Though there are many components to planning a memorable event, finding the right venue is an art form all its own. The right venue ensures that your event will be executed to any specifications, and that guests will be surprised and delighted by their experience, resulting in a favorable view of your company, or the clients you represent. Furthermore, the right venue can make the planning process much more seamless, helping to provide you with all the “extras” needed to make a lasting impression – from linens, to florals, to connecting you to other vendors who can assist in bringing your event to life.
The following five elements make up the pillars of a stellar venue.
Sounds simple, but this one can make or break you. The right venue isn’t the right venue if it holds just under your anticipated attendee target. While drop-off is to be expected, you don’t want the room to be too tight, to stop a healthy flow of moving about the room, or – heaven forbid – uncomfortable in any way for your guests. If the latter is true, discomfort will be the only takeaway from the evening. On the other hand, however, do your due diligence to ensure that a space isn’t going to be too large for the function at hand. An intimate client dinner, for instance, wouldn’t go over best in a large event hall. The private room of a restaurant, or even a cozy corner table in the heart of the restaurant, is a better option, giving your guests the atmosphere and energy of the restaurant itself, with a private enough area to conduct business and personalize the table and space to your specifications.
Location, Location, Location
Try to choose a venue that’s most convenient and appealing to the guests you’re hoping to attract. If it’s an after-work networking event, try to plan it nearest to where your invitees go to work all day, or along the popular commute home route. If it’s a weekend function, try to select a venue that is a destination unto itself – on the water, with sunset views, or at a rooftop lounge. While you can’t capture the perfect location for everybody, you can pick a spot that’s easy to get to, isn’t accessible only via the most gridlocked highway in the area, and generally speaking, isn’t off the beaten track. This one’s a biggie, and not to be underestimated.
While some events are more high touch than high tech, technology matters, and you’ll need to ensure the event space is equipped to handle your needs as seamlessly as possible. Some questions to ask include: is the audio-visual in the room high quality, and easy to handle? Are screens available to show presentations, or to help mark the room with your client’s logos and branding? Is there a microphone available to address guests during speeches? If you’d like background music, can you pipe in a curated playlist of songs? Technology can get a bad rap, but sets the event’s atmosphere and ambience in a way that nothing else can.
Food & Beverage
We are what we eat, and guests who are full and fed are happiest. Selecting the right combination of food (hors d’oeuvres vs. a sit-down meal) and drink (full bar, wine pairings or alcohol-free) is key to your event’s success. When budget is an issue, you may choose to plan an alcohol-free function, but simply keeping the offering to one alcoholic selection – such as bubbly or a single signature cocktail – can make a big dent in cost, without seeming like a budget cop-out. Perhaps, if the venue is open to this, costs can be deferred by working with an alcohol sponsor. The on-site event manager at your venue, too, can often be your secret weapon in determining the appropriate menu for your event needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to tap into their expertise, and also to negotiate. The venues want your business and are inclined to work with you – you never know what you can get simply by asking.
Some of my most successful events to date have been planned using this strategy as a guide: quite simply, choose the venue with the biggest “wow” factor. Maybe it’s buying out the restaurant that is booked on Saturday nights until the end of the year. Or, it’s selecting the restaurant that has just won “Best Restaurant of the Year” or “Best Chef” accolades. If the venue you’re eyeballing is one that people are talking about in local magazines, on social media, and around the water cooler – you’re getting warm. A bonus: sometimes it’s easier to book a full event at these spots than to reserve a simple table for two.
While there are many elements to planning a memorable client event, finding the right venue can make the effort a much more seamless endeavor. This “menu” of five elements is great start to selecting the venue that will take your client events to the next level.