Beyond Rates, Dates, and Space: The Art and Science of Event Venue Selection

By Jon Forst and Alison Jayne

Selecting the venue might be the single most important decision you can make for your event. All decisions flow out of that single choice – how well you can make your branding mark and own the space, how attractive the destination is to your attendees and sponsors, how many sessions you can host, overall costs, what’s nearby for entertainment, and more. The following article outlines all the considerations – and the must-do essentials – that are part of your venue choice.

We’ve all experienced the cavernous hotel ballroom with a speaker up front and rows and rows of uncomfortable chairs. The acoustics are lousy, the visuals can barely be seen let alone understood, the lights are low, and this morning’s coffee is wearing thin. (Maybe a double shot next time??). What’s wrong? It may not be speakers or content, it may be that the site doesn’t support immersive production quality that can bring a brand to life.

There are a lot of things that affect the success of an event, but we’ve learned that site selection is the first step to creating a memorable corporate event. For us, success means seamless delivery of high-quality experiences and content to an engaged, comfortable, enthusiastic audience. Successful events create brand memories – and hopefully – each one is better than “last year.”

What’s in a Venue

Every time we hear: “We want a unique venue,” we know that what we’re really being asked is to create an impactful event. Companies want to create an event that results in audience engagement, brand awareness and networking opportunities while inspiring the audience to feel something, do something, or believe something. The venue is the backdrop to that vision. We have a method and a long history of relationships that gives us access to some of the most compelling event spaces in the world. We insist on essential elements that might be easily overlooked:

  • Can we create an authentic brand experience, but with local taste and flare?
  • Can we create a natural flow of different content, experiences and activations, entertainment,
    event resources, food and beverage, accommodations, transportation, etc.
  • 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?
  • Can the venue be transformed into an immersive experience with high-quality production?
  • 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 is support a hybrid format; streaming bandwidth and recording acoustics, etc.?
  • Can the venue work with your budget?

There are also considerations about country, state, region and calendar. For example, some attendee groups may be unable to travel internationally, others may only be able to attend at specific times of the year. Some venues are only feasible during summer, winter, or non-hurricane season, for example.

Cities. Dates. Rates.

The world is full of fantastic destinations. We’ve worked hard over two decades to create our global network of deep relationships that are necessary to produce world-class events. We are partners with international hotel and conference chains, convention centers, local and global production resources, cities and communities.

Once a general area and season is identified, we go to work to find the best combination of venues, dates and rates. We never shy away from “impossible venues”. Some of our most exciting and memorable events reach beyond the ballroom (although we’ve transformed ballrooms into amazing interactive spaces). Some events work in non-traditional spaces like museums, recording studios, ferry buildings amusement parks, nature preserves, aquariums, beaches, piers, warehouses, stadiums, music venues, breweries, distilleries, and wineries, old military facilities, aircraft hangers, and retired U.S. Mint buildings. We’ve done events with live streaming from corporate offices, and even produced events simultaneously in multiple locations.

Next step: securing the right date, the right rates, and the right scope for building the right experience. We know how to build fantastic stages and productions that bring brands to life with multi-media, video, broadcast-quality production, live streaming, and even liminal spaces that surround attendees and transport them to new spaces, geographies and experiences. We guide our clients in the selection of entertainment, break-out sessions, team building, general session approach and local experiences––all possible in the selected location, on a selected date.

We explore impactful site branding that supports our clients’ conference theme and goals. We explore how the location can support the general session strategy and design, speaker availability, sponsorship opportunities and how it can incorporate local experiences. We take a holistic look at date selection including research of potential competitive conferences and events that could impact attendance both virtually and in person. Dates matter. Venues matter. The combination creates the win for greatest impact.

Location is the foundation.

Whether we’re in New York, Nashville, the Netherlands, or Normandy we know the ins and outs of the city. We know the new hot spots and the overused, over-hyped locations. We know how to create intimate communities of people who share a common interest, and know how to expand that community to distant locations, virtually. Before our clients go, we go, so that we know.

We source locations of all sizes that support holistic event production. We select spaces in workable cities, great event spaces, with known food, entertainment, style and culture that each city offers. And, we know people. Local producers, lighting and sound engineers, videographers, hospitality, entertainment, security and regulations people. Locations bring different needs for logistics, communications, travel, accommodations, etc. We help our clients make the right selection decisions in each city that we work.

Locations affect budgets too. Beyond the cost of travel and services, we know which cities are offering incentives for companies to hold events. We know which hotel chains offer the best rates and current promotions.

From Iowa to Istanbul. We’ve been there.

Our well-traveled team brings real-world experience and unique creative vision to every project. We take pride in scouting new places to hold seamless, holistic, impactful events. We’ve held events in hundreds of locations in some of the most exciting and exotic cities in the world. We’ve also created compelling experiences next door. We know how to produce and execute a memorable atmosphere virtually anywhere, but most importantly, we know how to find the right location for each unique event.

Check it out!