HOW TO SELECT A VENUE (FOR ANY EVENT)
As a venue owner, I see hosts struggle selecting a venue every day. The design theme and overall success of your event hinges on your choice of a venue, so you may find it the toughest step to take. After you enlist an event planner (who as the stage director will help you with the selection), secure the venue – everything else can wait. Here’s how I recommend you go about selecting your venue, in order of importance.
1. Does the venue exude the vibe you’re after?
The venue you select depends on whom you want to attend. It’s that simple. The venue needs to support the vision that the host (and planner) has for the event. Most hosts do fairly well with this and thoughtfully reduce the list of venue contenders, for instance, to independent venues with a historic/industrial appeal.
If the venue is a blank page, more design flexibility is possible, which is a great thing. Look at pictures of past events at the venue; is the look you’re after represented? If so, visit the venue with those who need to see it. The undecorated space may be difficult to connect to the vision you have for your event. So, ask about the layouts for past events that could be similar to that of your event, and what made these events work well? What decoration is most effective for the space? Who is showing you the space and are they passionate about it? When it’s right, you’ll know it instinctively.
2. Are there key differentiating aspects of the space?
Guests want a unique experience as much as the hosts. Major distinguishing objective features may include the architecture, historic features, or outdoor and green spaces. An important subjective consideration is the attitude of the venue. Honestly, are they excited to have your event? Do they volunteer ideas even though they likely aren’t your event planner?
3. What are the venue’s high order policies?
Venues, such as hotels, may be largely restrictive in their policies or very permissive as with some independent, local venues. The biggest policies to consider pertain to: 1) alcohol, 2) outside vendors, particularly caterers, and whether they are allowed (and then if you must choose from a pre-approved list), and 3) venue mark up of (and/or discounts on) vendor prices.
4. Do your logistics permit use of the venue?
This may seem like it should be the most important item, but I believe that you only ask this question if the venue has satisfied the first three issues. Is the date you want available? I’d argue that if you’re happy to this point, you should do what you can to get an available date at this great venue. Is the venue the right size for your event? The space should not be too big or too small, when considering the format of the event (fully seated, reception, etc.).
Here too, if there is a marginal size discrepancy a space man often be configured to work for a smaller event than optimal for the venue, or space can be added creatively (outdoor tenting for example). How’s the location relative to starting/ending places such as the wedding ceremony, hotel, after party, office, or where your guests live? Your guests will prefer to be closer to home (and may choose to attend for better or worse!).
5. Is the venue a good value (not necessarily cost)?
What’s the cost relative to the first two items? Apart from the usual facility fee, costs are largely driven by the policies in item three. Quantifying individual costs often will be difficult, made more so at venues where the use of in-house vendors is required and costs are bundled, so compare the total costs incurred at each venue. Specifically ask about hidden costs; a fertile area to start is with vendors markups or discounts.
6. How’s their reputation?
A venue’s reputation is not a closely guarded secret. Ask a vendor or event planner. You may enjoy asking another venue where they would recommend. A venue that doesn’t need the business and prefers happy clients should recommend other venues freely and without your having to ask.
7. Do their miscellaneous policies check out?
These many policies individually usually aren’t that significant, but taken together may paint a picture of how the venue does business. This catch-all category of policies includes tenting, decorations, load-in/out times, parking, payment, audio/video, etc.
About the Author
Dan and Brenda Cook are designers and owner/operators of Ruby, a different sort of event hall in Nashville, TN. Ruby is a independent venue in Hillsboro Village and Dragon Park. We love great architecture and outdoor spaces. We remodeled a historic church across the street from Vanderbilt and now host all manner of events, and are enjoying almost all of them.
Dan and Brenda Cook, owners
Twitter – @RubyNashville
About Joe Freedman
Joe Freedman is the President and Co-Founder of Music City Tents and Peachtree Tents. Four of Joe’s companies have been listed multiple times on Inc Magazine’s Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000fastest growing, privately held companies in the United States. Mr. Freedman has been a finalist for “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Nashville Business Journal. Joe is an accomplished serial entrepreneur who has spent more making a difference in the lives of his team and clients by launching, growing and building top-tier service companies throughout the US and abroad.
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About Music City Tents
Music City Tent’s mission is to “give others the best day of their lives.” Music City Tents and Peachtree Tents are event service equipment rental companies serving the southeastern United States from regional offices in Nashville and Atlanta. Music City is a multi-year recipient of the Hot100 list by BusinessTN Magazine and was awarded, Best in Business by the Nashville Business Journal. In 2011 and 2012, Inc. Magazine listed Peachtree on the “Inc. 5000” list of fastest growing, privately held companies in the United States. Peachtree was also nominated for “Rental Company of the Year” and Event Solutions Spotlight of the Year, by Rental Management Magazine.