As an event manager who scopes out awesome venues almost every week, I am super comfortable planning an event without having locked in a space in yet. It has become apparent through coaching though that the venue can be the BIGGEST block when it comes to holding an event.
And that’s a problem.
It can be a like big brick wall, stopping you from moving forward and holding up the entire process. It slowly robs you of your confidence and your momentum. The longer it takes, the further away your dream event seems to be and suddenly you are stuck in overwhelm central.
Well choo choooo darling, that trains about leave. Ready to smash it and get your perfect venue locked in? Let’s go.
1. WRITE YOUR NEEDS LIST
This one’s easy. You’ve gotta be clear about what you want and what you need.
What type of actual venue do you need?
Is it indoor or outdoor? If it’s outdoor, what is your wet weather plan?
How much space do you need?
What are your furniture requirements?
How do you want the room set up?
What kind of look and feel are you going for?
What are your ideal locations?
Do you need parking or public transport options nearby?
What are your AV requirements?
Do you need catering?
Do you need break out spaces?
If you are sending people offsite for lunch then what options are nearby?
This list can be as big or as small as you need, depending on your event type. Just take some time out to sit with your eyes closed and really visualise how you want everything to look and flow on the day of your event. Then open your laptop or notebook and write it all down. Once you have this list, just morph it into a page of dot points to use as a quick and easy point of reference.
Now you are clear on all that jazz, you can move to the next step.
2. CHECK YOUR BUDGET
Yep, this is a biggie. A lot of people who are only starting out in events will balk at the hire costs but don’t be afraid! You can totally cover your venue hire through your ticket cost. It just takes a bit of researching and fiddling with numbers to figure out what you can afford.
There are two ways you can tackle this:
If you have some idea of what you want to charge (and this doesn't have to be set in concrete yet), start with your ticket cost and multiply it by the number of people you think you will get to your event. Take out how much you want for your event costs such as printing or catering and that will give you a rough idea on how much you have to play with for your venue.
Or, if you have no idea about your pricing yet but you have an idea of the maximum you want to spend on a venue, divide that number by the number of people you are planning to be at your event and that will give you an expected per head cost. If this feels too high then you may need to lower your budget.
Please note here that this is a good time to be realistic – if you have a mailing list of 200 and a social media reach of 600 don’t aim for 300 people at your first event, I’d probably stick to 15 -20 while you figure this event/budget stuff out. Event planning can be really chicken and egg so definitely be on the more cautious end of the scale to begin with.
3. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Now it's time to go and find your venue. If you don't already have somewhere in mind then look at venues that you've been to before or ask friends if they know of any cool spaces that would be fitting for your event.
My Find A Venue search function lists great workshop and special event spaces all across Australia and is being added to regularly. These venues are all ones that either myself or my clients use or have been personally inspected by me. Or if you get really stuck, I find venues across the world regularly through my Virtual Event Assistance service. You just hand over your requirements and I do all the research for you and get you the best pricing.
Make a shortlist of the venues that appeal to you, check out their websites, download their event PDFs and compare their spaces and services to your Needs List. If it all fits well then get in contact and request a quote and an inspection.
My rule of thumb is to pick my one ideal, super awesome venue and then two or three still awesome but still second choice venues. This way, if the planets don’t align and I don’t get my number one choice or it's too expensive, I don’t have to go back to the drawing board and start the whole process all over again.
If your budget is quite low, look at your Needs List and identify what you are willing and able to compromise on. If something isn't completely necessary for you to run your event smoothly, then don't discount a venue in your ideal location and price range just because of that. And psst, if you budget is REALLY low, check out council facilities across your state. Some really state of the art meeting rooms and spaces have hire from only $14 an hour, just look up council websites in your area.
4. SITE INSPECTION
Before you lock in your venue, make sure that you check it out in person. Like any pretty picture on the internet, things can look a whole lot different in the flesh.
Arm yourself with a bunch of questions around things like:
What is included in the hire fee?
What existing furniture and AV equipment can you utilise?
How much set up and pack down time do you have?
What is parking and accessibility like?
Do you need insurance?
How will you be charged and when?
Can you bring in outside catering?
And basically what can you get away with doing and what are absolute no no’s?
Whatever you want to know, go ahead and ask. A good venue will always be helpful with your enquiries.
If you really want to be prepared and be across everything you need to know about a venue inspection, check out my Ultimate Event Toolkit. Yep, this is my not-so-subtle brag because the toolkit features the most comprehensive venue checklist you ever will see. Seriously, I made sure of that with 11 pages dedicated to the actual venue inspection. It also features a full event planner, budget, run sheet and wrap up. End brag.
Once you've had the inspection, are happy with everything and have made a decision, you can sign that contract and book it in! Woo!
Like all things worthwhile, it can take a bit of work but I promise that once you’ve got your venue locked in, that brick wall will come crashing down and everything can flow again.