We should start by saying that venues everywhere have put in tons of work to be able to host literally any kind of event right now. Whatever you are planning — in-person, virtual, or hybrid — there is a venue that can help make it happen.
But with things still uncertain, and the addition of all these new virtual options, finding the perfect event space can be a bit tricky. So to help you out, here’s our top 6 questions we would ask a venue before booking.
What’s the A/V situation?
Find out what audio and video solutions are available, and if there are any extra fees for set-up. If you’ll need extra mics, screens, projectors, or any kind of tech, this is the time to find out how much the venue can help with. And what it will cost.
We’d also loop internet access into this conversation. Ask about the cost for WiFi, and if the event will have it’s own network, or if attendees will be using the venue’s public connection. Either may be fine, but you’ll want to know before booking.
If you are considering a hybrid event, ask if the venue has its own onsite production team, and what their capabilities are. Can they stream multiple feeds at once? Will they make content instantly available to you for social media? What’s the cost?
It’s not essential that the venue has all your A/V or production needs, but the more you know about their capabilities, the better you can plan for the rest of your event.
What is the cancelation policy due to COVID?
Nobody wants to cancel, but everyone understands that these things happen. Ask how to make the process as easy as possible on both the venue, and yourself.
Find out the policy for getting your deposit back — or not getting it back. As long as you know the deal upfront, there can be no disagreements later on, which makes everyone’s day better.
If you might pivot to virtual or hybrid at some point, ask if you could downsize to a smaller virtual or hybrid venue onsite. Or even a block of rooms to broadcast from. It’s possible that even if you downsize, the venue will still be able to help with the event.
Also, find out the process for moving the date. We are living a time of flexibility. Some venues may want hard commitments, but chances are they have a policy for changing the event due to COVID.
Is there a list of exclusive suppliers?
Find out if the venue has any exclusive partners, suppliers, vendors, or deals that you can take advantage of.
This includes food and beverage, security, covid testing, health and safety services, music, entertainment, or any local businesses that they think you should collaborate with.
We can’t stress enough the importance of finding local vendors and partners. This will help you build support for your event in the community, as well as keep travel costs low for people working at the event.
You may also find that local vendors have some advice for how to make your event even better. They might have seen where other recent events fell short, and can now help guide your event to a big success!
What are the venue’s health and safety policies?
COVID policies vary from region to region and evolve with time. Ask the venue about it’s current policies, as well as how those policies could become more or less restrictive in the future, and what would cause things to change.
Find out if the venue has a specific safety plan that they want you to follow, or a point person that you will be meeting with about safety. It’s important that your health plan matches the venue’s plan from the beginning.
This is also a good time to ask if there are any deals for covid testing or health monitoring services. Chances are the venue has hosted a few events lately, and will have some idea of who to work with.
Health and safety is all about being prepared and planning ahead, and most venues will have tools, plans, and contacts to help make that happen.
What are the outdoor options?
It’s no secret that outdoor and indoor/outdoor spaces provide better ventilation, as well as unrivaled ambience. (Check out the epic garage doors on the all new Solarium at the Ritz Carlton in St. Louis in the pic above)
Ask the venue if they’ve opened any new outdoor or indoor/outdoor spaces lately, and if there’s still AV equipment available for outdoor spaces. Screens can be tricky outdoors but it is possible, and projectors can be a really fun option at night.
Also, don’t forget to find out about heat lamps, rain shelters, or anything you might need if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Sara Bareilles performed on the top of a roof for a recent Salesforce event — and while it was a huge success, it was pouring rain and everyone got drenched. Even the piano!
Can you do a test run?
Ask if you can come in before the event and make sure everything works how you want. Get a feel for the AV, the check-in area, where the food and vendors will be, and make sure the WiFi is doing what you want it to do.
Even if you’ve been to this venue before, keep in mind that after a year or more of social distancing, things may be in a different place. The furniture may be rearranged to improve traffic flow or space people out. Or things might just not be as you remember
Bottomline, a test run will help knock the cobwebs off everything and get you ready for the event!
Ask about everything!
A lot has changed in the event world this past year and a half. Venues have beefed up their A/V powers. Health and safety is more on the top of everyone’s mind. And plenty of venues have added indoor/outdoor spaces. Ask about all of it! The more you know, the easier it will be to find the perfect venue.