We all plan events – big ones, small ones, family ones, business ones and more. One of the first decisions that must be made is where to hold the event. Depending on the number of people involved in the decision, this may be one of the biggest, and possibly most contentious, issues.
Before considering locations, first clearly define the purpose of the event; family celebration, reunion, wedding, business conference or something else. Then determine the approximate number of guests or attendees, the length of the event (days, hours) and your budget. Decisions about other amenities you want or need can then be considered. Also decide on things you do not want, such as the need for guests to use porta- potties or pay for parking.
Choosing a facility that includes catering, beverage service, tables and chairs, is often the budget friendly choice but not always the unique choice. If you are looking for unique, expect to hire a caterer, rent tables, chairs and other items. Holding an event at a private home may initially seem less expensive but when the cost of rentals are considered, the cost may be equal to or more than the cost of renting a facility and you may not have to set up or clean up if you rent.
If any attendees have mobility issues, choosing a venue without steps and with convenient parking and short distances to and from the meeting area and restrooms will be appreciated.
If you will need audio-visual equipment, will the venue provide up-to-date equipment compatible with today’s projectors and laptops? If not, you will need to rent it, adding to the budget. Be very certain to ask. I have managed business meetings where the equipment was so outdated that attendees huddled around the speaker’s laptop in an attempt to see the PowerPoint. Not professional and embarrassing.
If you want an outdoor event, are you prepared to deal with weather issues, insects, and other possibly unpleasant surprises, as well as the possible cost of renting a tent? If not, perhaps an indoor-outdoor venue will be a better choice.
Find out who is responsible for setting up and taking down tables, chairs and other items. If you need to do it, does the venue have staff to assist or do you need to hire people? Also ask what you can bring in, such as centerpieces, a special dessert (birthday cake, wedding cake, etc.), or other items.
When visiting venues (and be certain you do), ask about hidden costs. Ask for a contract and read it thoroughly before signing. Some venues in southwestern Idaho charge extra for linens. Others charge for parking and you cannot pass the cost on to your guests; you must reserve a number of pre-paid spots or a section of a parking lot. Some venues provide security during your event and charge for it.
Be careful about booking a venue on-line sight unseen. You don’t need any nasty surprises. Look for online reviews and contact event planners in the area to ask for their opinion. Some will be happy to talk with you.
With a bit of pre-planning before committing to a venue, you can avoid possibly costly or unpleasant surprises and make lasting good memories for your guests.