During my time at Excella Consulting, I have helped to organize over 250 events. These events ranged from meet-ups, trainings, and client meetings to sprint planning sessions and board meetings! As you can imagine, I have worked with a range of different people from company presidents to software developers. The important thing for you to remember, however, is that no matter where you fall on that spectrum it is likely that at some point you will have a meeting or event to plan. Meetings and events are a standard yet critical part of doing (successful) business. When having to go off-site to find an event venue it is important to be prepared with a list of items to consider. Below you can find my ten essential things to consider when picking your event space.
Probably the most important consideration to think about when picking your event space is the budget. Expect to spend between 10% and 50% of your budget on venue alone, dependent on what the venue will offer. If you are choosing a space that can also provide food, drink, flip charts or any other supplies, then expect to pay a higher price on the venue. The more a venue can offer, the more money you should dedicate from your budget to that space.
2. Number of Attendees
Size of venue is particularly important in relation to how many guests will be attending. Do you need breakout spaces or is one room enough? It’s important that the room feel full while maximizing space. You want enough space for people to move about freely, but not so much space that it feels empty.
Flexibility is key when selecting a venue. Can you provide multiple days and times that would work for your event? You are far more likely to get your first choice venue if you can offer them multiple days and times! It’s also important to consider how long you will need the space; will you require extra time to set up and break down? This may also play a part in identifying which venues are available to you! There may also be restrictions as to when you can access the space. Thus, it’s important to think about your set-up and breakdown as well.
4. Location & Transportation Access
The location of an event and ease of travel to the venue can make or break an event. When I work with prospective clients, one of the first things I have heard is how great our location is. Located less than 5 miles outside DC, we are across the street from the metro line, on the bus corridor and have several bike share stations in the neighborhood. Guests will be more likely to show up to an event close to where they work or live particularly if it is easy for them to get to.
Which leads into the issue of parking. If guests will be driving, how long will it take them to find parking? It’s always a nice touch to provide parking free of charge when available. This may mean first, budget accommodation and second, searching out a venue with an attached garage or one that is close to several garages or lots. You should always provide details regarding street parking to event attendees ahead of the event. This prevents day of confusion if a garage is not available!
What does the space look like? More importantly, what kind of event are you hosting? It’s important to identify what you will require from your venue ahead of time. If you need space to whiteboard, look for venues with large, empty walls. If you will be leading a training, ensure there will be enough power sources and desktops. Occasionally however, you may come in the day of and want to completely change the set up. It’s important to know how flexible the venue will be in moving tables and chairs to make sure you get the exact layout you need!
When I walk into a tech friendly, modern event space as opposed to a conference room with one large table, I feel more engaged in the task at hand. Atmosphere can help to lighten up the stress of even the most serious of conversations. Give your staff that beautiful skyline to look at while you discuss the upcoming deadlines!
Working for an IT Consulting firm has taught me the importance of having access to great technology. Whether you are giving a presentation or having a board meeting, simple access to monitors, televisions, telephones and microphones can make it easier to get through your agenda and help keep everyone on the same page. You may also have attendees joining offsite and access to technology will ensure the meeting runs smoothly. The ability for everyone to visualize the presentation is key!
Having a facilities coordinator on hand during an event takes 90% of the stress away from the people putting the event together. Let the coordinator deal with the catering (they probably have great connections, anyway) while you focus on networking with that former client. And, if any day of issues do come up, it’s great to have someone on site who can answer your questions!
Questions to always keep in mind when picking a venue: will my guests have to navigate large buildings, is there a front desk attendant and how do the elevators work after hours? If there are only a few people helping with the event, you will want to make ease of access to the event itself as simple as possible, so as not to lose hands towards directing people where to go. Finally, you should make sure the building is handicapped accessible and there is ease of access to private areas should the need arise!
These items are just the beginning of what you should consider when booking your event space. A great event begins with a great venue and the above considerations will help ensure you ask yourself the right questions when selecting that space.