How many events have you attended that just felt “off?” The event design seemed solid, catering was on point, and the entire flow should have worked. But there was something about the cumulative experience that fell flat.
A common explanation for this disconnect: a bad venue. Event planners know that even the best designs can be marred by poor facilities, lack of communication with venue management, and other basic needs that attendees have come to expect at events.
Thankfully, many of these concerns can be caught and addressed during your site survey. Well before production ramps up, you should have a clear understanding of what each venue can offer and find the one that best fits your plan.
But first, you’ve got to know what bad signals to be on the lookout for. Here are 6 red flags that should send you running for the nearest exit when touring a venue.
(That is, assuming the venue has clearly marked them. Which, red flag, they might not have.)
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1. Accessibility Issues
Your event starts long before guests arrive at the venue. The ease in getting there can seriously affect the experience they have. Be wary of venues that are:
Difficult to find
Situated in a less desirable part of town
Inaccessible via public transportation (assuming you haven’t planned for and/or arranged alternative private transportation)
Don’t offer parking (if you are planning for private transport)
Accessibility of an event venue also should extend to the facilities inside as well. Beyond legal compliances in coordination with the ADA, it should give you pause if the site’s bathrooms, seating, or pathways do not functionally support the venue’s stated capacity. It’s hard to enjoy an event if you’re in line for the one bathroom for 45 minutes.
2. No Clear, Up-to-Date Safety Plans
Your venue should be up to code. Period. If the venue manager can’t provide you with documentation showing that his or her space has all proper inspections required to operate, move on. Immediately. In addition to that which is required by the local, state, and federal law, you should ask expect to see:
Fire Suppression plans
Permits (Assembly, Special Event, Liquor, etc.)
Of course, in today’s modern event planning landscape, you might also want to see safety information for a venue’s technology and network. Is Wi-Fi secure? Is the network open or closed? The last thing you want is your attendees logging on to an unsecure network and sharing personal information that could be exposed(more on technology in a moment).
3. A General Lack of Transparency
Event planners should expect vendors and suppliers to put their cards on the table. It doesn’t matter if you’re purchasing event management software or looking to book a venue. If you can’t clearly understand what you’re getting for your money, walk away. Some bad juju to watch out for:
It’s unclear what is included/not included in the price of rental
No information on load in/load out rules, limitations, specs, etc.
Venue doesn’t tell you about exclusive vendor requirements
Noise ordinances that you aren’t told about
Excessive fine print
It’s not always possible to get the numbers exactly right during an initial site survey. Things will change which might affect the final cost. But you should at least know what to expect.
4. Poor Communication Among Venue Staff
This may be a little more difficult to do during an inspection. But it is no less important in deciding whether to bring your client’s business to a venue. You wouldn’t put up with bad communication on your own team; why put up with it from the venue staff?
It doesn’t matter that you are technically two separate groups. In the eyes of an attendee, you are one and the same. Any bad decision or issue with a guest reflects back on you. If you can see the venue team in action, great. If not, measure how management communicates with you. Do they show up on time? Do they keep to meetings and timelines? If they aren’t communicating well with you, chances are they don’t delegate well to their employees.
5. The Venue Manager Seems to Know More About Your Event Than You Do
This is one that can be truly maddening. How many times have you done a site survey and the venue manager just keeps telling you, “Yeah, that’s not a problem,” or “We can do it, sure.” Except here’s the problem: you aren’t even sure yet what you’re asking?
A lot of early pre-planning is about setting requirements. And figuring out just what is possible. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the venue manager should also be troubleshooting right alongside you? He or she knows even less about what you’re trying to accomplish than you. If anything, he or she should be asking you more questions to help align what the venue has to offer with your needs.
If all he or she is doing is quoting you a price and some flat-rate packages, warning bells should be going off in your head.
6. The Venue’s Technology is Still a Few Years Behind
It wasn’t too long ago that exhibitors would be standing around a venue, complaining about bad Wi-Fi. Or Wi-Fi that was too expensive. Nowadays? Generally speaking, if venue doesn’t have Wi-Fi that is reliable, affordable, and pretty darn fast, it should get knocked down a peg or two on your list.
The same can be said for the venue’s lighting capabilities and A/V. A venue needs to have the power and protection to accommodate such new technology. Venue managers, as much as event planners, need to be tracking the technology trends in the industry and adapting their spaces to fulfill new needs. There are plenty of cost effective ways to do this. But it has to be done.
Armed with a clear understanding of what should and should not be present in a potential venue, you can set to finding the perfect sport to host your event. Good luck!