This post originated on this web page – 

Even the best-conceived and well-planned event will go badly if the venue is not up to scratch or has the wrong ambience. Not only does the venue have to be the right size, have the right facilities and suit the purpose but it also has to look and feel right.

However the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up new challenges for event organisers and meeting planners. Health and safety is of paramount importance and no doubt you’re already aware of this. But of equal importance is the attendee experience. The lockdown took away from us the live experience, the thing we in the events industry took for granted. The challenge is how we can enhance that experience, even with social distancing measures, to provide an event that lingers long in the memory.

By following these seven tips for booking an event venue, you’ll stand the best chance of ensuring that your event goes off without a hitch.

1. Match the venue to the event

Before considering any venue, you must first decide the type of event you want to hold, you’ll need to have an accurate estimate of numbers expected to attend and you’ll need to know what you have to spend. Venue size is crucial: too small and the participants will feel uncomfortable, too big and it will feel empty unless you are prepared to decorate the premises to disguise the unused space. You may also need to have rooms available for small group meetings.

You’ll also want the function room facility to be appropriate for your event. For example, if you’re a promoting a hi-tech business you’ll probably want a to be in modern surroundings rather than an ancient hall. For the best outcome, the event has to be in a location that has, or can be adapted to create, the atmosphere that you want.

2. Social Distancing and Hygiene Policies

The starting place in the current climate is to begin with their social distancing and hygiene policies. Event venues will by now have started to put together documentation on how they can run an event safely and securely with multiple measures to put in place to manage the flow and track and trace the attendees.

You will need to check with the venue manager what amenities it has to offer and what you will be allowed to do:

  • What is the hand hygiene policy?
  • Does the venue require pre-screening or health questionnaires submitted in advance
  • How will the venue operate social distancing at peak times, such as registration, end of sessions, lunch and so on?
  • Will there be an area to isolate any guests who experience symptoms or begin to feel unwell during the event
  • What are the cleaning policies?

In addition to this, it’s also important at this stage to check:

  • What on-site promotion is permitted?
  • Are there any restrictions on displays?
  • When can you enter the venue to setup and when do you have to leave?
  • Are there adequate security and safety measures in place?
  • What level of staffing will be provided on the day?

3. Create an Unforgettable Experience

Naturally visiting the venue in person is the best way to judge the suitability of an event. You’ll be able to check the size and layout of the rooms, the type of lighting available and the acoustics and to check the décor and cleanliness.

As you begin to visit venues or use their online digital experience to assess their suitability, it’s important to consider the attendee experience that you want to create. It’s likely your attendees will be cautious at first in attending events in this new normal, so you’ll want to create an awe factor which will ensure the content delivered lingers long in the memory. In short, as soon as they arrive at the venue you’ll want them to feel at ease and relaxed, ready for an invigorating day ahead.

A site visit will allow you to assess potential problems – if kitchen noise or traffic noise is likely to be an issue, for example. Or, if others are using the venue you’ll need to establish if there is any possibility of a clash or interference.

Just as important as the venue itself is the location and surroundings. You’ll need to make sure that it is easily accessible and that there is adequate parking or suitable public transport options for guests.

4. Modified layouts provide opportunities

Talk to the venue manager on how best to structure the room layout to allow for social distancing. While seating is an obvious pre-requisite, think about how you can use the one-way systems and traffic flow within the venue to enhance the experience. This can everything from floral decorations and company branding to digital touchpoints accessed via QR codes. This is the perfect excuse to get creative!

5. Check audio-visual facilities

With this point we again come back to that phrase, ‘the attendee experience’. Depending on your event, you’ll almost certainly need audio-visual facilities. You should therefore check what microphone systems the venue has (and test them for clarity and effectiveness) and establish if it has projection facilities, screens, monitors and so on. If Internet access is important, then you’ll also need to make sure that it is available and meets your requirements.

It’s likely you’ll want to record the sessions during the day to create a highlights package to send to attendees post event. Or, you may need to live stream the event to those who are unable to attend. Therefore you’ll want to know where the recording equipment can be set up, how it’ll look on screen and deliver a digital experience which makes the attendee feel like they were in the seats.

6. Catering options

Social distancing regulations may give event organisers an opportunity to provide more structured networking catering breaks into the agenda. This is something to raise with your venue manager, but again we’ll stress the opportunity to do something creative and different to elevate the attendee experience. Can you create a personalised food menu experience for the delegates? Is there a theme you can match to the day? Are you making sure you’re catering for all diets? And finally, is the food menu conducive for a productive day or will it leave your attendees in a post 2pm slumber?

7. Budget

To end of course is the budget. We all know budgeting for an event can be tricky and there are multiple costs to consider, including;

  • Hiring of the venue.
  • Equipment rental.
  • Advertising and promotion, including giveaways.
  • Extra facilities – WiFi, office services and so on.
  • Guest speakers .
  • Catering.

When the budget starts to grow beyond it’s limits, that is your moment to shine. Think creatively. What can be stripped back? What won’t an attendee notice? And what is imperative to ensure the content and messages delivered live long in the memory post event?