If you've ever planned an event, you are already aware of the essentials of venue selection. Availability, capacity, and location are great kick-off points, but choosing a site for your event needs more thorough deliberation. Here are 8 things seasoned planners consider before they sign a contract.
If you have a presenter, a DJ, or a band, you will want to consider the acoustics of your venue. There is nothing worse than paying money for a great band or DJ just to have the sound be distorted into three hours of an ear-splitting cacophony. If there isn't a band performing during your venue tour - and there probably isn't - how do you really know what the acoustic challenges may be? It's easier than you think.
Sound travels in waves, which means that surfaces like concrete, glass, metal, and brick can create and unpleasant reflection or echo effect. Good sound signs in a venue include carpet, drywall walls, padded chairs, and thickly padded air walls. Soft materials "absorb" sound. For the purpose of event production, that's a very good thing. Sound absorption allows A/V techs to properly hear and set audio levels as well as achieve appropriate volume levels without damaging eardrums.
So what can you do if you fall in love with a cool industrial venue that is all glass and brick? Adding soft elements to your decor plan is going o be key. Linens, padded chairs, drape, and soft seating will all absorb sound. Get clever and add some decorative padded panels to the walls, if you can. You'll be amazed by the difference!
Venues don't always come with an appropriate parking plan. Venues in urban areas may have extremely limited parking access or no dedicated parking at all. Even some hotels do not offer free and abundant parking. If parking is an issue, you may need to consider valet or even off site parking with shuttle services, which will need to be added to your venue budget.
Professional planners are well acquainted with the AMA - Americans With Disabilities Act. We will naturally look for handicapped ramps and restrooms, but planners should also consider accessibility for prospective vendor load-ins. Just like it's necessary measure doorways before you buy furniture for your home, you definitely need to consider access for decor and other event elements before you settle on a venue. For instance, it would be impossible to have a casino on the third floor of a historic building with only a small passenger elevator. There would be no way to transport casino tables aside from hauling them up three flights of stairs, a feat most vendors are unwilling attempt even with lighter product.
It's easy to assume that every venue will have free WIFI, but that's just not the case. Not all hotel venues allow event attendees access their WIFI unless they have booked a room. It's important to ask the venue contact about their WIFI, how strong it is, and who might be able to use it. Guests expect to have consistent access to their email and social media accounts, particularly so they can upload all of the gorgeous photos from your event!
5. Other Groups
If you are considering booking a hotel, or other large-format venue, you will want to ask your venue contact about other groups that might be holding simultaneous events. It's important that your attendees mesh well with the other events' attendees. You wouldn't want to hold a fundraiser for a children's charity next to a college fraternity formal for obvious reasons!
6. Power and Hang Points
Count the outlets. It seems silly, but humor me. You will always have one fewer outlet than you actually end up needing. Think about your audio visual and decor plan and ask the venue about ceiling hang points. From speaker arrays and intelligent lighting, to chandeliers and fabric treatments, large venues are used to clients hanging stuff overhead, but they all have different rules and weight limits and extra charges will likely apply.
7. Turn Around Time
Venues are in the business of booking space. They will book as much of it as they can at any given time. Sometimes, venues will book events so close together there's not enough time to comfortably install of your event elements. You need to know that you will have adequate set-up time prior to your event and plenty of time to break everything down. You can ask for a contract addendum with clearly stated time allotments.
No event, no matter how meticulously planned, will ever go off without at least a minor snag. You can have layouts and schedules and contracts set in stone, but once you reach the event day, you have to accept that things will become a bit more fluid. You may need to add a table at the last minute or you could have an unexpected vegan in your group.
We have worked in venues with amazing personnel that roll with the punches and are willing to do (or redo) whatever it takes to make an event go smoothly. We've also been in venues that do not want to move a single table or add a chair.
Flexibility is one of the most important aspects of excellent service. Ask your venue contact how flexible their staff can be and ask for examples like "Tell me about a time you were able to accommodate a last-minute client request?"