Half the battle in organizing a successful association event such as an awards ceremony, trade show, conference, or symposium is choosing the right venue. The right venue can ensure a positive and meaningful experience for an association’s members. The perfect venue should capture the essence of the association and the overall theme and type of said event.  

But there are many considerations involved when searching for the perfect venue including availability, capacity, location, accessibility, acoustics and lighting, floorplan, and, most importantly, budget.  

A lot of the success of your event will come down to the pre-planning. The earlier you start your planning the better as it will afford you the time to plan the best event possible and factor in any last-minute delays or twists. While ensuring your top venue picks are within the association’s budget and capacity requirements.  

The first step in finding the right venue is doing research and looking for venues that are in your desired location and offer capacity for the estimated number of members coming to the event and the type of event. Is it a cocktail reception with passed canapes and drinks or a ceremony with a sit-down dinner or a theatre style seating plan. That will also factor into the type of venue space you are looking for.  

Next, make a list of the top three-to-five venues that pique your interest and reach out to the venue to see if they are available for your desired dates, and what some of the costs will be to facilitate your event vision and style. You will likely get a varied response in terms of availability and cost depending on the location of the event venue. This will help you weed out the ones not within your budget and focus on the venues that are budget friendly.  

Trending venues and hotspots located in the downtown core of most cities usually come with a high price tag and limited availability. While other venues that are not located in the heart of the city can offer a more cost-effective option. However, it is important to think about the location and how members will easily get to it and if there is sufficient parking or local transit to enable members to get to the venue – even if the weather does not cooperate the day of the event.  

Also remember, do not always go with the easy choice, such as a standard hotel venue. Think about member experience and how you can positively change-up from past events to offer members a new experience that will leave them talking about it post-event. Thinking outside of the box is good; and can offer a new and fresh event experience to members.  

The venue’s ambiance is key too. Ask yourself if it fits within the theme of the event and preferences of the membership. Selecting a cool venue that does not fit with the membership persona may negatively impact the overall member experience. Finding a venue that fits the persona of the membership will help put guests at ease and help to elevate their experience and make it memorable and comfortable for all.  

Once you have found the right venue the next step is to work with the venue to determine the following:  

  • Food & Beverage Options – will it be passed canapes, fun-themed food stations or a formal sit-down dinner? Look for all types of food options to ensure all guests have a good foodie experience including those with food allergies, gluten-free or vegan/vegetarian. Also determine if you will have a cash bar or paid bar and confirm with the venue their minimum food and beverage spend.
  • AV Requirements – its important to find a venue with good acoustics and lighting. Even more important when hosting an association’s award ceremony where timing is everything with hosts and recipients of awards. Some venues have a preferred AV partner while others offer options of possible preferred AV vendors for you to choose from.
  • Floorplan – the layout of the venue is key to ensure an even flow of activity for guests and that the room feels full without being too packed. Securing a floorplan from the venue pre-event to decide where you will have key elements for the event is important including the registration desk (if required for the event), giveaway table for gift bags or end of night take-aways, food stations, bar, etc.
  • Décor – when choosing an event, it is ideal to look at the venue to determine how much work is involved to make your event vision come to life including what extras are required in terms of lighting, furniture rentals (i.e., cruiser tables, chairs, etc.) and small details to make the venue look exceptional such as plants or florals, candles, and additional décor items. An event can have a WOW-factor even on a limited budget if a little creativity and pre-planning is invested into it.
  • Accessibility – you may have found the perfect venue but if it is not accessible and easy to get to for all members, then it really is not the perfect venue. Important to determine the venue is accessible for everyone. If not, that is an event fail right from the start.  

It is also vital to read the fine print of any venue contract to ensure there are no loopholes or clauses that will come as a ‘surprise’ later. Reading the contract through and asking questions on areas you are unsure of will help to ensure a smooth and seamless event – pre-, during and post!  

Read my former colleague’s thoughts on Simplifying the Venue Selection Process for more venue selection tips.  

Happy Event Planning!