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Choosing the right Venue

Choosing the right venue for your event is one of the most important factors in the overall success of your event. To find the most appropriate one takes time, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. It's actually a fun challenge.

Let's assume you have already identified the type of event you are planning and its purpose. Now you have many other factors to consider as you select the venue itself. And unless logistics and time absolutely prevent it, every event planner should conduct a site inspection before finally deciding on a particular venue.

Venue types

It might seem at first glance like there are a bewildering range of options to choose from. However, most venues can be broadly grouped into the following categories, and it becomes a simple matter to choose the best venue type for your intended event.

Convention centres

Usually a large to very large, purpose-built space, ideal for exhibitions or large gatherings. They are often very easy to access, for example near the airport and/or close to major road networks. There is usually plenty of free on-site parking, but no accommodation.

Hotels and Motels

Wherever you decide to hold your event, from major cities to small towns, there will be a hotel waiting to accommodate you. From family-run motels with conference facilities for small groups, to enormous multinational hotels with world-class facilities for hundreds of delegates, there is bound to be something that suits your needs.

Conference centres

This is a catch-all term for a range of venues that are often built specifically for events, including for example corporate training centres, university lecture theatres and seminar rooms, and airport meeting rooms. Some will offer accommodation, which is where the distinction between hotel and conference centre becomes blurred.

Boats

Charter boats often provide a meeting space for your conference, as well as dining facilities.

Restaurants

Catching up over lunch is a popular way to hold a small, informal meeting. Private dining rooms are available in many restaurants, should you wish to discuss confidential or sensitive topics, or host larger groups of people. Something different! The following checklist will help guide you through choosing the most appropriate venue for your event :

Timing - when will you stage your event?

It may be obvious but the first step is to check the calendar, because timing will influence many decisions. If choosing an outdoor space for your event, the time of year (and therefore the weather!) will be crucial. Questions to consider:

  • When are your colleagues most likely to be available to attend based on their schedules and workloads?
  • Which venues have appropriate and available space for those times?
  • When is the best time for your management team to hold the event?

Location

where do you want your event to take place? Once the date(s) is decided, it's important to identify the best location(s) for your event.

First, choose a geographical region, bearing in mind travel logistics and costs from where your company or organisation is based. Perhaps, as part of your conference programme, you intend to participate in a certain type of activity (eg. Jet-boating, wine-tasting) that are only available in certain areas.

What type of venue do you require?

A hotel is usually the most popular place where organisations hold meetings and events, but it's by no means the only option. Do you want a city-centre venue or a country retreat? This is a time to be creative in your thinking. Don't automatically plump for the obvious - as outlined above, this guide contains many listings from unique and inspirational venues. Consider the following:
  • Based on the theme of your meeting, what 3 best locations come to mind?
  • What location would your event attendees prefer?
  • Other than a hotel, what unexpected locations could add that "x" factor to your event?
  • Find the right space. The intended venue must have an appropriate space for the type of event an organisation plans to hold. Avoid the tendency to select a 200-capacity meeting room for only 20 people.
  • Check the venue capacity is sufficient for your needs.
  • Can the venue accommodate your production, entertainment, A/V, sound, and other technical needs?
  • Does the condition of the facility reflect the high standards of your organisation? This is one of the reasons why an inspection of your shortlisted venues prior to your event is vital.

Catering

Food and drink are probably just as important as the business meeting topic itself. Although people don't attend events for the sole purpose of getting a free meal, they do want to leave an event satisfied with a sufficient menu.

  • Does your chosen venue offer a catering service?
  • Buffet or sit down menu? Make sure you allocate enough time in the day for everyone to eat.
  • Do any of the attendees have dietary restrictions?
  • Will the attendees be pleased with what is being offered?
  • Look into the possibility of bringing in an external caterer, should you feel that the in-house services offered by your chosen venue are insufficient for your needs.

Service and Image

A venue's reputation for service is critical. This is often the difference between holding a good event and producing a great event. The way a venue manages its facilities, staff, and clients will always be remembered. It will help to meet key staff prior to your event, to ascertain the level of service and attention to detail that you are likely to receive.

  • What is the tenure of the conference manager, catering manager and executive chef?
  • Will the management treat you like a VIP client or one of multiple programs?
  • How much flexibility is the venue willing to extend to you?

Calculate your budget

With an unlimited budget, anyone can plan a great event. But your financial resources are likely to be limited. The challenge is to plan a great event within a reasonable budget.

  • Do the venues fall within your budget parameters for space, technical and catering expenses?
  • Have you negotiated a favourable rate for services, thereby demonstrating the value of your role?
  • Always allow some flexibility in your budget, as expenses can often exceed expectations.

What does management want? Crucially, internal management will have the final say on your choice of venue. This is often budget-related! If your event plan looks unlikely to be approved, you will need to consider a more modest venue!

The above checklist is not exhaustive, but by following these basic guidelines you can give yourself the best possible chance of pulling off a spectacular event in a great venue.