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Things to Consider When Viewing a Venue

This is a guest post from Joanne Egan, Director at venue finding agency Hotel Desk. You can follow them on twitter @hoteldeskuk and Facebook

If you read my last post exploring the wide range of different venues available to hire for all types of events, then you know finding the most suitable and cost-effective one can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

One you have narrowed down a shortlist of options that meet your criteria and are available on the dates you require, within your budget range, then it is strongly advisable to visit these venues in person.

You aren’t just hiring a building and its facilities for an event, but the people working there and the service they provide – from receptionists, waiting staff, chefs to the operational staff behind the scenes.

Desk-based research looking at web sites will only provide you with glossy images that have been staged to show off the venue to its best and is no substitute for the live experience of a venue.

These are the next steps once you’ve identified your ideal venue(s).

Setting up appointments

Whatever you do, don’t just turn up at a venue and expect a full show around. It is likely the rooms you need to see will be in use and the sales team who are familiar with the details of your booking request may not be available.

Other than viewing the location, exterior and reception area you won’t get a real feel for the venue.

If you are using a venue finding/booking agency, such as Hotel Desk, then they will make the appointment at a convenient time for you and the venue and ensure all the relevant staff you need to speak to will be on hand.

Most agencies will offer to accompany you as part of their free service, allowing you to benefit from their considerable experience in assessing different venues for different types of events.

Your booking agent can also ensure any specifics that are agreed are reflected in the confirmation paperwork and contract for the venue you select. They should also provide you with written summaries of the venues visited.

Usually your inspection appointment will be with the venue’s sales manager or director. However, for larger or complex events, it’s also advisable to include the operations manager and other relevant venue staff at the initial appointment to run through all logistical aspects of your event.

If you are viewing more than one venue it is beneficial to try to have site inspection appointments as close together as possible to maximise the comparison and contrast between options.

Walk the ‘event’ walk

Take the walk your attendees will take at your event. From the arrival logistics, via public transport or parking, to registering for your event and movement around the venue to the restaurant, cloakroom, other rooms, bedrooms etc. you should walk in your attendee’s footsteps.

Make a note of any obstacles or potential bottlenecks, (parking, check-in, lifts, narrow stairs, cloakrooms, concierge etc) queues or timings to get from A to B.

As a rule of thumb, for larger groups it is advisable to keep movement to a minimum, otherwise allocate sufficient time in your agenda.

Is specific signage required to assist gusts moving around the venue? Ask how many staff will be available at each different point to assist with bottlenecks. Try to meet as many staff as possible on your show round – this will give you a strong indication of the service standards.

The main room and what is included in your rates?

The condition and size of the main rooms you are looking to hire are very important. They must accommodate your group comfortably in the preferred layout – neither too big nor small for your size.

It is not always possible for the venue to present the room in the full layout you are considering but they are likely to have photos of all layout options from previous events.

Consider if natural daylight is available in the room. Ask for demonstrations of temperature controls, lighting effects, room dividers and relevant AV equipment available in-house.

Take a note of the exact specification of Internet connections and any restrictions for your size of group. Try out the chairs for comfort level and look out for any viewing obstacles in the room such as pillars.

If bedrooms are a consideration ask to see all standards of rooms that could be included in your allocation and how they will be allocated to guests.

Menus & refreshments

Often one of the main areas of complaints at an event is the food, so this is an important area to get right for your group. Do consider the different menu options carefully and any special requirements for your group.

Where will refreshments, lunch and dinners be served? For larger events, venues will arrange a tasting menu for you to decide on the catering you want to provide.

First Impressions really do count

Take time to observe the general and public areas, as these are often as important to delegates and guests as the actual meeting rooms and bedrooms.

If you are looking to create the wow factor for your event then first impressions can contribute significantly to the overall success. Take a note of any carpet stains, scuffs and strange odours and ask if there are any refurbishment work planned at the time of your event.

Finally, what to take with you

  • A notebook and pen/pencil to make notes.
  • A camera – it can be hard to write notes on everything so take a shot of any particular feature you want as a memory jog. N.B always ask your venue representative’s permission to take photos and avoid other guests.
  • A site inspection checklist
  • Your venue finding/booking agent representative and or other 3rd party suppliers such as AV companies.
  • Your event schedule (even if it is draft form).
  • Quotes – often a site inspection with a sales manager can provide the ideal opportunity for further negotiation.

Summary

While venue inspection is generally common sense, there is still a lot to think about, and so it is always worth going prepared with a set list of common questions just so you don’t accidentally forget something crucial.

Having a site inspection checklist will also help you think more creatively, knowing the basics will be covered, so you can be free to think about the more elaborate and fun ‘wow’ factors of the event.

Download your copy of the 49-point site inspection checklist now

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