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Kate Wark: Finding the right event venue

kate wark event venueThough there are many components to planning a memorable event, finding the right venue is an art form all its own. The right venue ensures that your event will be executed to its exact specifications and that guests will be surprised and delighted by their experience, resulting in a favorable view of your company or the clients you represent. The right venue can also make the planning process much more seamless, helping to provide you with all the “extras” needed to make a lasting impression, from linens to florals, to connecting you to other vendors who will aid in bringing your event to life.

The following five elements provide the foundation of a stellar venue.

Sounds simple, but this one can make or break you. The right venue isn’t the right venue if it holds just under your anticipated attendee target. While drop-off is to be expected, you don’t want the room to be too tight, to stop a healthy flow of moving about the room, or uncomfortable in any way for your guests. If the latter is true, discomfort will be the only takeaway from the evening.

Do your due diligence to ensure that a space isn’t going to be too large for the function. An intimate client dinner, for instance, wouldn’t go over best in a large event hall. The private room of a restaurant, or even a cozy corner table in the heart of the restaurant, is a better option, giving your guests the atmosphere and energy of the restaurant itself, with a private enough area to conduct business and personalize the table and space to your specifications.

Try to choose a venue that’s most convenient and appealing to the guests you’re hoping to attract. If it’s an after-work networking event, try to plan it nearest to where your invitees go to work all day, or along the popular commute home route. If it’s a weekend function, try to select a venue that is a destination unto itself — on the water, with sunset views, or at a rooftop lounge. While you can’t capture the perfect location for everybody, you can pick a spot that’s easy to get to, isn’t accessible only via the most gridlocked highway in the area and generally speaking, isn’t off the beaten path. This one’s a biggie, and not to be underestimated.

While some events are more high touch than high-tech, technology matters and you’ll need to ensure the event space is equipped to handle your needs as seamlessly as possible. Some questions to ask include:

• Is the audiovisual in the room high quality, and easy to handle?
• Are screens available to show presentations, or to help mark the room with your client’s logos and branding?
• Is there a microphone available to address guests during speeches?
• Can you pipe in a curated playlist of songs?

Selecting the right combination of food (hors d’oeuvres vs. a sit-down meal) and drink (full bar, wine pairings or alcohol-free) is key to your event’s success. When budget is an issue, you may choose to plan an alcohol-free function, but simply keeping the offering to one alcoholic selection — such as bubbly or a single signature cocktail — can make a big dent in cost, without seeming like a budget cop-out.

Costs can be deferred by working with an alcohol sponsor. The on-site event manager can often be your secret weapon in determining the appropriate menu for your event needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to tap into their expertise and also to negotiate. The venues want your business and are inclined to work with you.

Be sure to choose the venue with the biggest “wow” factor. Maybe it’s buying out the restaurant that is booked on Saturday nights until the end of the year. Or, it’s selecting the restaurant that has just won “Best Restaurant of the Year” or “Best Chef” accolades. If the venue you’re eyeballing is one that people are talking about in local magazines, on social media and around the water cooler, you’re getting warm. A bonus: sometimes it’s easier to book a full event at these spots than to reserve a simple table for two.

Kate Wark is executive vice president at Impact PR & Communications (prwithimpact.com), a public relations firm based in the Hudson Valley serving clients in the tri-state area and beyond. Wark can be reached at 845-462-4979 or kate@prwithimpact.com.

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