Hosting company events at traditional venues like restaurants and hotel ballrooms is challenging. Outdoor spaces, tourism sites, and other alternative venues make things even more complicated. Here are seven essential planning tips you need to remember to host a successful event at alternative event venues.
1. Evaluate the Venue’s Amenities
First and foremost, you need to confirm that the venue’s amenities are suitable for your event. There are five main factors you must address:
- Food and beverages: What food and drink does the venue allow? Does it have the kitchen space and cooking equipment to cater your entire party? If not, you will have to order from another food vendor or hire a third-party catering service.
- Seating: Does the venue have enough seating for all attendees? If so, do the tables and chairs match your event’s theme? You don’t want to use seating arrangements that look out of place.
- Staff: How many employees can the venue provide for your event? Does the venue provide a setup or cleanup service? This information is vital for determining how many volunteers you will need.
- Technology: Does the alternative venue have audio and video capabilities to host your event? Some places provide their own presentation tools for an extra fee, while others will make you bring your own technology.
- Facilities: Is the building, bus, or limo in good condition? Do any potential health or safety hazards stand out? What is the bathroom situation?
Related: 20 Common Live Event Audio Issues And How To Solve Them Fast
The evaluation process is especially difficult for outdoor venues. Many other factors come into play, including the weather, soil conditions, tree cover, and wildlife. If you choose an outdoor venue, keep a close eye on the weather forecast around the event date.
Once you clarify that the venue has the space, equipment, and safety to accommodate your event, you can move on to the more minor details.
2. Map Out the Flow of Foot Traffic
Controlling the crowd is one of the most challenging parts of hosting at unique venues. It’s easy to identify the most high-traffic areas in traditional venues, but now you need to be more creative. Request a floor plan from the venue’s owner and start by drawing a rough outline. Highlight the locations of these items:
- Entrances and exits
- Wall outlets
- AC vents
- Built-in seating, such as bars and booths
Use these items as landmarks to map out the ideal flow of foot traffic in person. Walk around the venue and determine the best spots for your audio and visual equipment. Mark the spot where speakers should stand when talking to the audience. Identify where registrations, donations, and other guest activities should take place.
3. Reserve More Parking
Most alternative venues don’t have sufficient parking space for all attendees. You will likely need to reserve more parking in another location. For example, if you’re hosting at an outdoor venue, you might have to section off part of the lawn for parking with the property owner’s permission.
- Order ride-hailing services so attendees can carpool. This would be an excellent way for people to interact before the event begins.
- Consider using Uber’s new discounts for business events. You can negotiate payments with the company and set up a promo code that attendees can use to get generous discounts on their rides.
- Even if the venue does not, consider offering valet parking for your event. Providing a valet will also contribute to your event’s theme if it’s formal or semi-formal.
If the event serves alcohol, you must also make sure everyone has a safe way to get home. Set a firm limit, and don’t let anyone visibly intoxicated get behind the wheel. A ride-hailing service would be a huge help for this responsibility as well.
4. Create a To-Bring List
Most outdoor and mobile venues won’t be able to provide everything the guests need. You must create a list of must-have items that attendees should bring to ensure they stay safe and have a good time. For example, here are some items you might include on the list for an outdoor event:
- Rain jackets or ponchos
- Heavy coat
- Hat and gloves
- Bug spray
Limos, vans, and party buses often have attendees bring personal items such as phones, cash, party supplies, and medications. It might also end up becoming a BYOB event if the vehicle isn’t fully stocked with beverages. Mobile venues might be limited in size, but they’re highly flexible environments that allow event planners to adjust music playlists, party games, and other activities on the fly.
5. Know the Warning Signs
Event planners must know the warning signs of an unsuitable venue, especially if they’re looking at alternative locations. There’s always some additional risk when you take the nontraditional route. Watch out for these red flags:
- Inconsistent communication: If the venue takes a long time to respond to your messages and provides contradictory information, you should probably host your event elsewhere. Constant communication is crucial.
- Shoddy insurance plan: The venue must have a comprehensive insurance plan in case something goes wrong. You don’t want to end up paying for injuries and legal fees.
- Bad paperwork: The contract(s) you sign with the venue should be clear and concise. If some of the paperwork seems vague or unnecessary, scrap the agreement and look for another venue.
Experienced event organizers know an untrustworthy venue when they see one. Trust your instincts. Listen to your planning team’s guidance if you’re on the fence about a particular location.
6. Research the Local Market
Alternative venue owners often belong to niche industries with only a handful of local competitors. Chances are good they have close connections with other professionals. Ask around about the venue’s reputation and gather personal testimonials. This information will be much more helpful than online reviews.
7. Keep Your Event Date Flexible
Always keep your event date flexible. Provide a few date options to make the venue owner’s job easier. Changing the date at the venue’s request might even increase your chances of getting a discount. It’s better for everyone if both groups are cooperative and understanding. It might pave the way for a long-term business relationship.
Unique Venues Require Unique Solutions
Hosting an event at an alternative venue often includes a variety of odd jobs. You have to be more careful about the amenities and floor plan, reserve more parking, bring specific items yourself, and be wary of suspicious characters. Extra research and flexibility will go a long way toward ensuring your event’s success.
Related: 5 Questions to Ask on a Venue Walkthrough
Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, and she enjoys keeping up with the exciting world of event planning and hospitality. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more life, style, and home inspiration.