Sourcing a venue for an event: top 10 tips

Venues are a key element of any successful event. Convenience, suitability and cost will all be a factor in your decision making process, but what steps can you take to ensure your venue choice is the right one? Below, in no particular order, are top 10 tips for venue sourcing. 1. Start with the theme. What type of event will you be having? Is it a dinner dance, a fashion show, a corporate wine tasting, cocktail making and tasting event, or a chocolate making and tasting event for instance? Having a clear idea of your theme will give you a clearer idea of the type of venue you may need. 2. Think of the specific attributes the venue will need to have. Depending on the size of the event it can be worthwhile splitting these into compulsory requirements and 'nice to haves'. Examples of attributes could be close to a particular location (e.g. your office), accessibility for wheelchair users, whether the venue has air conditioning, whether the venue has outside space (which may be important for a summer event). Importantly, draft up this list before you start sourcing. 3. Consider your date (or dates). Providing a venue with a date can assist you in establishing costs from the location (a number of locations we list for instance have different costs for different days of the week). If you are particularly keen on one venue, it can help giving them a range of dates (and perhaps ranking them by order of preference), so you can secure the location first and foremost. 4. Does your date conflict with any major sporting events? You don't have to worry about the Tiddlywink annual championships necessarily (unless your guests are all avid fans), but checking online sporting calendars to make sure your date (or dates) don't conflict with something major (like a World Cup match or FA Cup final for instance) is always wise. 5. As the old adage goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If prices look (a bit too) fantastic, it's doubly important to see the venue in advance of booking it. On your visit, think like a guest. Did you have a positive first impression? Did you feel welcomed? If you are sourcing a venue through a company, it's a good rule of thumb to be wary if that company is loath to set up a site visit for you. 6. Consider the venue's suitability for your guests. If this is an important event for your clients, do you think they will respond favourably to the location? Dank rooms, cramped spaces are all obvious no nos. Again if in any doubt visit... 7. Consider timings. Are you likely to have some night owls in your group that may want to stay in a venue beyond 10pm? Some venues in central London for instance close at 10pm, some at 11pm, and some at 1am. How important is this closing time for you? Will your event be exclusively evening hire (which generally means you'll be hiring a space from 6pm onwards), or will you be looking at half day and evening hire (e.g. for a seminar followed by a corporate wine tasting for instance)? Having a clear idea of start times and durations will always assist you. 8. Consider the services you'll require from the venue. Will you want a drinks reception for your event (if so what type - Champagne?), what type of food service will you need (set menu, bowl food, buffet?). Will you want flowers, cloakroom attendants, signage for your event? Once you've assessed the services you need, get complete clarity up front from the venue on costs. If there is a service charge, establish it. If there is a cost for use of tables and chairs, find this out. Understand your costs, or possible range of costs, before you sign on the dotted line... 9. Once you've assessed costs, look at the overall price. If, for instance, you want to bring a wine in, and the venue insists on applying a corkage charge, look at the other elements of their package to ensure the total package is still a fair deal. Do they have a low room hire charge for the size room you are using for instance? Are their menu charges competitive? You can circumnavigate corkage charges of course by using the venue's own wines where applicable. 10. Finally, consider how much time you are able to dedicate to venue sourcing (because it's a time consuming process). Consider using venue sourcing agencies to assist you, or companies that provide venue sourcing as part of their services (such as our own). There should be no charge for using these services and no mark ups on venue fees. Good venue sourcing companies will be able to provide you with venue opening hours, floor plans (these rarely don't exist), menu samples, date availability information, cost (most importantly) and (often) personal experience of the venues they are recommending to you. Whilst the above list is not exhaustive, the principles will help you source venues nationally or internationally.

Pip Martin is the Founder of The Tasting Quarter, a Corporate Wine Tasting & Specialist Events Company. After management positions in Harrod’s Foodhall, Pip became Corporate Events Manager at Richard Branson’s online wine merchant, Virgin Wines, where he hosted over 200 wine events in a little over 15 months for companies including BBC, Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers and JP Morgan. Since 2002, via The Tasting Quarter, Pip and his team have produced and hosted tastings in Spain, Russia and South Africa and co-hosted events in Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark and Switzerland for groups of 10 to 3000+. He has run virtual, hybrid and AI augmented tastings for companies including AVMI, Oracle, Adobe, Google and Cisco. He also counts all the Magic Circle law firms in the UK as repeat clients for in-person events. Pip’s media work has included wine presenting on Sky One’s Taste programme and BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. Writing credits include wine articles for Condé Nast’s Gourmet Travel and Esquire.