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How to choose the perfect venue

Published: Tuesday, 27th August 2019

We know how challenging it can be to choose the right venue. To help, we've put together a list of 10 things to consider when looking for your next venue...

Concert at Oxford Town Hall

When you’re organising an event, whether it’s a meeting, conference, business lunch or networking dinner and drinks reception, your venue is going to be one of the biggest selling points to your guests. It’s the first thing they will see, and will give them the first impression of you, your company, and your event. Therefore it’s probably the most important decision you’ll make, and its vital you get it right.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of 10 things you’ll need to consider when choosing your next venue, so you’ll never make the wrong choice again…

1. Location, Location, Location…

Where your meeting is going to be held is perhaps one of the most important decisions.

Primarily; do you want a countryside location or a city centre one? Both have their merits. A countryside venue is usually able to accommodate larger numbers and will often have parking facilities. A city centre venue is convenient for public transport and close to other facilities and destinations or activities for your guests.

You also need to weigh up the negatives; do all your guests have a car? If not, then a countryside venue may not work. Unless they’re staying overnight or paying for taxis, you will need to re-think serving alcohol at a countryside location.  City centre venues usually don’t have parking but transport links are much better.

Ask yourself what is important to your events success: if you want people to have a good time and for it to be convenient to access, then think about a city centre venue. If you want peace and tranquillity with parking and accommodation then you’re going to need to look for a countryside venue.

Make sure you have an idea of what you need the space to do, and that your venue can accommodate this.

2. Space and Layout

How many people are coming to your event? No matter how beautiful the venue might look, if its capacity is too small you’ll need to re-think. Many venues get asked if their capacity is flexible and most of the time, whatever is listed on their website is the absolute capacity due to health and safety, or simply the maximum amount they can handle and the event run smoothly.

What is your event? If you’ve got a conference are there breakout rooms available? Does the venue have flexible space that can accommodate what you need? If you’re doing a lecture or presentation is there a stage, or capacity for one? Make sure you have an idea of what you need the space to do, and that your venue can accommodate this.

3.What’s included?

Some venues have packages, which mean you get a lot included in the price. Some venues on the other hand are dry hire, which means you hire the space and then use suppliers (such as caters, florists, AV companies) to personalise your event. Which one is your venue, and how do you contract the suppliers?

There are positives and negatives to both venues with packages and ones who do dry hires: packages are quick and convenient, but your event will look very similar to another at that venue, so make sure your guests haven’t been there before! A dry hire venue allows you to completely personalise your event and make it your own, but this will involve more work for you and depending on who you choose, more money.

4. Services and Amenities

What is provided by the venue and what do you have to find? If you’re using an in house caterer can you set up a tasting session to go through the menu? If it’s dry hire do they have preferred caterers? Always use a venues preferred or in house caterer – they will know the venue’s spaces and how to work with it well to get the most out of the event. Make sure you know what your venue will do for you and what you have to do yourself. If you know how the process works, you can make sure the venue is the right one for you and that the event goes smoothly.

A beautiful venue will help create a good atmosphere and give talking points for your guests.

5. Atmosphere

How the space feels and looks is very important. If you’re just having a large conference or trade show then a modern, purpose built facility will probably be perfect. If you want to entertain and wow your guests, then these venues may not be ideal as they can lack character.

Think about how you feel when you walk into your venue and how you want your guests to feel – a beautiful venue will help create a good atmosphere and give talking points for your guests. Oxford has many venues with beautiful architecture and features that can work to your advantage and make for a great atmosphere at the event, especially when uplighters are used to accentuate beautiful architectural features.

6. Food and Beverage

A key talking point at any event is the food, so you’ve got to make sure it’s right. Whether you’re using an in house caterer or a recommended supplier, ensure they can cater for any dietary requirements your guests may have. Can you do a menu tasting, and do they have reviews and recommendations?

If you’re using a recommended supplier can you tailor the menu? This is one of the benefits of dry hire; you can personalise your event right down to the menu. Are there drinks packages? Ask your venue for options and advice – they may have suggestions and will know what works in the space well.  

A key talking point at any event is the food, so you’ve got to make sure it’s right.

7. AV and Technology

AV is often overlooked as just a microphone and some speakers, but using a real AV company can completely transform your venue. You can use uplighters in suggested colours or even your brand colours to personalise the space, have live music or a DJ as well as a microphone and speakers.

Does your venue come with AV or do they use suppliers? If you want to dress the venue (such as uplighters) then using an external supplier may be a good idea. Ask your venue as they will have recommended suppliers or ideas to help you.

8. Restrictions

You’ve chosen your venue.

Great.

Many venues have restrictions, so make sure you factor these in. A restriction doesn’t mean you can’t have that venue, but will mean you have to work around them. For example, many old buildings won’t allow flames or candles, do don’t get your heart set on candelabras for a centrepiece for your tables. Some venues may not allow red wine for example, so focus on other drink options.

Always ask your venue what restrictions are in place. And be flexible with what you expect. Venue staff will be used to the space and will usually have creative work-around ideas.

9. Staffing

Many venues will provide their own staff to make sure things go well from their end, but what about what you need to provide? Is it a conference or networking event? Then perhaps you need to provide stewards to sign people in? Plan ahead – do you need someone to look after speakers and keep them to time? Do you need someone to check guests in? Do you need someone to liaise with the venue to keep things running smoothly?

Talk to venue staff about getting support or assistance with marketing.

10. Branding, signage and Marketing

Just because your venue has their own branding and marketing doesn’t mean you can’t put your own stamp on your event. Can you put banners up? Can you make use of signage? If you’re selling tickets to your event then can the venue help with marketing?

Talk to venue staff about getting support or assistance with marketing. Many venues have either someone or a team in charge of marketing and will happily help you publicise your event, to make sure it’s a resounding success.