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Here's What to Look for in a Venue

Ashley Andrews

Choosing the right venue can make your event. Choosing the wrong one can break it. No matter how magical the wedding is in principle, the venue would make it a non-starter.

You would never locate your annual business conference in the building of your major rival. First, your invitees would likely not come. Second, any message you were trying to promote would be completely subsumed by the venue.

It is obvious that the venue is a part of the message. You can’t have an environmentalist conference in an environmentally wasteful setting, or a tech conference in a setting with primitive technology. You have to choose a venue that is in sync with the message. Here are a few other considerations when choosing the perfect venue:

Flexibility

Things change. They say that life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. No matter how carefully laid your event plans are, things change. And you need a venue that can change with you.

You thought you would need seating for 200. But the Loyal Order of Water-buffalos called at the last minute, and suddenly, you need an additional 50 seats. Or perhaps it will be 50 fewer seats. Either way, you will need a completely different seating arrangement than what you negotiated.

When considering event venues, you want to ask about the service before, during, and after the event. In particular, you want to make sure that the venue management is open to those unexpected, inconvenient, last-minute changes.

While there are a few known leaders in the industry, others with less of a track record will have to be vetted. How a company handles changes is a good measurement for whether it is worth considering for your event.

Technology

These days, you can't do a conference without technology. Just imagine the challenge of trying to put on a convention. If your convention doesn't have the right technology to suit the needs of your presenters and guests, it will feel like a Luddite convention to them.

That is likely how WWDC 2010 felt to Steve Jobs and the attendees. The Wi-Fi was insufficient to complete the demos. They had to ask the attendees to turn off their wifi. For those who make a living on the internet, that was crazy talk.

Apple made the mistake of underestimating the kind of bandwidth they needed to accommodate all of the press they invited, plus their own needs. The world was changing at that time. And they could be forgiven for that miscalculation. But it was not the last time one of their events was plagued with technical difficulties.

If Apple can make these venue errors, so can you. It is imperative to make sure your venue has the bandwidth, audio, camera system, and whatever else you need to have a flawless presentation. That means having every kind of adapter for laptop charging and connectivity to a projection system. Be sure your venue is fully prepared for whatever tech you throw at it.

Accessibility

No matter how much flexibility and technology a facility has, if it presents accessibility challenges for some of the people attending, it is not a good facility for your event.

People with no physical challenges, or who do not work with people who have physical challenges often make poor event planners. Here are some of the questions you should consider before deciding on a venue:

  •  
    • Is it wheelchair accessible? You would be surprised at the number of facilities that are only partially accessible.
  •  
    • Is the stage wheelchair accessible?
  •  
    • Are some things only accessible by stairs?
  •  
    • Does the sound system include hearing assistive devices for the hard of hearing?
  •  
    • Are all the signs clearly marked with large letters for those with vision impairment?

The list goes on. The point is less about a set of specific questions, and more about putting yourself in the shoes, chair, white cain, or hearing aid of your attendees. It is better to have a venue without a nacho cheese fountain, and one with plenty of room in the theater for wheelchairs.

Choose the perfect venue by getting one that is flexible, ready for tech, and highly accessible.

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