Let’s look at a hypothetical situation.

Your client read my article “Not Another Boring Conference Room: Bringing Your Event to a Unique Venue” and was inspired to choose a unique venue for their event. To an event manager a unique venue would be defined as one that uses a space in a way that it is not typically intended. You are now faced with the task of transforming the venue and making the event a success. There are many things to think about outside the scope of your regular planning process to ensure the event is a success.

We recently planned an event in a school gymnasium that created with many challenges and I thought in this article I would share that experience with you.

Create a Vision

One of the first steps to transforming the space is creating a vision for what it will become. Your venue may be a gymnasium that you have to turn into an elegant gala or a community centre that turns into a conference hall. Determine your clients’ needs first such as breakout rooms, a gala space, coffee stations etc. It is important to know all of their requirements before you start determining how to best use the space.

Connect With the Right People in the Venue

Working with the venue, especially if this kind of event is new to them, will take a lot of detailed planning and project management. It is important that your venue is able to provide everything you need and are willing to go the extra mile. Connecting with the right people within the venue makes all the difference. You want to find the people who are the most knowledgeable about the space and willing to share its limits and restrictions. Often the maintenance workers of the building are great people to connect with, as they are familiar with how the venue functions, where it can create issues, restrictions and how to overcome some of its limitations.

Connecting with several different people in the venue will help to give you create a well-rounded vision, as each person’s perspective will be slightly different. This will ensure you don’t miss any important details in the planning process.

Do Several Site Checks

In a convention centre or a hotel, spaces are designed for the purpose of holding conferences and galas, whereas a unique space likely is not. This is where a site check becomes extremely important. When performing your site check, look at how people move through the space and determine bottlenecks. Look for electrical outlets and capacity and measure the strength of internet access.

I would suggest doing several site checks and bringing your important vendors on site prior to the event, such as the audio visual supplier and decorator. It is important that your vendors are aware of what they are working with prior to arriving on the day of the event. All parties that are involved need to be on the same page for your event to run smoothly and doing several site checks will help with that.

If You Aren’t an Expert, Find One

You may find that the venue does not have the experts you require on staff, that you would normally find at a hotel or convention centre. Some examples might be catering, serving staff or audio visual suppliers. Before starting to look for these vendors, make sure to be informed on the venue’s policies involving these areas and then find the best possible company to work with. They may have restrictions on bringing in outside food or using their space in a specific way. The experts can only be of help to you when you know the limitations you are working within so be sure to do your research before contacting them.

Cost Analysis

Often holding an event in a unique venue brings in a significant amount of additional costs. For example, your décor budget is likely to increase to transform the space, and catering will also likely be higher as they may not have critical functionality on site. The client may have chosen the space because of its cost, but make sure that they are aware of the additional costs that are involved in transforming the space. Be sure to include these costs in the budget from the beginning.

Hard Work Pays Off

In the end, you definitely have your work cut out for you. Pulling off an event in a unique venue is all the more rewarding, especially when you see the look of surprise on the guest faces.