Today we deal with Event Blunder #16 of my top 25 biggest event blunders.  It’s one that many professionals overlook:  Not Inspecting The Venue.  The late W. Clement Stone said, “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.”  Things often appear very different in real life than they do on paper.  You say you’re in touch with your vendors. Good!  But you may as well know right now that if you have not seen the venue with your own eyes, you could be in for a nasty surprise come event day, and by that time it’s too late to do anything about it.  All you can do is watch in horror as your event goes by the wayside!

To avoid this, inspect the venue!

Whether it’s a corporate awards dinner, seminar, conference, birthday party, or wedding reception, selecting the venue for the event is going to take a lot of research on your part.  Don’t simply locate an available space.  Instead carefully consider a location that can provide everything you will need to make your client’s event EXACTLY what he or she wants.  Whether hosting a small conference or an elegant gala, searching for the right venue for your event can be a stressful and drawn out process, so have a list of questions prepared when you check out each venue for your client. Whenever Elena and I do our illusion show at an event we always tell the client, “The more info you give us the better your event will be.”  We ask lots of questions, and you should too.  A good venue will have answers for you, or be able to find them out for you.  You can also check sites like Yelp to give you an idea of how others have enjoyed or not enjoyed their experience there.

Good basic questions to ask are, “Is there enough space to accommodate the number of guests and activities planned?” (better to go larger and decorate to “shrink it in” than too small); “Does the venue include chairs?”;  “How does it smell?” (I’m serious, there’s nothing like an unpleasant aroma to ruin an event!); and “Is there a smoking area outside?”  A good exercise to do while inspecting the venue is to close your eyes and imagine the event there.  Can you really see it taking place there?  Does everything work?  Get a feeling for the building itself.  Check out the entrances and exits, and be sure to check that the venue offers adequate parking facilities for guests.  For a more formal event, inquire if the establishment can offer valet services.  Check that there are adequate restroom facilities, and be sure the venue can accommodate disabled guests.  Adequate handicap parking, ramps, rails and lifts are important considerations when choosing any event space.  This is all part of your planning process.  Take care of the basics before you start searching venues.  Consider the event type, number of guests, and budget.  Your answers will help you to decide on some possible venues.  Of course, you’ll have to run all of these venues by your client.

As an aside, you really ought to inspect EVERYTHING connected to the event for your client–everything from the marketing and the food to the demo video the speaker sent you.  I think like a magician.  I’ll even go so far as to say that I think you should rehearse everything, in event planning and in life.  Things just go so much smoother if you plan in your head first.  Elena and I rehearse every step in every illusion we perform down to the wire to make our performance appear flawless.  Rehearsing what you’re going to say on that sales call, or what you’ll bring up at that wedding toast will make you look great.  Some people tell me, “I don’t want to rehearse. I don’t want to sound fake.”  To them I say, “Seen a good movie lately?  What made it good?”  It was a written script that the actor was just repeating.  As much as she looked like she was just “winging it,” those words came, not off the top of her head, but from a carefully written script.  The key is to rehearse, but not sound rehearsed.

Once your client selects the appropriate venue, it’s time to GRILL that venue with your detailed questions.  It’s your reputation on the line here.  Are you unsure of what to ask them?  Start with these . . .

-What’s the flat cost to book the venue?

-What’s the venue’s booking policy?  Is there a deposit needed or a payment plan available?

-What’s the cancellation policy?

-How long can you wait before canceling without incurring any costs?

-What are the insurance requirements?

-Does the venue have a list of required suppliers?

-Has the venue ever held an event like the one you’re planning?

-What are the catering costs?

-Is there an onsite caterer or will you have to find an independent one?

-Is there a fee for using your own caterer?

-Does the venue have its own wait staff?

-How many employees will be available on the day of your event?

-What are the venue’s A/V capabilities? (If there is no A/V production then you should inquire about costs of set-up. Big productions like my show can take a lot of time to put in place and you may have to rent the venue for more than just the event day).

-How much production will you need to provide?

-Is there a freight elevator or way to load/unload any equipment that must be brought to the space?

-Is there an area to store equipment out of sight of guests?

-What are the best ways to get to and from the venue location?

-Are there any on-site amenities?

-Is there an on-site computer or printer? Is there an office for you to work out of?

Consider also what services the venue can offer.  Most event facilities offer on-premises catering services for their clients, but a venue that doesn’t may leave you with the option to have a caterer of your choosing.  In many cases, this is a great way to go when planning your client’s event.  In addition to tables and chairs, sound systems and microphones should be available on site for use on the day of your event.  Booking a suitable venue for your client’s event requires forward thinking and planning. But by asking the right questions of yourself, the venue and your client, you can ensure their event is a successful and memorable experience.

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