Finding A Perfect Venue | A Venue – Part 2

In part 1 of “How do you find that perfect venue,” we talked about hotels.  Now it’s time to talk about venues.  We are talking specifically about venues for conferences and not for parties or weddings.  Venues are much easier to work with if you are hosting a party vs a conference and that is because they aren’t as complex and are typically one day.

There are so many factors involved with finding the perfect venue and you should create a comparison (hotel vs. venue) budget to show your client.  This won’t be an apples to apples budget because there are extras that you need to take into account that you don’t need to when you’re looking at hotels.

3 venue questions right out of the gate

When the client wants to use a venue to host their program, there are three initial questions that have to be answered right off the bat.  Production is still my number one question – what does the client want that is going to make their event stand out.

Secondly, but almost equally as important is what do we need to do to bring in to customize the space?  That might a strange question, but the reason it’s so important is when you are looking at venue space, it might be one large space that is 20,000 square feet.  Within that space, you need to break it up because your client needs a general session, 3 breakouts, an office, storage and a meal room space.  This means that walls need to be created.  You see in a hotel – those walls already exist with airwalls or permanent walls.

And thirdly, you need to have a really good understanding of their budget.  Now the client will come back and say, “Well we need to know how much it will cost,” but you need to get a ballpark number from them, especially if you are walking into a blank space.  If the client says that they have $100,000 to spend and want an elaborate production with lots of branding and catering for 300 people – they don’t have enough money for a venue.

I’m not saying that venues are more expensive because they aren’t necessarily, but there are added expenses with venues that you don’t have with hotels.  Hotels already have the infrastructure in place, as an example, some lighting, flooring, walls, and separate rooms.

Then more questions to narrow down your search

Is it going to cost the client more money?

Most likely there will be more vendors working on this event than if you were hosting this event at a hotel.  I have always had the best success when I’ve selected a creative team that has worked together in the past.  There is better synergy and we can work together on costs.

Will there be flexibility with the venue space & do you need to create separate rooms to meet the group’s needs?

Ah – this can be a tricky one.  With corporate events, things are always changing at the last minute.  If the client comes up to you and says that they need another room for small meetings, you may not have that flexibility to offer another space.  Especially if you are having to bring in walls to create separate spaces.  But what you need to remember is that you can transform a blank slate to whatever you want.  You can go wild with creativity.

Venue Space

The photo above is raw venue space that is 25,000 square feet and in order to do a conference here, the client would need to bring in walls to create separate areas.

How is the location?  Is it near any hotels or public transportation?

Ideally, you want to have the venue space very close to the group hotel.  Your executive team will be needing to work on presentations, will be up late and you need to think about the accessibility of the space.  Also if the venue space is in the middle of nowhere, how will it be catching a cab after hours.

For the attendees, think about how the group will be arriving at the event.  Do you have a large percentage of the audience that is local?  What are the trends – do they typically drive or take public transportation.  Chicago, NYC, and Washington DC attendees would typically trend towards public transportation vs. driving.

Will there be the ability to brand the space?

Branding is going to be important and you want to make sure there is adequate space to do that.  If you’re branding outside, are permits required?

You need to think of ways to make the venue space your own and that is best done with branding.

Will you need to bring in electrical and internet?

Sometimes the venues don’t have enough electrical power to support the production and when that happens, you need to bring in power from an outside company.

Does the venue already have internet or does it need to be brought it?  Hotels already have this infrastructure, but I can tell you, you will most likely pay less for the internet at a venue and get more bandwidth than you would at a hotel.

When it comes to catering, do you need to build out the kitchen?  Does the venue have tables and chairs or is this something to budget for?

There are some venues that have a kitchen or a prep kitchen and some that don’t have anything at all.  If there isn’t anything, then the caterer will need to build a kitchen.  You will need your caterer to do a site visit to see the venue space.  You will also need to think about your menus and the meals that you will want to serve over the course of the event.

Be sure to check if the venue owns tables and chairs and see what they look like.  It’s important to get a full accounting of all the different types of tables and chairs that the venue offers.

What does the flooring look like, do you need to bring in carpet or can the floor remain exposed?

Can you tell that I think floors are important?  Some venues have exposed concrete floors and that look is fine for some.  It can get really expensive if you need to bring in carpet.  We have brought in carpet just for the aisles and it gives the space a more finished look or you can bring in area rugs for different seating areas.

Do you need to get any permits, dumpsters for trash removal, and cleaners, is it a union facility?

You might not think about the need to get permits or dumpsters or cleaners, but you need to read your venue contracts.  The venues want you to leave the space just as it was when you came in – clean.  Talk to your caterer to see who is going to be responsible for taking out the trash.

Also – is this particular venue a union facility.  Just like with hotels, you need to be mindful of the unions as this is where a big expense comes in.

All of these things affect your bottom line.

There is no right or wrong answer here.  Sometimes a venue can be less expensive and sometimes a hotel can be.  The bottom line is to make sure you have a good picture of what the client wants and that the venue space has flexibility.  You don’t want to be pigeon-holed.  When you have all the information, you’re going to be able to make the best recommendations to your client (or your boss).


Did you find this information useful?  Interested in learning more about corporate events?  Check out our e-course – the ROAR playbook where I share all my 25-year corporate event knowledge.  You can sign up for our Jumpstart into Corporate Events email course below.


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Caryl Lyons

Managing Partner
With a love for design, her signature style infuses everyday life into events. Her philosophy is to create an experience with food, color, music and interior design. You won't see just a pen and pad at one of her events.
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