Everything aside from sparing seconds is part of your role as an event organizer. But a good planner knows how to sift through all that needs to be done, and set the right priorities. A vital part of your event, and arguably the most critical one, is your venue.
A lot of other details, like the date, hinge upon where you decide to host your event. Therefore, site selection is a huge influencer in the success of your event, and will dictate the rest of your planning. Your space needs to be of the perfect size and in the perfect location. So, to get the most out of your venue, best to figure out the logistics of your bookings earlier on.
1 - Allocate your budget wisely
After speaking with a few event organizers, we’ve come to the realization that venue is where most of your budget will go and your largest expense right before food and transportation. So, before you even start thinking about potential venues, set budgetary constraints. That way, you can eliminate options whose cost don’t fall within your budget from the get-go. Be as meticulous as you can when building your budget since even the smallest of oversights can cause major setbacks.
2 - Decide on your guest list
Before you even start looking at venues, know who you’re targeting with your event, and get a good idea of how many people might be present. Having a solid grasp on your guest list will also guide you in choosing a venue geared towards your attendees’ personal preferences. You’ll obviously be seeking different types of venue depending on who’s invited. You won’t cater to C-level executives and business people in the same way as you would for music festival goers or hackathon participants. Though not a foolproof plan, incite people to RSVP to your event – that’ll help you figure out what your demographics are, and give you an extra nudge in the right direction.
3 - Choose a space of proportionate size
Factor in the number of attendees that you expect to receive and plan accordingly. If you’re thinking about welcoming hundreds to thousands of people at your event, better not be stingy. Choose a venue of the right capacity, and avoid the risk of having your space being incredibly jammed. The last thing you want is to end up with an overcrowded location with hardly any room to breathe. So, make sure your space can indeed hold at least as many people as you have in attendance.
4 - Research and lobby early
Get a head start on your location research, and begin lobbying early – think as far as a year in advance! Popular spaces like conference rooms or stadiums aren’t always available because most event organizers snatch them up way ahead of time.
5 - Explore unconventional sites
Not one for the typical hotel and conference room? Try holding your event in a more unusual spot. Common options that can accommodate a large number of people are generally hard to find at a reasonable cost. When working with a tight budget, keep in mind that every space has its peak season. To keep costs in check, consider alternative locations that will still offer the same level of quality facilities that you need, but with a much better price tag.
Some organizers will vouch for convenience and choosing a venue that’s easy for your attendees to reach. We agree… on some level. People should definitely be able to get to your event, but there are ways to make things work without having to sacrifice creativity. Convenience shouldn’t be a cause for constraints, and you shouldn’t restrict yourself to the typical and mundane. The important thing is finding a venue that caters to your guests’ needs, and that’ll entice them to come.
Want to host your event in the middle of Times Square, or even at the outskirts of Texas? That shouldn’t be a problem. Just be sure that you provide the right means of transportation to get your attendees safely to and back from your event. And when traditional transportation won’t cut it, buses are a great alternative and sometimes the only way to get there. For instance, you could set up a bus route to take your guests from a specific pick-up location, like a school or an airport, straight to your event. Convenient? We think so.
6 - Get creative in your search
Finding an impressive and unique venue can take up hours, or days at a time, even for the most experienced of event planners. A creative way of searching for your next venue is to browse through Airbnb listings. One of its relatively lesser known features is its “Suitable for Events” checkbox. You can access this option whenever you search for places that can hold more than 16 guests by filtering through “Amenities.” With tons of options like warehouse studios, art galleries, professional workshop areas, corporate spaces, luxurious bars, or even private screening rooms, you’re bound to find a venue suitable for any kind of event.
You can also check out Eventup, a startup that acts as an online marketplace for venue spaces that lets you easily search, compare and book top-tier locations to host your next event. They have over 10,000 venues under their belt across the United States starting with traditional banquet halls. But where Eventup truly excels is getting you exclusive access to upscale and far from typical venues that’ll help you curate the most memorable of experiences for your guests.
7 - Visit the event site
So, you’ve finally picked out a few options for your ideal location. Next step is visiting these places to get a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Getting to know the staff will also help you see how accommodating and friendly they are, and what’s their level of expertise in event planning. When meeting venue managers, ask for a list of events that they’ve helped coordinate in the past and a few pictures so you can visualize how you’re going to set things up on your end.
Better yet, get a walkthrough of the space so you can start familiarizing yourself with the venue’s layout, and notice important items like possible hazards, fire exits and parking spots. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to get a feel of the ambience, and see if it’s well suited for your guests and the overall tone of your event. You want your venue to convey the right message to your audience, and that can often be worked into the existing decoration and architecture of the space.
8 - Figure out what other services the venue offers
Services offered will not be the same across all venues. Find out what the venue’s staff can provide and take care of, or if you need to factor in some of your own time to prep for tasks like set-ups and teardowns. Other things that you should consider are WiFi, security, transportation, parking space as well as specific venue constraints like alcohol permits, decoration, audio-visual, and whether outside food and catering is allowed.
9 - Take note of when your event is set to occur
Remember, different seasons mean different issues. Make sure you have the appropriate equipment to deal with them. Something that might happen during colder months might not occur at other periods during the year. Imagine being smack dead in the middle of winter, and trapped inside with other toasty warm bodies where open windows aren’t an option. Better think of other ways to ventilate the area, or run the risk of having an unpleasant time.
10 - Get feedback from other event organizers
Do some extra digging when it comes to your venue. Do your research, view track records, and know who you’re dealing with. You can start off by checking out reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor to get a general feel first. Then, ask other event planners in your network if they’ve had any experience with the venues that you’re considering. Word-of-mouth and personal advice is often times key in selecting a venue that’ll be best suited for your needs.
11 - Negotiate your venue fees
In order to put yourself in the best of positions to negotiate rates, find out what goes into your venue fees. Get a handle on what’s covered (and what’s not) like liquor licenses, tables and seating arrangements, meals per guest, taxes and liability coverage. Remain on top of your finances and know which forms of payment are available, what the payment schedule is like and what’s the venue’s refund and cancellation policy. You wouldn’t want to foot the bill for unnecessary items.
As previously mentioned, check if the venue has all the amenities that you need – if not, use it as leverage during negotiations. If venue managers are inflexible on price, try bargaining for extra services rather than bringing the price down. You could ask for things like getting access to sound equipment at no additional cost or having more staff like security on hand.
If possible, be flexible with your dates as well – offering up different alternatives can help you negotiate better pricing and lower rates for the venue.
12 - Book and confirm your venue
Once you’ve selected your venue, make sure that your contract states which facilities have been booked, the date and time of your reservation, the payments required as well as other contractual agreements like cleaning up, so neither party gets any nasty surprises.
But signing your contract doesn’t mean that it’s all over and done. Don’t just assume that your booking is safe and completely dismiss it from your mind until the last week before the event. Stay in touch with the people in charge of the venue to ensure that your booking remains as it is and does not get double booked.
There are a lot of details you need to keep in mind when organizing an event. We've done the research so you can make the kind of decisions that’ll earn you a standing ovation.
Keep checking the blog for more advice on issues that event organizers face, and how to successfully manage them!