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Four Tips to Selecting the Right Venue

What’s an event without a great space to hold it? Indoors, outdoors, on a boat or in an exclusive new hotspot in the city, your chosen event venue sets the overall tone, adding character, ambiance, and excitement to your event.

Certainly the above factors are important when selecting a venue, but there is so much more that must be considered. In our years of experience, we have seen an array of issues arise with potential locations.  But I have good news! Many of these issues can be mitigated by proper planning and by knowing the right questions to ask. To that end, we share with you some helpful hints so that your venue search and selection can be smooth and hassle free.

First and foremost is to start planning early. Many organizations, particularly those that want the same venue year after year, book a year+ in advance. These groups tend to secure the venue for the following year immediately after the event concludes. Additionally, groups planning large, major conferences, anniversary celebrations, and trade shows tend to lock in their venues more than 12 months in advance. That being said, you cannot wait until you’re ready to send out the invitation or even the save-the-date to secure your location. Instead, plan to do extensive research on possible venues as part of your initial event planning.  If your event is year after year consider asking the venue for a multi-year discounted contract.  Negotiating with the venue by giving them secured business for many years is a great conversation to have.

Secondly, be flexible with your date. Check out what else is happening in your chosen city in that same timeframe. Will the venues and hotel rooms already be booked? Will the streets nearby be shut down by a local parade? Is your competitor’s main event that same week or month? Does your honored guest or guests have availability on nights when this venue is available? A myriad of other potential conflicts may arise, and doing one’s due diligence in this matter will ensure that the date and venue selected are an overall best fit.  Please note that I’m not saying to avoid every event in the city; we all know that it is impossible to meet everyone’s schedule needs, but being aware of other major events is key to ensuring the success of yours.

Third, know the lay of the land. Are you planning an event in a city you’re not familiar with? You might consider getting input from a local, someone who knows the city, neighborhoods, and venues where you’re considering. Experience is invaluable here.  The local trade and destination management offices can be wonderful resources.

Fourth, ask, ask, ask. Make sure you ask as many questions as necessary until you completely understand the specifics of your venue. Every venue is different. Some venues provide turnkey event services where everything is included. Other venues offer space alone. The key here is to have open, honest communication with your contact to the point that you might drive them crazy with questions.  But that is okay, the character of the person you will be working with for the next several months will shine through and you will know early on how to manage that relationship. Not only do you want to make sure your group fits in the space but you have other needs.  Do they have a separate space for the reception and the gala? Do they have a silent auction area? Are there A/V services, and what are the extra costs associated with them? Do they provide in-house catering or do they have a list of recommended caterers? Do they provide tables, chairs, and linens? Do they have liquor licenses, and are there rules or corking fees related to donated or outside contributions? And finally, some venues have additional strict rules and regulations by which they must abide, such as no red wine on a museum floor or an event on a boat that has Coast Guard Regulations. Be sure to ask your contact for an overview of anything you will need to know to avoid a future headache.

If that wasn’t enough, there are many other things to consider about your venue selection – parking and mass transit availability, handicap accessibility, on-site staffing, room fees, hidden or extra fees and more.

Have questions or want help with your event’s venue research? The TaylorMade staff is happy to help. Visit our “Contact Us” page to connect.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Chase

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