What to look out for and questions to ask when conducting a site-visit:
- Location - there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a location: where the majority of the guests will be travelling from, transport links (e.g. proximity to railway station), facilities (e.g. car parking), price, accessibility, as well as the possibility of linking the event subject matter with the location. Even if you know the venue well, always do a site-visit with your particular event in mind.
- Capacity - always ensure you take heed of the maximum number of guests allowed by the venue. This is essential for health and safety reasons as well as for the comfort of the guests.
- Lighting - is the lighting in the venue suitable for your event? If not, are you able to hire it in?
- Low ceilings - if you are organising a conference or lecture, low ceilings may impinge on the view of the screen (if there is one) from the back of the room
- Audio visual - is the AV equipment suitable for your event? If not, is it possible to hire a company to provide and manage it? Do you need to use the venue preferred supplier? How much will this cost?
- Natural daylight - this is not preferable for a conference or lecture room unless the windows can be blacked out. Natural daylight is preferable for events such as lunches, dinners and receptions where no black-out facility is required.
- Lunches, dinners and drinks receptions - do you want a buffet style lunch or dinner, or is a sit-down affair? What space is available for your guest numbers? If there is a suitable room, does it have the right look and feel
- Cloakrooms - is there somewhere secure to store coats and luggage? Is it close to reception? Are the cloakrooms staffed or would you have to organise this? Is there a cost?
- Toilets - where are they? Are they close to where the event is being held? Are there sufficient toilets for the number of guests?
- Facilities - decide what facilities you need on site, for example, you may require a business centre, or maybe
you will need access to outside space.
- Accommodation - you may need to accommodate your guests, speakers etc. Is there accommodation available at the venue? What is the cost? If there is no accommodation, is there some nearby within budget?
- Caterers - does the venue have its own caterers and what is the standard of the food and service? Do they have a list of preferred suppliers? What is the cost estimate? Can they cater for your numbers, within your budget? Do they offer food and wine tastings so you can sample the catering beforehand?
- Disabled Access - can the venue (and accommodation) cater for special requirements, such as disabled access?
- Restrictions - does the venue have any restrictions in place and, if so, will this affect your event? For example, will guests have to leave by a certain time, will there be restrictions on where you can place signage, will certain foods or drinks not be allowed (e.g. red wine) because of potential damage to floors/exhibits?
- Hidden costs - is VAT included in the quote from the venue? Have you asked them to quote for supply of crockery and cutlery, for example? Do you need coat rails? Do you need extra security? The list of hidden costs (or forgotten costs!) can be endless. It is important that you run through your event chronologically and in detail to ensure that you have remembered everything that you will have to order and pay for. It’s also recommended that you add a contingency amount to your budget for unforeseen costs.
Finally, seek recommendations for a venue, as well as for venue suppliers such as caterers. A good testimonial from a trusted source will give you the confidence to make an informed decision regarding your choice of venue.