In 2021, I ran a small community of developer event organizers called Event Handler. It ultimately didn't gain the traction it needed, but I recently discovered the 'Event Handler Vault' - a set of guides and checklists which event organizers could use - and I thought it would be a good idea to publish them. This is a set of tips and questions to ask when finding and managing venues for your events.
Finding a Venue
- Research venues in your city or town that have held similar events.
- Reach out to local event organizers for their recommendations and introductions where appropriate.
- Understand what is in it for the venue
- Tech companies may lend you use of their office to further their own goals
- Dedicated venue spaces are generally for-profit and you should expect to pay
- Like sponsorships, make it clear what you want when approaching venues and offer something in return.
- What spaces are available? Dependent on format:
- Main space(s)
- Quiet, breastfeeding, prayer space(s)
- Speaker green/preparation room
- Breakout rooms
- Many of these could be as simple as a large meeting room
- How many people can they host?
- Dependent on format - check capacity with different layouts
- Do they have enough tables for a hackathon, for example? Enough chairs for a meetup in theatre style?
- Where will food and drink be served from?
- How will you keep queues low based on layout?
- If people come late, will they interrupt the speaker or attract attention?
- Is there available WiFi and power throughout? If a hackathon, you may want to also have a small number of wired internet points available.
Understanding the name of common layouts will help you communicate requirements to venues.
- Hackathons generally happen dining style
- Meetups generally happen theatre style if talks
- Workshops or meetups with hands-on elements generally happen classroom-style or U-Shaped style
- Where is the nearest public transportation stop?
- Is it accessible to those with mobility devices? Those who are visually impaired?
- Is the area safe and well-lit?
- Is there parking? What is it's cost? How can attendees access it?
- Is there a safe place to leave a bike? How can attendees access it?
- Where will people enter? Is it clearly signposted?
- Are there easy exits and reentries for smokers?
- Is internal access easy? Or will it need lots of swipe-accessed doors?
- How early can you turn up to set up?
- Where can you have any large deliveries including equipment, sponsor drops, and food?
- What roles do you need to fill vs the venue host?
Check-In & Guest Lists
- What do they need from you in terms of a guest list?
- When do they need it by?
- Any provisions for last-minute additions or missing names?
- Where and how will attendees be checked-in to the venue?
- If this is away from the main space (a ground-floor reception) how will you make sure operational questions or concerns are handled around admittance throughout the event?
- What relationship do you have with the venue?
- Will you pay for the space?
- Will they get a short introduction/callout?
- Will your venue provide food or refreshments? Will you need to pay for this?
- If they're providing - what do they normally do to cater for dietary requirements?
- Are you bound by any venue rules?
- No-access areas
⚠️ If you can't do any of these things make sure to set and manage expectations to your audience so they can make an informed decision on whether to attend
- Is your venue wheelchair accessible?
- Do stairs have rails?
- Is there a hearing loop? Do you know how to connect the sound system to it? What are the joining details?
- Does your venue have audience limitations?
- If you run an event in a pub, for example, those under legal drinking ages cannot enter. Potentially some people can't enter based on faith or personal circumstance (alcoholism, etc)
- Some venues don't allow minors for insurance and safeguarding concerns - see if you can work with them to allow this
- Are lecterns and microphone stands height-adjustable?
- How will your speakers plug in and show screens?
- Ideal is a single HDMI cable presenting to a screen or projector
- Does your venue require special audio setup to make sure everyone in the room can hear?
- If you need mics do you have access to a spare mic to give the audience during Q&A?
- Is there enough power throughout the venue?
- Can you play light music into the space(s) to create a nice environment?
- Is there phone signal?
- Do you have control over the temperature or lights?
- Is there anything in the venue that may be questionable?
- For example, offices can have in-jokes, memes, or other material which may not be appropriate on the walls.
- Are there gender-neutral options?
- If yes, are there also single-unit options if people need to readjust headdresses, etc?
- Are there wheelchair-accessible options?
- Are there gender-neutral options?
- Removing alcohol
- I am a believer that alcohol does not improve social spaces and only has uninclusive traits
- if the venue provides alcohol, can this be made unavailable?
- When must you leave by?
- Build buffer into your event schedule. For example if you must be out by 19:00 schedule your planned exit for 18:30. This should factor in your clean up.
- What is the expectation about how you will leave the space post-event?
- For example, do they have morning cleaners to look after finer details, or is that your job?
- Where does trash go? Is this your job to keep on top of during the event? Where is the external bin?
- If overnight or spanning multiple days
- Can people sleep in the venue (if hackathon)? Are there extra provisions required? Can people freely leave and reenter throughout the night - especially if smokers?
- How safe is equipment overnight? Do specific items need to be removed overnight?
- Note: It’s important to let the venue know that people will be working in the space overnight - often the word "working" differentiates it from local places of rest such as hotels.