location for your event! If the venue is slightly out of a central city but is in easy reach by taxi or train, then don’t worry too much about the logistics. Additionally, venues somewhat outside of city centres do tend to be cheaper.

Safety – Does the venue follow the same safety precautions as your company? Although the venue would be liable if anything happened to your delegates, it doesn’t reflect particularly well on you either. Don’t assume the venue will have the same regard for safety as you or your company does.

Parking – If the majority of your delegates are driving to the venue, is there enough car parking spaces for them? Also, some venues charge for parking – if this is the case then negotiate hard for the delegates to get free parking especially if they are staying at the venue overnight.

Technical Equipment – What do you need? Do the venue already have it integrated into the room design? Are they charging you any extra for using their equipment? Are the staff at the venue knowledgeable about their equipment – there is nothing worse than a  faulty projector that no one knows how to fix. If they are not confident, you may have to employ a technician, is this in the budget?

So lots of points to think through when you are looking at potential venues and lots of questions to ask the venue manager. The venue hire will be a large part of your event budget, so it is essential to ask these questions and make the venue work for you.

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