Different venues hold different appeals depending on the nature of your event, the theme, how many people you are expecting and, of course, your budget. The venue can add to the ambience or it can distract from it. It can ensure that your guests feel comfortable or uncomfortable, despite the best menu and entertainment. Therefore, it is very important that you visit a number of potential venues well ahead of time. Meet with the management and event planners at the venue and be very clear about your needs and expectations. Although an appointment is necessary, try to arrive about an hour ahead of your appointed time so that they are not prepared for you. Peruse the facilities, chat to other staff members and get a feel for the place. Ask the staff questions and see that they are able to answer them knowledgeably and politely. If possible, eat at the restaurant to gauge the professionalism of the service. This will give you an insight into the real workings and nature of the venue, rather than being distracted simply by what the venue personnel want you to see.
When doing a site visit, take along your assistant, colleague, friend or others from your organising committee so that they are involved in the process from the very first step. This will take some of the pressure from your shoulders and will ensure that, in case of an emergency, someone else is aware of what should be happening where.
For large conferences, weddings and sporting events, venues may need to be booked months and even years in advance in order to secure them. Do not delay in booking your venue. In fact, make it one of the first items on your “to do” list.
When inspecting the venue, keep in mind the following:
- What is your guest profile? If they are a group of mothers on a baby-related course, escaping the hustle and bustle of daily life, they will likely enjoy the peace and serenity of a country resort, rather than a modern venue with the latest technological gadgets, for example. On the other hand, busy corporate leaders cannot sacrifice global contact and efficiency for charming décor or homely features.
- Capacity – how many people can the room comfortably seat in different seating arrangements? Remember that certain events require place for speakers, presentations, audio-visual equipment, entertaining equipment and / or dancing.
- Lighting – if your event involves the taking of notes and jotting down of information, sufficient lighting is essential. On the other hand, a grand dinner with dancing usually demands cosier, more subtle lighting.
- Parking – guests or delegates will likely travel to the venue in their own vehicle. It is imperative that there is enough parking and that, if they have to pay for it, they are informed of that fact well ahead of time to avoid embarrassment. Physically disabled guests should be accommodated appropriately and not expected to walk or be transported long distances from their car to the venue.
- Availability and accessibility of electrical outlets – ensure that your guest speakers, presenters or entertainers will have suitable access to as much electricity as they need to perform their role professionally.
- Internet access – especially crucial to corporate functions, delegates will likely need access to the Internet during the event (especially if it a conference spanning one or several days).
- Weather conditions – will wind, sunshine, heat or rain affect your choice of venue? If so, ensure that you have a Plan B in place to avoid chaos, discomfort or disruption.
- Accommodation facilities – if guests need to stay the night, try to choose a venue with on-site accommodation or lodging nearby for the convenience of your guests.
Photo Courtesy of Oakfield Farm