For a physical, in-person event, the event’s venue is arguably the most important element that will determine the event’s success.
No matter how well you’ve planned and organized the event: securing the best sponsors, booking the biggest talents in the industry, and so on, it will likely be a failure if the venue is not a good match for the event in one way or another.
And yet, not only is choosing the right venue from so many different options available a huge challenge, but good venues are seemingly always fully booked, making things even more complicated.
To start, the event venue must be the right size according to the type of the event and the number of attendees. Location is also obviously important: you’d want a venue that is located in an area accessible by your main target audience. There are also other factors like whether the venue has the right facilities, interior, acoustics, parking availability, and others.
Not only that, but in this post-COVID-19 era, we also need to pay extra attention to health and safety factors, like whether the venue has implemented adequate hygiene policies.
While booking an ideal event venue can be quite a daunting task, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about how to book an event venue in 15-steps, and by the end of this guide, you’d have learned about:
- Key factors to consider when choosing your ideal event venue
- Understanding how venue rental costs should fit in your budget
- How to effectively decorate a venue
- A step-by-step guide to booking a perfect event venue
Without further ado, let us begin right away.
Step-By-Step Guide To Booking an Ideal Event Venue
Step 1: Decide on a venue style
Event venues are available in many different types and styles: an expo hall, a stadium, an outdoor garden, or even less traditional styles like warehouses and private hangars.
The first step you should do is to decide on what venue style you’d like for your event, based on mainly two factors:
- The type of your event. If it’s a music festival/concert, then you’d want a stadium or an indoor hall, for example. If it’s a keynote conference, probably a smaller hotel ballroom will be more suitable.
- How do you want your attendees to feel? What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create for your event? Serious and educated? Comfortable and “warm”? Fun? Party mood?
A great approach is to visualize the ideal venue in your mind while also considering factors like walking paths/audience flow, registration/check-in process, the shape and placement of the stage, and so on.
In this step, you should’ve identified what are the must-have things you’ll need from your ideal event, what elements can be considered nice-to-haves, and what elements are not very important for your event.
Step 2: Create an event budget
Obviously, you can only rent a venue that your budget allows. Everyone wants to host a music festival in the Madison Square Garden, but not too many organizers can afford it.
So, it’s crucial to create an event budget as early as possible in the event planning process, so you can clearly identify how much money you can comfortably spend on renting a venue without disrupting the other elements of the event.
While your event budget shouldn’t be set in stone and you can revise it later, you should try to estimate the following items as early as possible.
- The venue rental cost. Pretty self-explanatory, as this is a venue booking guide.
- Food & beverage/catering. Some venues may require you to use their catering service, so the costs will be embedded into the overall venue rental cost, and in such cases, check whether there’s any spending minimum. Some may allow you to bring your own food.
- Furniture/equipment rental. Like tables, chairs, stages, glassware, etc. Check whether the venue rental includes some of these pieces of equipment.
- A/V equipment. Most venues typically already have A/V equipment installed on-premise, but re-check whether it’s included in the rental price and whether you’ll need to rent additional pieces.
- Registration and ticketing. You may need to invest in an event registration software and hire additional staff to support the registration process.
- Accommodations and travel. For your speakers/talents, but also for staff, volunteers, VIPs, celebrities, and other parties that may need you to provide accommodation and transportation arrangements.
- Decorations. Whether you’ll need to decorate the venue, or will decoration be included in the rental cost.
The earlier you can estimate your budget, and the more comprehensive it is, the better you’ll have a clearer picture of how much you can spend on the venue.
Step 3: Identify venue capacity needs
You’ll need to have at least a general estimation of the event’s maximum attendees. Yes, you may not be able to have the final number of registrants until a few days prior to or even the actual day of the event, but without an estimation, you won’t be able to decide on venue capacity.
Based on your estimation of maximum headcount, you should shortlist venues that are not too small to comfortably accommodate this number, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be too large that it’ll feel empty (which will affect your attendees’ experience).
Besides venue size, you should also consider the number of rooms and spaces (or whether you can divide the available space into several ones).
Last but not least, venues tend to suggest a larger maximum capacity than what is comfortable or reasonable, so don’t be afraid to be explicit about this and ask your questions.
Step 4: Decide your event’s flow needs
Another important consideration when choosing an event venue is your event’s guest flow.
When designing your event, identify areas that will be naturally crowded, for example, around the bar if you serve drinks/alcohol, areas around the buffet line, the restrooms, and so on. Picture potential bottlenecks when choosing between different venues, and decide whether the venue can accommodate your needs.
Especially if you are planning a fairly large event and/or evaluating a large venue, think of whether you’ll need to create multiple stations (i.e. multiple bars) to minimize bottlenecks. This, however, will translate to extra costs, so take this into consideration when evaluating different venues.
Step 5: Understand your target audience’s needs
While above all we should consider what our target audience wants when deciding between different venues (i.e. their preferences about locations, decorations, etc. ), we also need to identify what they need.
If, for example, your event targets fairly young audience demographics, then you might not need to worry about things like the number of stairs or relatively complex layout. However, if you are targeting older audiences, then these factors can be an issue.
Nevertheless, you’ll still need to take accessibility into account when choosing an event venue. Is the venue wheelchair accessible? Is there any unisex accessible restroom available? Think about your audience’s potential accessibility needs, and plan for them in advance.
Remember one of the key factors in choosing an ideal venue is to accommodate all attendees and ensure they all have a positive experience. The better you understand their wants and needs, the better you can choose the most ideal venue for them.
Step 6: Plan audience activities and interactions
Another key factor to consider when choosing between different event venues is how your audience will gather and interact with each other during the event. Will it be a seating event? Or will they stand and mingle as in a cocktail party? Will they have a swag bag with them? How important is networking in this event?
When evaluating potential venues, keep these questions in mind and think about potential challenges your attendees will face during the event. Don’t be afraid to discuss these concerns with the venue’s owner or manager during your site visits.
Step 7: Select an event date
If you already have clear candidates for your event venue, then you can check their availability and decide an event date around it.
However, this isn’t always a viable approach, for example, if you need your event to be hosted in certain months of the year. In such cases, remember that some venues might not be available, which will narrow down your options.
Also, when deciding a potential event date, make sure to consider other important factors like:
- Above anything else, the event date should be far enough so you have enough time to properly plan the event. Rushing your event planning and preparation may end up costing you more money (rush orders, extra fees, etc.), and you’ll obviously have fewer venue options the closer it is to the date of the event.
- In general, avoid national/religious holidays, since your target attendees most likely have plans with their friends/family and won’t be able to attend your event
- Again, identify your target audience’s preferences. If you are targeting professionals, for example, you might not want to host your event on a weekday.
- Will your event be a multi-day event? In this case, your venue options will be even more limited, so this should be a consideration.
- Is your event date flexible? Is it possible to pick a non-peak date or time (i.e. hosting your event in the afternoon on a weekday)? Again, base your decisions on your target audience’s needs and preferences.
- If it’s an outdoor event (or if the weather is going to affect your event in any way), then you should choose the date or season accordingly. Also, start planning your backup plans in case of weather emergencies.
Besides the date of the event, you’ll also need to consider at what time of the day the event will occur, and the duration.
If you host your event outside peak hours (i.e. at noon), then you probably can get a cheaper venue rental price, and more venues will typically be available. However, probably not too many prospective attendees can attend your event during this time. Also, take into account the duration of the event, as it will also affect how long you’ll need to rent the venue (which may affect cost).
If possible, survey potential venues around the same time of day that the event is going to be hosted, so you’ll have a better insight into how the venue will look and feel for your attendees.
Step 8: Evaluate your event logistics
Assess any logistics and potential complexities you might face according to your planned event agenda and schedule.
Will your event target attendees from outside the city or country? In this case, you may want to choose a venue that’s located near enough to the airport. You may also need to consider other transportation and accommodation concerns.
If, however, the event is a multi-day event, you’ll need to take accommodations into account (i.e. whether there are enough five-star hotels for VIPs near the venue).
Do a walkthrough in your head of how your event will run from start to finish, and identify any potential concerns and complexities as you sort between prospective venues.
A good approach here is to think back to the event’s purpose and objectives, and ask yourself the following question:
- Why are we hosting this event in the first place?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What do we want our attendees to remember? (the speakers/talents, entertainments, food and drink, the product launched during the event, etc.)
- What are our priorities if we have to compromise?
For example, if you’ve identified that food and drink are indeed the most important elements of the event that matter the most to your attendees (and yourself), then you should choose a venue that serves great food or a venue that allows you to bring in your own catering services. Decide whether the venue’s catering policy can fit your event’s needs and priorities.
On the other hand, if the keynote speakers are the highlights of your event, then A/V equipment, as well as good acoustics, should be your most important priority.
Ideally, we’d want all of these nice things for our event’s success, but we may need to make sacrifices due to limited budget, venue availability, and other factors. So, decide on your priorities, so you can communicate these priorities clearly to the venue’s owner or manager during your visit.
This way, you can ensure you can make the most of your valuable time during each visit, and secure your ideal event venue as soon as possible.
Step 9: Consider the acoustics and A/V equipment needs of your event
Don’t underestimate the importance of sound quality when planning your event. Sound quality can significantly affect your event’s guest experience, especially if your event involves speakers, music entertainment (i.e. bands), and other activities that require sound amplification.
Here are some considerations to have when evaluating different venues regarding sound quality:
- Try to speak loudly (preferably with the available A/V equipment), speech should sound clear rather than echoey or distorted
- Sound should be loud enough to be heard by those sitting at the very back of the venue (have another person listen).
- The larger the venue, the more you’ll need amplification from A/V equipment, but larger rooms will also cause longer reverberation times (the echoing sounds). This is another reason why it’s important to get a venue of the right size according to your event’s potential attendance.
- Ceiling height also matters, the higher the ceiling, the more reverberation you’ll get (and less clarity). However, a higher ceiling will also mear more possible placements of A/V equipment
- Check whether there are enough sound-absorbing materials throughout the room (i.e. curtains, upholstered chairs, carpets, and dedicated acoustic panels). Hardwood and marbled floors tend to cause reverberations.
- Assess background noises and whether the walls and doors can sufficiently block these noises so your event’s speeches and performances can sound clearly over other sounds entering and from the room.
Step 10: Create a shortlist for prospective venues
Based on all the research you’ve performed on the previous step, now you should have a clearer picture of what kind of event venue you are looking for. Clearly identify your set of criteria, and do a little research for potential venues in your area (or the location you are planning to host your event.)
Create a shortlist for these prospective venues, then contact them and arrange site surveys. Don’t forget that there are other areas of the event you should also focus on, so you wouldn’t want to spend too much time visiting different venues. This is why it’s important to get your shortlist filled with the best possible options for your event in the first place.
Step 11: Evaluate how much decoration you’ll need
When evaluating different venues, assess how much decoration will be necessary at each venue. Remember that you’ll need to add the decoration costs on top of the venue rental cost, so if you are not careful, a venue that offers very low rental fees can end up being more ‘expensive’ after you’ve taken the decoration costs into account.
Nevertheless, decide how much decoration you want to incorporate into each venue, and estimate the decor budget accordingly on top of the venue rental fees.
Step 12: Evaluate event staffing needs
Different venues may require different staffing needs, for example, if the venue has more than one entry and exit point, then you might need to assign more security and registration/check-in staff. Also, the larger the venue, typically you’ll need more manpower in order to keep all your attendees happy.
When evaluating different venues, ask what level of staffing is provided by the venue and whether it will be covered in the rental fees. For example, whether the venue will provide housekeeping and security manpower. Remember that hiring more staff and/or volunteers will translate into another expense.
Step 13: Safety and risk assessments
Assess any potential risks (health and safety or otherwise) associated with each venue, including the availability of post-COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene policies, depending on your location.
Some venues may also need you to purchase additional insurance, which will, again, add up to the overall cost, and ask whether there are any risk assessments you may need to complete before you can book the venue.
Step 14: Parking and transportation
Assess the venue’s parking lot (including street parking), and the availability of public transportation around the venue.
If the venue’s parking space is limited, a viable option is to add valet service to your event (however, this will mean additional staffing and cost). If you estimate your event to be busy, however, you may still want to offer valet service, at least to VIPs if your budget allows.
Step 15: Evaluate potential attendee experience
The last (but not least) step is to put yourself in your potential attendees’ shoes and evaluate different factors of the venue like:
- How easy is it to enter and exit the venue?
- How easy is it to navigate the venue (based on your imagination, decoration and guest flow)?
- Are the restrooms strategically located? Hygiene enough? Enough number of restrooms in the venue?
- Can you find any quiet spaces to make phone calls or perform other private activities? (or to simply take a break from the event momentarily)
- Where should you place the staff so attendees can comfortably find them and ask questions?
If you feel that the venue can please at least 80% of your potential attendees, then it’s probably the right choice.
Congratulations! Now you are ready to find the ideal venue for your event!
With the step-by-step guide we’ve shared above, you now have the solid foundations of how to evaluate different event venues and how to make the most of your chosen venue.
While there are many different factors you may need to consider when choosing between different venues (which can be a daunting task), above we’ve discussed how to tackle these different considerations so you can make better-informed decisions.