The first event I ever planned was for my Army unit. It was an annual event, and around 100 unit leaders and their spouses were expected to attend. My boss had just been switched out, and I made the false assumption that my new boss would like the same venue that had been used in previous years—and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The venue was much more casual than what my boss had wanted, and since it was the first time he was speaking to most of the unit leaders at once, along with their spouses, he was not happy. This experience highlights the importance of knowing the expectations of your audience: your boss or client and the event attendees.
First, identify the feel your audience is looking for in a venue.
Two questions to consider:
- Are they looking to make a splash that they hope will propel the organization to the next level, or are they looking for a practical venue for a recurring event?
- Are they looking for an upscale venue where the price is secondary, or are they on a tight budget and looking to get a good value?
Clarifying these expectations upfront will ensure that you only spend time looking at venues that are a good fit, as opposed to wasting time looking at venues that aren’t.
Second, determine your guest count.
Headcounts are always tricky, but starting to look at venues without an idea of how many guests will be coming will also lead you to waste valuable time looking at venues of the wrong size. Right or wrong, people judge an event by how well it fills a room.
If the room is half full, people will question if it is even worth being there. But, if a space is so tight that people can’t get it in, they won’t stick around for long. So finding the perfect sized venue is critical, but that can’t be done without an accurate headcount.
Here are some ideas to get a headcount, especially if it is a non-ticketed event:
- Attempt to find information about the number of attendees for previous, similar events.
- Survey a few people who are attending to see if there are conflicts, such as other competing events on the same day that may pull potential guests away from your event.
- Create a Facebook Event, send out a simple Google Form, or send RSVP emails using a program like Paperless Post to get an idea of who is planning to attend.
Now that you have an idea of the venue feel your audience is looking for and the headcount, the fun part can begin: you can start looking for a venue! By knowing this information up front, you’ll save yourself precious time in the event-planning process and find a venue with the perfect feel and size to wow your attendees.