Selecting a venue is undoubtedly the most impactful decision you need to make when planning your association 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 understand these key areas:
- Date preference
- Number of attendees
- Ambiance/type of event
2. Select a destination. Find a city which 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 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 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. Play to the total attendees, speakers and staff who will attend your event. Does your prospective venue have rooms to comfortably fit everyone? What types of activities will your event include? Will you need space for registration? A stage? Demo area? Think about the flow of traffic and acoustics in your various event areas. And, make sure to take into account accessibility for those with special needs and guests of varying ages.
Location. How will attendees travel to your event? Is there a venue near an airport or a single location to mitigate valet and shuttle fees? Also, think about the area around the venue. Are there entertainment options nearby to boost attendance? Can attendees walk there? Is the venue in a safe neighborhood? What attractions at the hotel or conference center are available to attendees so they don’t necessarily have to travel?
Parking. Does your venue offer parking? If not, are there lots nearby? Services, such as 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 which allows you to bring in a caterer you select. 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 cleanup crews, and security.
Branding. Can you brand the event to match your organization’s needs? Ask your venue contact if you can add signage near escalators and 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 built-in audio-visual equipment for you to use; and still others will require you to bring the equipment.
Internet. This can be an expensive line item. The venue’s basic service may not support your expected usage, so make sure to determine your bandwidth needs and whether you need to outsource the 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?
Finally, remember 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 your organization’s event might fit. Armed with this information, you’re ready to narrow down your choices, decide and transform your attendees’ experience.