Planning an event is just as much an art as it is a science, but having a procedure you can follow every step of the way can help make the entire process more rewarding, efficient, and predictable. Handling everything from catering to activities to the venue itself is hard work. Corporate events are back in vogue across almost every industry, with 97% of media marketers calling in-person events essential and 41% of marketers calling these events the most important marketing channel available.
Whether you’re planning your company’s first in-person event after a long hiatus or you’re looking for a new venue that sets your fundraiser, corporate retreat, or party apart from the crowd, the right venue can be one of the most significant decisions you make.
In this guide, learn more about the importance of choosing the right venue, and then follow a helpful six-step process for choosing your Austin event venue and getting everything ready for the big day.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Venue for Any Event
A venue is more than the physical location you choose for an event. It will determine many of the logistics for catering, attendees, and the format of the event. It also has a significant impact on your total budget, the theme for the event, and how smoothly the plan goes. The venue will also have furnishings, lighting, and media controls for presentations and speaking to the group. More than that, it should create a beautiful canvas for your event that complements your vision. As you choose your venue, keep these key considerations in mind:
- Location: If your venue is too out of the way or in an area that’s difficult to navigate, you may have fewer attendees than you want (even if they RSVP). Challenging parking and driving to a completely unfamiliar area could also make attendees late, disrupting your schedule and causing frustration.
- Size: It’s a Goldilocks situation—you don’t want a venue that’s too big or too small. Instead, opt for a space that can comfortably hold as many people as you invite but which won’t look empty if fewer people attend.
- Support: Determine operational details, such as if you’ll need onsite support from a venue’s staff or if you need access to facilities like a kitchen. Great venues have a lot of behind-the-scenes spaces and resources to ensure the event runs smoothly.
- Tone: Your venue says a lot about the event, whether it’s a tradeshow, company party, corporate event, or private occasion. You’ll want to be able to tour the area and get a good idea of the space. If possible, finding a venue with both indoor and outdoor spaces is a great solution, as these versatile spaces adapt well to any theme or itinerary without anything feeling out of place.
6-Step Guide to Finding the Right Event Venue in Austin
Do you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, or is it a “you’ll know it when you see it” vision of the right venue for your Austin event? No matter how detailed your plan for the event and venue already is, follow these six steps to clearly identify what you need from a venue, zero in on great options, and make a final choice you can be confident in.
1. Identify the Objective
The first step is to clearly understand the purpose of the event. Is it a corporate retreat about building deeper relationships? Then you might consider a venue with differently sized meeting spaces for one-on-one, small group, and whole team conversations as the right fit. Is it a big presentation? Then your venue needs to be well-known for its multimedia resources and technology. As you unpack the objective of the event and the specific activities that need to take place, you can start to list out essential qualities your venue must have. These might include:
- Space for hundreds of people
- Different meeting rooms with technology for video participants
- Close access to caterers and restaurants
- A local address so no one has to travel far
2. Determine Your Budget
Next, calculate your budget. The venue may not be the biggest line item on your list (especially if you’re hiring lots of speakers), but it can’t be an afterthought, either. The venue costs will include renting the space for the whole length of your event (as well as prep time and cleanup). Different venues may have hourly or day rates, offer different pricing for separate spaces within the venue, and may also offer additional services for a fee. In fact, your venue could impact other costs such as food, security, decor, technology, and more.
So before you start looking into the details, get a firm budget for the entire event, and make sure you find a venue before you put down deposits on any other elements of your to-do list.
3. Estimate the Guest Count
Some events are easier to plan for than others, but getting a solid guest count can help you prepare every aspect of the event. If this is a corporate event, you may have historical data to pull from; calculate the percentage of attendees that usually come after purchasing a ticket or being invited, and use that as a baseline to gauge attendance. You may also have strict RSVP and plus-one stipulations to help control the numbers as the event date approaches.
While the number of guests is important to know so you don’t exceed occupancy allowances, it’s also important to know what activities will take place throughout the event. One hundred fifty attendees for a cocktail hour or presentation need less space than 150 attendees for a dinner or dancing event. The good news here is that any venue with experience will help you decide your actual size requirements based on the number of attendees and the itinerary.
Everything from wedding planning to corporate event planning follows this crucial order: know your budget, know your guest count, and then pick your venue.
4. Consider the Logistics of Preparing For and Getting to the Event
The first three points focus on the necessities of the event—the elements you absolutely have to get right. Now, it’s time to focus more on the nitty-gritty details and the aspects that will make managing the event simpler. For example, it’s important to either pick a location where catering and preparing are easy or start making arrangements for handling logistical difficulties. Start reflecting on these aspects of the event:
- Is there anything that needs to be set up? This includes tables and chairs, of course, but you might have specialty booths for a product release, large installations for weddings, or other fixtures that need a lot of onsite prep work.
- What’s the menu? Your venue might provide onsite catering. Alternatively, you might have a caterer you prefer to work with, but they can only travel a set distance.
- How much traveling can your guests handle? Your guests need to consider drive time and location as they decide whether or not to come. Picking a local venue for corporate events, team gatherings, and celebrations can help your guests make it to the event.
- What does each venue provide? Venues that have beverage and bar service, a helpful venue manager, rentals, a prep kitchen, and convenient A/V equipment should score higher on your list. A venue with more comprehensive resources is more likely to have backup plans and support to smooth out any unplanned wrinkles.
- Consider your own logistics preferences. If you or your team is handling the event, it’s more than okay to consider your own schedule and needs. You may not want to drive long distances for multiple days to handle all of the coordinating and setup. You will also want to go home at a reasonable time after the event is complete.
Now is the time to start creating a list of venues that meet your criteria.
5. Picture the Vibe
Your venue should help create the atmosphere you want for the whole event. This might include having the right architecture or decor. It may also focus on more fundamental needs, such as a variety of small meeting rooms, large conference rooms, and a big conference hall. Finally, you may want a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces where guests can chat, have fun, and take pictures. As you start crossing potential venues off your list, explore their galleries or visit the spaces in person so you can decide which ones are a perfect fit.
6. Finalize Your Venue
If you have one or two venues left on your list, dive into the details. What are their specific rates for your event as you imagine it? Are they available on your planned event day(s)? Get a rate sheet for all of the potential services you may need, and review their rental contract. The earlier you can lock down your venue, the smoother the rest of your event planning will be.
Additional Tips for Selecting the Right Venue for Your Austin Event
For even more guidance as you look through different venue options and find the right fit, consider these helpful tips.
- Remember your last event: If there were any disasters or emergencies that nearly ruined the event or any particular details that made the event extra special, incorporate the details into your plan.
- Keep it local if you’re doing a lot of groundwork: The more complex your event is, the more important it is to stay local to Austin. This is especially vital if you’re working with a lot of caterers or third-party professionals who will charge for travel.
- Get feedback from everyone involved: If you’re planning a corporate event, work feedback into the itinerary. Ask for people’s opinions frequently throughout the event, and get more in-depth feedback afterwards. This will help you see in-the-moment frustrations or wow moments you might have missed.
- Create a quick checklist: Write down all the requirements and wish list items for your venue, and keep this list with you. Then you can track which venues offer the most benefits and why you like particular options best.
Start Planning Your Next Event by Getting the Right Venue From the Start
The right venue sets the stage for a beautiful event—and makes planning and implementation easy. At Vuka, we offer venues and event services designed to make your next event unforgettable. Visit our two Austin locations to see the different venues, meet our event managers, and get a feel for how impactful your event can be. Contact us today to get answers to any of your event planning questions.