Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Event Planning: Choosing the Venue

When it comes to events, finding the right venue is half the battle. It’s like finding your events soul mate.  You need to think about what your event needs from a venue perspective and start your search around those parameters. Do you need outdoor space, do you need to have a specific view, do you need to be centrally located for public transportation?  Here are some things to consider when searching for the right venue:

What is the main purpose of your event?

The types of venues you will search for will differ depending on what type of event you are planning. A fund-raising gala needs to be in a beautiful venue, if its’ a non-profit fundraiser, you may want to consider a venue that will not require too much design and décor so that you can save money. For a pop up or innovative conference, you may want to look into a conveniently located raw space that you can build out accordingly.  For a 1 day conference or workshop, you may want to check out a conference center or a hotel, as they will have the services and rooms you are looking for.

The Search

Make a note to yourself of all the things you are looking for in a venue and start searching. You can either do your own searching on the internet or there are many different sites out there that can help you.

BizBash: The venue guide will allow you to sort by location, venue type (hotel, conference center, restaurant etc.), number of attendees and more.

Cvent: The free Cvent Supplier Network will help you search their database for venues that will directly cater to your needs.

Eventup and Eventwist: Put in the type of event you are looking to host, where, when and your budget and the site will come up with options that match your description. The great part about Eventup is that you put their event specialists to work. You can request proposals from your chosen venues and they will get back to you in 24 hours with pricing.


Once you have narrowed down your search for a venue, ask for proposals. Make sure to give them all your information and as much as you can about your event. A full proposal is a good thing; you can always cut away what you don’t end up needing. Review pricing, contract clauses, timing etc. Once you have your favorites chosen, you can move on to the next step. 

Schedule a Site Visit

You can’t make a decision on a venue without seeing the place first. Always schedule a site visit, even if it means traveling. Consider the following when looking at the place:

  • How easy is it to get to?

  • Is there construction going on – will there be during the time of your event?

  • What is the legal capacity for the space? What is the most comfortable capacity in the space? Make sure to let them know whether it will be a cocktail set up, theater style, table rounds etc.

  • Are there any special permits required? Ask about a Certificate of Insurance, whether you need any additional permits for outdoor events, for street activity, parking etc.

  • Will anyone else be hosting an event on your day? The day before and the day after? This will help you determine when your load in and out times are and help you negotiate any costs that may be attached.

  • Does your venue have exclusive or preferred vendors? An exclusive vendor means you can only use that particular vendor. A preferred vendor means they are recommended but you can still use your own if you wanted to.

  • Is there enough space for storage? Will there be a cost incurred for storage?

  • Is AV included or do you need to bring in your own AV team? What type of equipment is included?

  • Is Wi-Fi available and how much? Make sure to discuss the bandwidth you are looking for and the number of attendees/connections.

  • Can you put up signage? Branding? Some venues don’t like certain types of branding or signage. Make sure you know what is possible before you start designing and ordering.

  • Fire Exits, Restrooms, disability access. You will need to make sure you know where all of these are. Are they convenient?

  • Will there be a hard stop at the end of your event or can you extend? If you can extend will there be a cost incurred?

  • How easy will it be to work with the venue, the sales and account reps? Do you get along or do you think it will be difficult to get what you need from them. This is an important aspect to a venue. You need to have a good personality fit! 

Finalize the Contract
Once you have found the perfect venue and it has met all of your criteria…revise your proposal to fit all your needs and sign! Make sure to read the fine print. Don’t assume anything. If you have questions or need help, ask your lawyer to take a look at the clauses or ask the venue to explain. Never sign anything you aren’t comfortable with.

Once you have your contract you can move on the planning stage.