By Jon Forst, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Trademark
Many pieces have to fit together perfectly when planning a flawless event. Arguably the biggest and most important piece is selecting the right location. Venues are the foundation for making amazing brand memories. The right venue allows for seamless delivery of high-quality experiences and content to an engaged, enthusiastic audience.
We’ve done hundreds of events in hundreds of cities and locations. We know that site selection isn’t just a quick and easy endeavor. There’s both an art and science to finding hidden gems and choosing a venue that will set your event up for success.
So where do you start? What are the telltale factors and features that make a venue a perfect fit, or a perfect flop? In this article, I’ll lay out all the considerations to weigh, plus I’ll outline some of the must-do steps to turn your venue into a unique, memorable destination.
Start with your goals and audience and go from there
When it comes to a unique destination, there are a million and one possibilities. To properly assess your options, start by outlining the event goals and needs: basics like the number of meeting rooms, access to offsite activities, and number of hotel rooms are significant factors, but intangibles such as how far the venue is from the airport, whether the destination would require attendees to travel on a weekend, take multiple flights or need a passport or visa for travel could be deal-breakers. Digging into your attendee list and seeing where the majority are traveling from will be time well spent.
Once you outline your goals, anything that doesn’t meet them can be easily eliminated. Then once the timeline has been established, go to work to find several combinations of venues, dates and rates. At this stage you’ll also want to do research including potential competitive events that could impact attendance.
And lastly, but absolutely of key importance, the location will have an impact on the event’s budget. Besides travel expenses and venue costs, there are some cities and businesses that want your business and will sweeten the deal by offering incentives for businesses to hold their events there. But beware a deal that may be too good to be true – if it’s an island destination during Hurricane season, that sweet hotel rate can’t make up for a canceled event. Keep those potentially second-tier locations in mind even if they may not have been one of your top choices. If you think creatively, chances are you can turn less-than-stunning venues into astonishing, memorable locations for events, if you keep an open mind and apply creative vision.
Get creative, but be pragmatic
Choose a site that reflects your brand, but is still unique to the city. Consider unconventional spots — sometimes they can be the most memorable. We once hosted a National Sales Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico that was perfect for the group: resort-like, without breaking the bank. You can always take advantage of local entertainment and experiences within and around the venue, which all play a part in making an event stand out.
Know the ‘ins and outs’ of a venue and its surrounding areas prior to the event. Before the client goes, you must go. Whether you’re traveling to Nashville, New York, Normandy or the Netherlands, familiarize yourself with everything the city has to offer. This will aid in creating an intimate experience for attendees who are all there for the same reason. For an event in Amsterdam, we took over a former car factory and brought in local artists to create one-of-a-kind murals – and were able to attract local marketeers who thought they had seen everything!
Practicality also needs to be a consideration in location scouting. Will guests need to use public transportation? Are there enough hotels and restaurants to accommodate the number of guests attending? Take time to ensure the venue has all of the needed components for the event. Consider things like technical needs, sound and lighting, streaming capabilities and potential space restrictions.
If all of these aspects leave your head swirling, I’ve included a few of the questions we often ask ourselves when we first start scouting locations for client events. The answers to these questions will help you narrow down the field for the types of venues your audience will appreciate most.
- Can we create an authentic brand experience, but with local taste and flair?
- Can the venue be transformed into an immersive experience with high-quality production?
- Can we create a natural flow of different content, experiences and activations, entertainment, event resources, food and beverage, accommodations, transportation?
- Is the location of the venue conducive to the event? Is the airport close? Public transportation?
- Are venue spaces walkable? Is there a balance of unique location characteristics without distracting the audience?
- Is it possible to have special meetings, break-outs, team-building experiences, parties?
- Can the venue support our technical needs for electricity, bandwidth, equipment load-in and load-out?
- Can it support a hybrid format; streaming bandwidth and recording acoustics, etc.?
- Can the venue work with your budget?
Choosing the right location might be the single most important decision you can make for your event, so it’s not one to be taken lightly. But by taking some of the above considerations to heart, and narrowing down your venue options by posing both strategic and pragmatic questions, you’ll be well on your way to choosing an event location that will be the bedrock for an unforgettable, fully branded and high-quality experience.