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Choosing the right venue

4 min read

What event?
Venue choice will differ depending on the type of event you hold. A conference or seminar will have very different requirements to a gala dinner, as will an exhibition or a team building event.

Working out a budget is important, and keeping to it is vital to delivering a successful event. Your budget will vary depending on the type of event you are having and you should factor in a small amount of leeway for unexpected costs.

When setting a date it is critical to think about the time of year you will be holding your event and any potential clashes. Remembering that if you choose a date close to Christmas or during school holidays, it may be harder to find a venue and you will probably have less people able to attend.

Who is attending?
The number of people attending your event will affect your choice of venue. You want to avoid a situation where the chosen space is too big or small as both can make attendees feel uncomfortable.

Dinner with a group of CEOs will require a different style of venue to a thank you lunch for volunteers, or even a staff party. You need to consider who you are inviting and how your choice of venue will reflect your intentions for the event.

Venue selection will also affect the styling of the event so it is preferable to stipulate a dress code of some kind on your invitations, whether it is: black-tie, lounge suit, cocktail, or casual. Attendees will feel at ease in their surrounds if they have dressed appropriately.

Event objectives
From the outset it is important to establish some event objectives. These will help you to measure the success of your event. Write a list of what results you are looking for and what outcomes are important to you.

Think about what impression you are aiming to give about your organisation at this event. Also consider how you want people to feel about this event, remembering that first impressions are important, and good venue selection will get you off to the right start.

Call venue
So as not to waste time, it is a good idea to outline your requirements with each venue before visiting them in person. If you h ave a date set, then check the venue is available. It is also a good idea to get a floor plan and establish preliminary costs.

Catering for your event may affect your choice of venue. If you require catering, it is best to establish from the outset if the venue can provide this and whether you can conduct a tasting to select the menu prior to the event. Also work out how many wait staff you will require and if the venue can provide these. It is also important to find out if attendees have any dietary requirements and communicate these to the venue as soon as possible.

Transportation can also be addressed over the phone. Enquire as to parking availability and check that the site is close to public transport. If the venue is not centrally located, ask them if they offer any transportation. Keep in mind that if the venue is difficult to get to, it will affect attendance.

Visit venue
If you are satisfied that the venu meets your preliminary requirements, then it will be necessary to conduct a site inspection. Images from the website may be outdated and so it is always best to visit the venue in person to make sure there are no surprises on the day.

When conducting a site inspection, ask to see the area you will be hiring and check that it is what you expect. Also look at how accessible it is, where it is in relation to amenities, and whether you have any concerns about your placement in the venue.

If you are staging an outdoor event, you will need to consider a wet weather option, so ask the venue what contingency plans they have in place, do they have marquees that they can erect or a room you can utilise.

Production elements
Depending on the event, you may require technical assistance, and while many venues will offer packages, it is important to ask whether equipment will be included. If it is not included, ask if there is a preferred supplier or if you can bring your own.

You may also need a green room for speakers and entertainment, a dance floor, or space for an auction or fashion parade, so it is important to run this by the venue prior to committing.

Establish who your main point of contact from the venue will be and whether they will be there at the time of the event. You can also ask this person if signage is permitted, what power is available, and any other questions that might arise as you continue planning.

Lock it in
Before committing to a venue, double check that the venue is appropriate for the type of event you are holding and the people attending. At this point, run through your event objectives and ask yourself whether this is the venue that will help you to achieve these.

Ask for references; if friends and colleagues have used the venue in the past, ask them how they found it. These people will give you honest feedback and help you make an informed decision.

Make it special
Once the production elements are finalised and you have locked in the venue, it is time to look at what is required to make this event a ‘special event’.

When you enter the room, try to picture if from the guest’s point of view. First of all consider the ‘threshold’ view – the first impression when you walk through. From there you can work out what elements are needed, i.e. props, singage, table dressing and staging.

Getting these elements right will set the mood for the event.

Final tip: confirm all details in the lead up to your event in writing!

Convention & Visitors Bureau
You might have some venues in mind, but if not then a handy resource is the Convention & Visitors Bureau in each state. These organisations will be able to assist you in your venue search:

  • ACT:
  • NSW:
  • VIC:
  • QLD:
  • WA:
  • NT:
  • TAS:
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