The venue checklist: Questions to ask when choosing an event venue
Finding the perfect place to hold your event can be challenging. You will need to consider the hire cost against the facilities, location, and availability. When searching for an event venue, it’s important to ask the right questions – a place that might look perfect on the surface might not work for you in reality. When you’re planning an event, checking what is included in the venue hire could save you time and money.
Not sure what you should look for? Read on for our list of everything to consider in your search for the perfect venue.
Where the venue is located will be an important decision. You will want to choose a place that is easy for your guests to reach and won’t put them off attending. Think about your guest list and choose a suitable location depending on their needs. For example, if most of your guests will rely on public transport, choose somewhere well connected and with routes that will be operating during the event.
Consider the access needs for anyone with reduced mobility. Is there parking available on site or nearby? Is the venue completely accessible? Finding out these details early in the planning process will allow you to communicate with your guests and put any necessary adaptations in place.
You should always visit the venue in person and carry out a site visit. This will put you in the shoes of your guests and help you experience how to find the place. You’ll also be able to explore the space in person and find out the details needed to plan your event.
Access and delivery
While you are considering the location of your event for guests, you should also think about how easy it will be for your suppliers to access the venue.
Find out if there are any specific loading areas or delivery times that you will need to stick to. When will you be allowed to access the space? Can you deliver supplies or furniture in advance? Will you have access to any storage on site? Remember that some venues are open to the public during the day, so the window for delivery and setup might be limited.
Ask for a floor plan that shows you access routes, power sockets and amenities so that you can plan out the delivery and setup of the event.
Finding out the capacity of each venue will be crucial when planning your event. It’s important to know the maximum numbers allowed for fire safety and ensure that you don’t exceed that at any point. If the venue doesn’t have a large enough capacity, consider inviting guests at different entry times to spread out the number of people in the building at one time.
If you are planning catering for your event, you will need to find out what options are offered by the venue. Will you have access to the kitchens? Do they have an in-house caterer you would be required to use? Or is there a list of approved suppliers you must choose from?
Each venue will have specific rules about catering, which could be a deciding factor for your event. For example, if you have a friend that you would like to cater for your wedding, you’ll need to prioritise a venue that gives you the freedom to bring your own supplier.
Some venues will also charge a corkage fee for bringing your own alcohol, which is something to find out and consider within your budget too.
Find out what equipment will be included in the venue hire. Are you hiring an empty shell, or will you have access to furniture such as tables, chairs and linen?
Some venues will require you to arrange all of your own equipment, which can add a significant cost to your event. Make a list of everything that you will need and check each item with the venue.
Ask your venue if they supply the following:
- Ropes and poles
- Welcome desk
- Furniture: tables, chairs, etc.
- Catering equipment: kettles, mugs, glasses, etc.
- Audio-visual equipment: microphones, projectors, screens, speakers
If you need to arrange any of your own equipment, make sure that you discuss the logistics of how it will be delivered to the venue. Agree delivery times with the venue in advance so that they are prepared for your equipment arriving.
Will the venue hire include staff? While you might already have a team to run the event on the day, think about any other jobs that will need to be done during the setup and takedown of the event and find out if the venue will assist.
Does the venue provide cleaners before and after the event? Is there an additional fee for setting up the space?
You should also enquire about any technical staff you will need. If you are holding a lecture, will the venue supply a technician to set up the presentation?
Poor lighting can ruin the atmosphere of an event. No one wants to arrive at a drinks reception under fluorescent strip lights… When you visit the venue, find out what control you will have over changing the lighting to suit your needs. Will you need to request access to control the lightning in advance, or can it be done on the day? Will you need to hire your own lighting to create the right ambience for the event?
When you are standing in an empty space, it’s difficult to imagine what it will sound like filled with people. A space that becomes very loud and echoes can be off-putting if you want guests to focus on what a speaker is saying.
Equally, if you are having live music at your event, poor acoustics could ruin the performance.
If the space you are using is not typically set up for lectures or musicians, check that the acoustics are okay. You can get an idea by walking around the room as you clap or play music and check for any echoes!
Costs and cancellation policies
It’s vital to get the details of the venue’s cancellation policy. Can you change the date of your event? Will you get a refund on any hire fees if you need to cancel? Some venues will allow you to change or cancel up to a certain date – but making changes close to the event is likely to cost you a fee.