By Jessica Symons and Sarah Stockton
Before determining what the perfect event space is, you first need to understand your client’s needs, their demographic, and their expectations:
- Do they prefer downtown locations versus the suburbs?
- Do they need to be close to transit or the airport?
- Do they need to have off-site social locations close by?
- Where is the majority of their membership coming from?
- How many people are expected to attend this event?
- Are they mostly women, mostly men, or an even mixture?
- What are the venue fees and what is included?
- Are room blocks required?
- Do they requires specific facilities such as a private prayer room, lactation room, child care services or speaker ready room?
You also need to consider that there are many different types of events out there, so the perfect event space may be different for each kind of event. For example, a three-day conference may need to have off-site social locations nearby, but an evening networking event would not. We’ve listed the two main types of events that we at Managing Matters plan, and their checklist for a perfect event space:
When searching for the perfect venue, look for:
- Parking: For a large, three-day long conference, delegates are usually travelling to get to the hotel or conference centre, so parking is an important consideration. Try to negotiate parking discounts, or even better – free parking for your delegates!
- Reasonable minimum food and beverage spend: A minimum F&B spend is typical when planning any event – however, when planning a conference, I always look for an amount that can be reasonably reached, and that is affordable to my client.
- Distance to off-site social locations: Some conferences have an opening reception, closing reception, off-site meetings, etc. so the distance from your main conference location to these off-site locations is something important to consider.
- Distance to airport: Consider where your delegates are travelling from, and how long their travel from the airport to the conference will be.
- In-house AV: We always prefer to use the in-house AV if possible, so we always look for venues that house companies we trust and have worked with in the past. The benefit of using in-house AV is their ability to make quick changes, like add an extra microphone at the last minute, should you need it. (Since they are in-house, their equipment is usually stored in the conference centre or hotel.) They are also typically able to set up much earlier than an outside AV company would, since they have a relationship with the venue. Furthermore, they are also the most familiar with the conference space, AV requirements, power, etc. and can offer advice based on their experience in that space. Lastly – bringing in an outside AV provider can sometimes prove costly, with venues charging a fee.
- Security: A venue that offers 24-hour in-house security at no additional cost will allow exhibitors to leave valuable materials overnight, and will allow on-site staff to leave belongings without stress.
- Layout: Does the layout of the space work for your programming? When looking for space for a conference, some clients prefer the plenary room and exhibit hall on the same level, preferably next to one another. Also consider your breakouts and meetings spaces – how long will it take delegates to move between items in the program? Are they moving between floors multiple times a day? And how are the moving between floors?
- Business facilities nearby: There is always a need on-site for speakers and delegates to run last minute presentation edits and printing of materials. Having a business center nearby means that you don’t have to arrange equipment for this purpose, saving you equipment rental costs.
When searching for the perfect venue, look for:
- Proximity to public transit options or parking
- Creative food stations/catering options
- Facilities and equipment for live music
- Facilities and equipment for speeches
Relevant for ALL types of events:
- Furniture/décor included in rental cost
- Cancellation policies and contract clauses
- Security and emergency preparedness: When alcohol is being consumed, or even for large scale events, security is usually required by the venue. When selecting a venue, make sure security is discussed – you may want to hire a security company that you trust, or you may choose to let the venue hire their own. Regardless, venues with security measures in place are ideal. An ideal venue will also have emergency plans in place, for anything from a power outage to a natural disaster.
Questions to ask for ALL types of events:
- Are licences required or provided?
- Is your catering in-house or outsourced? If outsourced, do I have to provide my own caterer?
One other important thing to remember when selecting a venue is to complete site visits. Site visits are necessary when determining an event venue, and extremely useful when planning the event. Looking at a floor plan versus actually being in the space is incomparable. I’d recommend scheduling two site visits if possible – one when you are determining an event location, and another once the contract has been signed, and planning is underway.
About the authors
Jessica Symons is a senior event coordinator at Managing Matters. Jessica incorporates her vast knowledge of both the fashion and events industry into both working with her clients at Managing Matters and executing spectacular events from start to finish. Her incredible organizational skills and passion for the events industry allow for polished and smooth events.
Sarah Stockton is an event coordinator at Managing Matters. Sarah is an enthusiastic hospitality professional with over 10 years of diverse experience in event planning and coordination of multi-faceted events. With a background in hospitality management and corporate event management, she has managed conferences, forums, trade shows and social events across Canada and abroad.