Site inspection is one of the most important tasks in event planning. No amount of floor plan blueprints or estimations can replace in-person visits to a venue to determine the space, its limitations and advantages of available resources. A thorough visit will mean planning and production managers won’t have to deal with unexpected costs or changes at the penultimate moment. Here’s a handy checklist of the key things you should keep in mind:
The maximum, legal capacity
Barring a private residence or a makeshift structure, the venue space will have a pre-set occupancy limit. It lays down the maximum number of attendees who can be in the venue at a particular time. The max venue capacity gains more importance when planning an event where ticket sales are involved or which can be accessed by the public. Having knowledge of what’s permissible and what’s not goes a long way in ensuring the guests have a memorable experience in your selected venue.
You need to know what type of permit is needed for the event: so if a street needs to be closed for any activity or a lane needs to be created for dropping-off guests, or maybe you have to get a structure built inside the venue, there are special permits you need to procure. A venue can answer your questions and also tell you how to get those permits and how much they typically cost. Also, it’s wiser to ask the site if it has liquor license – though some have their own, you need to make sure, more so if the event involves liquor marketing.
A venue decides, to a large extent, which vendors finally work with you. A site visit will help you to envision the event in its totality, and hence it’s important to ask about preferred or exclusive vendors, and sample pricing, if available, from these vendors. Lighting companies, suppliers and decorators, who have prior experience working in that space, can help you with the layout and permits. They know what might work, how the space has been utilized before and what issues you might have to deal with.
Exclusive vendors may impact your budget, and so can the availability of stage equipment, in-house sound, lighting and AV gear. Experienced event marketing managers suggest asking about wires and controls, especially if your event requires elaborate lighting or projection systems. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if there are alternate arrangements like backup generators to avoid a blackout either.
Set up and break down time
Most event planners forget to ask about the number of hours that are included in the price. This can have a big impact if you can’t accommodate your load-in within those hours. If you require a set, have an estimate of how much time it will additionally take to assemble. You should allocate a time and budget for speeding up the set up and break down process. Additionally, ask whether a service elevator is available, which becomes critical if a building with other occupants or tenants happens to be the venue.
Parking for attendees and vendors
Parking is often not included in the venue, more so if it’s a busy area within the city. Cities like New York where large number of guests show up on foot or arrive in a cab, special invitees, VIPs and vendors will appreciate a parking space near the venue. Opt for valet parking always if it’s a Friday night or weekend event as most of your female guests are likely to turn up in high heels, and they can’t thank you enough for this gesture.
Wi-Fi availability and cost
Almost every attendee will expect free Internet at an event, letting them check their emails or post to their social media channels. But, a venue’s rental cost doesn’t necessarily take this service into consideration. So, ask the venue owner in advance to save money and time later, and also earn brownie points from your guests.
Want to draw attention to your event’s location? Ask the facility manager if signages, decals, banners or flags can be put up on the outside or if any structure, like a billboard or marquee be branded. A venue can have its own screens and displays which can be used for your event’s promotion and publicity.
More often than not, it’s the law or the neighborhood where you’re holding the event or any noise ordinance which will decide at what time you need to pull down shutters. The end-time is non-negotiable, so ensure you ask prior to booking if the timings don’t suit your requirements.
Storage areas or back stage operations
Keep in mind that production crews will need space to store their equipment or they may build a control room or an isolated office. If you don’t have separate rooms for these operations, check whether you can accommodate them in the main event space and how it can impact the layout.
Do you have a checklist you follow? How has been your experience?