Choosing a venue is one of the fundamental parts of planning any kind of event, be it an international conference or convention, a training course, a concert or exhibition, or a wedding. The right venue can turn your event into a spectacular experience. The wrong venue can be the source of a series of issues that can completely compromise your event. So how do you make sure you choose the right venue? What are the aspects to consider when analyzing the various options? An event venue checklist is the answer, and we created one that you can use right away. Download it for free here and use it for your next event projects, so you will never again have to wonder whether you made the right choice.
How to use the event venue checklist
The checklist we created is an Excel file. You can edit and adapt it according to your particular event requirements. It is a list of questions that represent the type of information you need to find out about the potential venues that you are considering for your event, before making the decision. You can add or remove questions based on your event type and venue type. Questions are grouped around themes starting from venue position and vicinities. You’re then going to assess its size and structure, catering, equipment and technical specifications, cloakroom, and parking. The last area you’re going to need to find out things about has to do with venue policies, restrictions, branding opportunities, and, of course, fees. Moreover, make sure you consider and analyze at least three venue options before making the final decision.
Venue position and vicinities
When analyzing this aspect, the main thing you need to make sure about is whether your venue will be easy to reach and whether its vicinities offer opportunities for accommodation and sightseeing. The latter is especially important for events that span for more than one day and to which you are aiming to have attendees from out of town.
So this is what you will be looking at:
- distance from the closest public transport stop (bus, metro, tram, train station etc.)
- how far is the closest airport
- distance from the city center
- whether there are any hotels in the area or not
- distance from the main tourist attractions in the area
Venue size and structure
Will the venue be large enough to accommodate your expected number of attendees? Are there enough halls? Is there a lounge area, should you need one? Is the lobby space large enough to accommodate a check-in area? What about restrooms, and what about accessibility for the disabled? Is it well equipped in case of emergency, does it have enough emergency exits, fire alarms and extinguishers, and first aid kits? Depending on the type of your event, you might need changing rooms for artists, and, for a large event spanning over more than one day, you might even need additional office space at the venue.
Another important question to answer is whether the venue can also offer accommodation and what is the accommodation capacity. The answer will be quite obviously yes if the venue is a hotel but, if you need to accommodate speakers or attendees, make sure they actually have room availability for your specific dates.
One aspect that beginner event planners tend to neglect is how exactly you will get all the large equipment (like audio/video, stage etc.) inside the venue. Is there an entrance large enough to fit these items?
The main question to ask here is whether the venue is equipped with an internal kitchen, because otherwise, if your event involves food, you will not only have to hire a catering company but there will also be a need to bring a mobile kitchen. Moreover, even if the venue does have a kitchen, is there enough staff to cook and potentially serve the food to your number of guests?
Equipment and technical specifications
With the right decor, A/V and lighting equipment, the blandest venue can be turned into a realm of fairy tales. That is, in theory. In practice, a few conditions need to be accomplished in order for this to happen. In this section, you will check to which extent the venue is fit for the purpose of your event, on a technical level. And, not less important, based on what equipment the venue already includes, you will determine the cost of actually making the venue work.
Here is what you will be checking in this area:
- what equipment is included? A/V? Lighting? Is there a stage already?
- in case of a power outage, does the venue provide a backup power generator?
- how strong is the mobile phone signal?
- does the venue provide wifi? If yes, what is the speed of the connection and can it handle multiple devices connected at the same time?
- how many electrical sockets are there inside the halls, lounge area, and check-in area? Are they conveniently positioned, or will you need to create a spiderweb of cables across rooms to meet the needs for electrical power?
- are there any lifts to carry heavy equipment to the upper floors? If yes, how many?
- can ceilings handle rigging if you need to hang your own technical equipment?
- are decorations and linens included? is there a dance floor, if you need one?
- does the venue provide support staff, administrative staff, cleaning staff?
For many types of events, especially if they take place in winter, a cloakroom is necessary. So you will need to check whether the venue already has one. Alternatively, you will need to check whether there is enough space, in the vicinity of the check-in area, to create a cloakroom especially for the event.
Does the venue have an indoor or an outdoor parking? What is the capacity? Can it be rented? Alternatively, are there any public parking places nearby? Parking is particularly important for those types of events for which you wouldn’t be expecting attendees to travel by public transport. This may be the case for some business events, for example. Besides, not only guests may need to park their cars nearby, but also you and the whole event staff, too.
Now that the physical features of the venue are all checked, the next step is to see what exactly it takes to work with it. In the policies section, you need to discuss:
- what happens if you need to cancel the event after the venue has already been booked? (cancellation policies)
- how is payment supposed to be done? Most venues require a down-payment to secure the booking, and the rest of the amount to be paid after the event. How large is the down-payment supposed to be?
- what happens if the venue comes with its own network of vendors, or already includes some of the elements like A/V equipment, catering or decorations, but for some reason you decide to use your own vendors instead? Is there a penalty fee involved for not using their vendors?
There’s no point in booking even the most spectacular venue if it doesn’t serve the purpose of your event, that is, if you’re not allowed to do anything in it. So check whether the venues you’re considering impose any restrictions when it comes to:
- alcohol sales
- using outside vendors
Unless yours is a private event such as a wedding, most likely you will need to place a lot of branding at the venue. And this is especially true for events that are heavily funded through sponsors, or that have several partners. So branding opportunities are very important. Check to see if you can place branding and what exactly is allowed. Can you install banners, flags, digital signage, posters, totems? In most cases, when there are restrictions related to branding, they have to do with hanging things from the walls, or rigging. So, if you absolutely want to have a specific venue, but it puts restrictions on branding, try to negotiate alternatives that don’t interact with walls and ceilings.
We left fees for the end not because they are not important, but because before talking about prices, you need to see if the venue fits your purpose. Sometimes you come across a venue that seems awesome, but on a closer look it doesn’t offer what you need for that event in particular. At this point, you’ll not even reach the point to discuss fees. In other cases, the venue is a perfect match for your event, but maybe the total price is a bit higher than what you had budgeted. If this happens, and you absolutely believe that this particular venue would turn your event into a success, you’re early enough in the planning process to be able to readjust the budget.
The role of this last section is to check not only the rental fees but also any hidden fees, so you don’t have surprises later when you see the bill after the event. Hidden fees most often are staff fees (technical, catering, admin, cleaning, security) but can be as unexpected as a parking fee. Also, check cancellation fees. If the venue also provides accommodation, ask for the fees for it and try to negotiate room blocks for a discount. And last but not least, ask whether there are ANY other fees that were not mentioned here, and make it clear that all fees should be mentioned in the contract, and any fees that just magically appear after having signed the contract, will not be paid.
When it comes to choosing a venue, you know that the choice will make or break the event, so this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Using an event venue checklist will definitely make your life easier, so before you start the hunt for that perfect venue, make sure you adapt the checklist to your particular event, and you’re good to go!