Planning an event is a long and arduous task that’s incredibly rewarding when finished. One of the main tasks that you need to prepare for is booking an event venue. It could be a conference, a meeting, or a corporate event. Finding the right venue for your event is a huge undertaking, and it can be painful. That’s why we’ve created this 12-point event venue checklist for choosing a venue!
- Date & Flexibility
- Venue Capabilities
- Additional Services/Amenities
- Lodging Accommodations
- Cancellation Policies
One of the first things you have to do is establish how many guests and attendees you’ll have at your event. The best thing to do is to have a general idea about what your maximum headcount is going to look like.
Don’t worry about having the exact amount of attendees. Knowing a ballpark figure is more than enough to identify what types of venues are available for you. You don’t want to end up with a venue that’s too small for your group where they’ll end up feeling cramped, but you also don’t want to get a space that’s too large, which could end up making your event feel “lifeless“.
Let’s talk about location. When you’re thinking about where to host your event, you want to make sure that you address several questions:
- Where is the venue located?
- Does the venue have disabled-accessible accommodation?
- Is it outdoor or indoor?
These are great questions to build upon when you’re looking for the perfect venue location.
This point is tied to the previous one about location. Depending on what city you’re hosting your event in and what your target group looks like, you’ll want to choose a venue that’s conveniently located.
This can include things such as:
- Parking (Either self or valet)
- Public transit
- Shuttle services
- Tourist attractions
For these factors, you should pick and choose which are most applicable to your situation. If your event is catered towards a large audience, such as a festival or concert, you should look at venues that have good parking facilities or easy access to public transit. However, if you’re hosting a business event for high-level C-suite executives, you can probably look at venues closer to airports or that have parking and shuttle services.
4. Date And Flexibility
By the time you’re looking for a venue, you should have a basic game plan in place for your event. That means you’ll have an idea of all of the possible dates you can hold your event.
If your event has the flexibility to be held on several different dates, use that to negotiate with venues for a better deal. Venues are constantly on the lookout to fill open dates on their calendar. If the date you originally wanted is unavailable, you might get discounted pricing for your other date options.
When you’re looking at locations, make sure the venues can be set up the way you want it to be. Your venue’s layout is your opportunity to let your creativity run rampant. This is the chance to leave a lasting impression on your attendees, so you want to make sure that your venue is going to give you that ability.
Look at the layout and the scope of your venue. Will it fit all of the features you have planned? Does the space work for the flow your event is trying to achieve? Will your attendees be comfortable with the space provided?
When looking at the size of your venue, here’s a general formula you can use to figure out a general idea of how much space you’ll need for your event (Thanks to our friends from Attendee Events).
For venues that offer standard seating with a stage area at the front:
- 50 people or less: ~12 square feet per person
- 300 people or less: ~11 square feet per person
- More than 300 people: ~10 square feet per person
Banquets with tables and buffets:
- Plan on 13 square feet per person, more if you have a large buffet area or exhibit space
- 50 people or less: ~22 square feet per person
- 300 people or less: ~20 square feet per person
- More than 300 people: ~18 square feet per person
- Plan on ~9 square feet per person
- Don’t forget to tack on space for buffet tables
When you’re scouting out the perfect venue for your next event, make sure that it fits the theme of your event. The venue and its surrounding have to fit the subject matter that your event is highlighting. (For example, check out this list of top 20 Vancouver venues that we’ve updated for 2018)
For example, if you’re hosting a corporate business meeting, an outdoor garden might not be the most suitable. (I understand that this example is extreme but it proves a point!) A boardroom in a hotel or business lounge would be more appropriate for that type of event.
Having the right ambience at your event venue can drive guest retention for future events. According to White Hutchinson, 91% of dining restaurant patrons say that “an appealing ambience influencers their decision to visit a particular concept”. Choosing the best venue for your event is the first step to locking down a great atmosphere.
7. Venue Capabilities
In addition to the actual venue’s appearance, you want to ensure that the venue can handle any technical requirements you might have, such as AV or lighting! These factors go a long way towards your event ambience as well.
Our friends over at ATX Event Systems has an awesome AV event checklist that you can use to mark off all of the requirements you’ll need for your event (or you could go through your own network of event vendors to handle this).
Verify AV Equipment Requirements
- Microphones – wired or wireless, lavalier, table or floor stands
- In-house lighting – adjustable in every room, supplemental lighting needed?
- In-house sound system or supplemental needed?
- Portable sound system required?
- Mixer board(s) – how many
- Electrical supply ok or additional needed?
- Video cameras
- Desktop – laptop computers
- Podium – how many – with or without microphone
- Two-way radios – reception capabilities in all areas
- Projectors – built-in or special order
- Technicians – camera, lights, sound, projection
- Screens – what size – how many – what type
Verify Onsite Capabilities
- Pre-con meeting for program review/orientation
- Orientation for volunteer monitors
- Early a.m. check of AV set-up for each function
- Oversee rehearsal with AV techs and key players
- Early a.m. check of speaker-ready room
Verify Speaker/Presentation Needs
- Re-confirm with all speakers and presenters
- Notify AV if major changes anticipated
- Update AV matrix as needed
- Distribute final AV matrix two weeks in advance
- Schedule on-site rehearsal/timeline review
- Finalize timeline and distribute two weeks in adv
- Assign staff and/or volunteers to attend/monitor each function
8. Additional Services/Amenities
Maybe you’re hosting a team-building event that would like to incorporate something fun into the agenda. Maybe you’re running a conference and would like to hire some additional help!
Sometimes, venues come with a list of optional services that they might provide. Discuss this with your venue to get a better understanding of what they might have to offer and what type of discounts you can get if you use several of these services together as a bundle.
9. Lodging Accommodations
For events that are geared towards visitors from all around the world, you want to place your event at a spot that’s close to accommodations. Whether that’s on-site (such as hotels) or off-site (nearby partner accommodations), you’ll want to scope these out early on so that you can prepare your guests with information on the best locations to stay at.
There are a variety of tools available for event planners to make lodging accommodations easy for guests. For example, event planners that host events on Picatic can utilize our Airbnb integration. When they set up events, they can turn on this integration to display an interactive map on their event website.
To activate our Airbnb Integration with your Picatic event:
1. Login to your Picatic account and select ‘Edit’ from the event listing menu or select ‘Create Event’ to start a new event listing.
2. Select the ‘Settings’ panel from the Event Creator. Next, scroll to the Airbnb section and select the button to enable.
3. Once the Airbnb integration has been enabled, the interactive map will appear on your event website below your event description.
I know, I know. This one might seem obvious, but it’s important to look at the fees for what’s included in their package compared to what’s available in your budget. But sometimes, there’s a way around it.
Let’s talk about negotiations.
When you’re looking at venues and talking to the teams that organize events at each location, initiate the conversation for negotiations. There’s no reason why you need to be timid about it. It’s understood that you’re both trying to get the best deal, so make sure you kick things off.
A good starting point in negotiations is to understand the market before you look at the event venue pricing. As long as you can compare the price with similar offers and look at what the pros and cons are of each, it’ll help you make a better-informed decision.
Another tip that could smooth things during negotiations is to see if you can plan multiple events at one venue. Often, you’ll be able to lock in a discounted price for repeat events, and it builds a stronger relationship with the venue in question.
11. Cancellation Policies
It’s always good to know a venue’s cancellation policy in case something goes wrong. This is applicable for both you canceling the event and the venue canceling your booking.
Learn more about their policies by requesting information such as:
- What happens to the non-refundable deposit if they cancel?
- What’s the cancellation charge? (Is it on a sliding scale?)
- What is the latest we can apply for a cancellation?
According to a research done by BDRC, the average charge for cancellations amongst chain event venues is 82% of the hire fee if done up to 15 days in advance. For cancellations up to 30 days in advance, the fee is 59%, and up to 60 days in advance, it’s 43%. If the contract you’re looking at strays away from these numbers, you could try to negotiate your numbers to meet this!
When hosting events, it’s a good idea to have event insurance ready and primed. Having event insurance gives you general liability for specific events, and can protect you as a company and the parties involved for losses, whether it’s bodily harm or property damage.
A lot of event venues will require you to have event insurance, according to BizBash. They shed a lot of light on event insurance and why you’ll need it.
For most events, you’ll want to purchase general liability, which covers a broad range of incidents. If there’s more space for additional coverage in your budget, find the ones that are most relevant to your event, whether it’s liquor liability, auto liability, workers compensation, etc.
Hopefully, this event venue checklist will help you pick the perfect event venue. Make sure to consider each of these points when you’re picking out the ideal spot to host an event. If you think there are any other points that we haven’t listed here, make sure you comment below and we’ll add it to the checklist!