Have you ever considered the Aquatarium to host your upcoming event? It is a unique venue to consider for board meetings, weddings, fundraisers and Christmas parties! Visit our Plan page for details: Events.
To help you with your event planning, here is a short series of blogs on events from picking the right venue to food to time-management.
Picking the Perfect Event Venue
Picking the right venue is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to planning an event. Whether you are looking for a place to hold a business conference, fundraiser, wedding or just an old-fashioned family reunion, your venue needs to support the theme of your event. You need to decide if you need state-of-the-art amenities or simplicity. Either way, the ultimate goal is to provide your audience with a unique and unforgettable experience.
Before you start searching for a venue, there are some things you should take into consideration:
- Number of guests attending
- Parking and accessibility
Most of us will have a budget we need or want to follow when searching for the perfect event space. You will want to keep the venue cost low to allow some wiggle room in your budget for food and beverages and entertainment. If you are flexible with the date, you can check with the venues on your list to see if they offer a reduced price on space dependent on the day of the week you book.
What is the “feel” you are going for? If you are hosting an informal event like a business meeting in a boardroom, chances are, you aren’t looking to add any fancy decorations and will keep it simple. If it is a formal event venue you are hosting, you will want to inquire about decorating limitations and see if the space works with your “vision”. Keep in mind that decorations may cut into your budget! You can inquire whether the venue is willing to work with you and include some of the decorations in their price.
What do the venues offer in way of amenities? Do they offer catering services? Do they allow you to bring in outside caterers? Many venues without kitchen facilities have a pre-existing exclusive relationship with food vendors that they may require you to use. If the vendor is fantastic, great! If not, you may want to choose a venue that allows you to bring in your own food vendor.
Are there tables, chairs and linens you can use? If a venue has these items, you can save a great deal of money and effort by using what they have, assuming it matches the theme you are striving to achieve.
How is the room set up for audio/video? Do you need to have a screen and projector set up? Is there a realistic spot to set this up? If the venue already has these in place, that is a big bonus for you! One less thing for you to worry about!
Most people don’t even think of it, but some venues will make you clean up yourself, after the event. You should inquire if they provide clean-up service, if there is a fee and whether you are allowed to waive that fee if you do it yourself. If you choose to do it yourself, make sure to have a crew already chosen for the task!
Number of Guests
This can be tricky. How can you possibly know how many guests will show up for your event?! BE PREPARED! If you invite 250 guests, be sure your venue and your budget can accommodate them! It is unlikely that all of your invitees will attend but you never know!
Make a list of invitees and go over it a few times before sending out invites. I find looking at the list a few times before sending out invites, helps to narrow down the list a bit. If you know that your dear Aunt Elma from Timbuktu isn’t going to be able to attend, send her a nice note instead of an invite. It will help you to get a realistic idea of numbers attending. Cost, travel requirements and prior commitments are the main reasons people opt out of attending events they are invited to.
Your invitations should have an RSVP requirement to try and get as many people as possible to respond with a “yay” or “nay.” This is a good way to estimate how many are going to attend.
Ask any event planner how long before the event you should sent out invites and you will get many different answers. Here is a guideline I put together as a minimum to follow:
- 6-8 months before an important seminar to which out-of-town executives are invited.
- 4-6 months before an important dinner to which out-of-town guests are invited.
- 6-8 weeks before a wedding/reception. This allows out-of-town guest to make arrangements.
- 3-5 weeks before a luncheon.
- 4 weeks before an evening reception.
- 2-4 weeks before a breakfast for a large group.
- 2-4 weeks before an informal party.
Although invitations have traditionally sent through the mail, informal invitations such as emails and phone invitations are becoming more acceptable. The key is in the follow-up after invites are sent. Keep a spreadsheet with the guest names on it and be sure to indicate their response. It doesn’t hurt to touch base with them a couple of weeks before the event.
Parking and Accessibility
Is there parking available at the venue? A venue with parking would make life so much easier but don’t despair if there isn’t any direct parking. There are other options! Check for lots close by and taxi availability. You can also inquire whether the venue can provide valet parking, or if you are allowed to make arrangements to have people park cars for your event. Keep in mind, there may be insurance requirements to have valet parking.
Accessibility refers to the possibility that everyone, especially those with special needs, can access the building and its amenities. If you will have guests with mobility problems, consider finding a venue that is accessible for wheelchairs/walkers and has minimal stairs. If your event is going to have a lot of children or babies, check the restrooms for diaper changing stations.
You are now ready to take your list and find your venue! I am sure whatever venue you choose will be great!
Written by Lynn Haw, Willis College