Your venue can make or break your event, so getting started may be intimidating. You're sure to find a suitable venue in your area, but here are some things to consider.
For a local event, you may be looking for a venue within a reasonable distance from most attendees’ homes or places of work. If many attendees will be traveling from out of town, a venue near the airport or their hotels will be beneficial. In whichever case, don’t forget to consider traffic, transportation, and parking options.
Cities like Cork, Galway and Dublin focus their festivals on the city centres, easily accessible for all. More rurally, town halls and green-areas are ideal.
Does the venue have a parking lot? A venue with a parking lot is what dreams are made of. If that’s not the case, are there parking lots nearby which attendees can access and use? If there is no parking available, you’re not completely out of luck as you have a few alternatives:
3. Capacity and Minimums
- What’s the capacity? You’ll need to know the room capacity of the venues for a few reasons. First, 500 people (if it is your estimated event size) can’t comfortably fit into a room with a 250-person capacity. And second, there are fire and safety codes that the venue has to abide by.
- What are the F&B Minimums? If your venue offers food and/or beverages and sets a minimum food and beverage spending amount (known as an F&B minimum), ensure that the past F&B records from the previous events are in line with the minimum. If you estimate much more F&B spending than what the venue requires, it means you would be a good customer to them. Negotiate whether they can provide complimentary service (e.g. upgrade Wi-Fi or A/V support) in return if your spending reaches a certain level.
4. Services and Amenities
- Does the venue have a kitchen and can it provide catering to your event? If so, often a venue will waive the facility fee and only charge a down payment along with the cost of food for each attendee. Those venues without kitchen facilities may have a partnership with a food provider that you’re required to use. You may want to check their food in advance. If it is not good enough, it can create a negative impact on your attendees’ experiences. So, either go with a venue that serves great food or allows you to bring in outside food vendors.
- Does it have tables, chairs and linens you can use? If a venue has these items, you can save a great deal of money and effort by using what they have, assuming it matches your theme and ambiance.
- Does it have a setup/clean up crew? If you’ve found a venue which provides a setup and clean up crew, rejoice! This isn’t always the case. If these services aren’t available you’ll need to build your event team or find volunteers.
- Does it have AV capabilities? Some venues have a built in audio-visual equipment for you to use, and others will require you to bring that in yourself.
Even though you’ll be finding your venue early in the event planning process, you’ll still want to have a rough idea of what types of activities you’ll be including, the amenities you’ll require, and the needs of your team and the attendees.
While narrowing down your selection, get an illustrated floor plan of each venue, and walk through your favorites at least once, making note of important things such as where the outlets are and where AV equipment is or can be located.
The layout and floor plan will greatly affect a few different aspects of your event:
- Flow of traffic Think about the flow of traffic through your event. The kind of flow you’ll want will be different for each event. What areas will be high traffic at the event? Registration? The auditorium doors? Keep this in mind when choosing your venue, realizing that how you setup the tables and decor will greatly affect this as well.
- Event activities If you want to have keynote speakers at your event, you’ll either need a stage, or a spot to place a rented stage. Will there be a bar?
Pay special attention to the existing decor inside the venue. What style is the architecture and what does the building’s interior convey? If you’re holding a gala, you’ll likely need different venue accommodations than you would for an expo. The less the ambiance matches the desired feeling of your event (upscale, high tech, etc.) the more decorating you’ll need to do to make up for it.
Some venues, especially in the cities, won’t do business with you if you don’t have insurance. As an AOIFE member, you can find the lowest event-insurance with Eventsure, ensuring you'll get to lower your insurance costs.
Accessibility refers to the possibility that everyone, especially those with special needs, can access the building and its amenities. Before you can answer this question, you’ll need to understand who your attendees are and what their needs are.
You’ll probably know whether there will be children at your venue, but you may not know if there will be individuals with other special needs. In this situation, reviewing recent events hosted by your organization may give you a sense of this.
Have you ever attended an event at a venue that was so loud, it was hard to hear others, causing you to strain your hearing and lose your voice, all in one night? That’s caused by poor acoustics. Acoustics is just a fancy word for how sound travels through the venue. A low ceiling will make the venue seem cozy, but it will make it louder if it’s packed. Alternatively, a large warehouse-style venue will result in echoes, or what architects refer to as “reverberation”.
10. Cost and Flexibility on Event Date
Being flexible on the event date can be a great way to negotiate with venues. They may have open dates on their calendar that they want to fill. By providing 2-3 date options, you are more likely to get discounted pricing.