How to Nail Your Venue Search

Meeting Room at Loews Coronado Bay Resort

The meetings industry is stronger than ever, but the rise in activity brings new challenges. In many cities, it is becoming more difficult to find appropriate space for large-scale conferences. Space is just not available like it was years ago, and if you’re not working nine to 12 months in advance, your options could be limited.

When you’re searching for a venue, consider these three often-overlooked details.

1. Make sure your venue can accommodate everyone.

Ask the venue coordinator at a prospective property how many people each room can sit in different seating arrangements. That way, you’ll know what might work. We love to partner with clients at this point in the process whenever possible. A lot of times we’ll get hired on after the venue has been booked and find out that the general session room is not large enough to accommodate the stage and seating solution the client has in mind. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but it happens all too often.

2. Save room for the big stage.

Many planners find a venue that says it can accommodate their size group, but doesn’t leave room for a stage and projector throw. Often, large conferences have large stages, and if your venue holds 1,000 in round tables, it’s likely a quarter or more of those seats will disappear once you get the stage—and green room and storage space—in place. You may not know the dimensions of the stage—or even an idea of what it might look like—when you search for venues, but planning for some space is better than none.

3. Build in time for set-up and rehearsals.

You’ve booked the venue, taken the stage size into account, and now you can’t get into the room until 24 hours before the start of the conference. Stages can take three days to set up, and that’s not including decor and presenter rehearsal time. No presenter wants to be rehearsing at 11 p.m. the night before the big event. Before you sign the contract, be sure you know exactly how much time you need for everything to come together. You’ll also want to factor in time for stage dismantling and load-out. After a production team has worked a 12- to 14-hour day, no one wants to pay overtime to a tired crew to dismantle the stage and load it all out before midnight that same day. Factor in a day post-event for these needs and you’ll avoid paying both venue fines and crew overtime.

Accounting for these factors early in the game will set you up for event success, and hopefully help you avoid both panic and budget overages down the road.

Tom McCulloch joined Minneapolis-based metroConnections in 1998 after having been a customer for almost five years. As chief marketing officer, he is responsible for strategic marketing and sales oversight. His background includes marketing development for high-tech software companies including creation and management of conferences.