Begin looking for your banquet or meeting site immediately: As soon as the event date is decided upon, the first decision that needs to be made is where the event or meeting will be held. Some hotels and facilities will book one to three years in advance, depending on the time of year and size of the event. It is not uncommon for a large convention to be booked five years in advance.
Visit the location: When you narrow down the options of sites available, it is always a good idea to look at the room in person before you reserve it or send the deposit. The look and setup of the room or location will make a difference for the type of event. Also, the room setup will determine the room layout, which is essential to the rest of the planning.
Legalities: Every couple of years, we hear that a venue has been closed down because they don't have the proper permits. If your location is in a rural or mostly residential area, check to make sure the venue has current use permit(s) for gatherings of your size and if there are any restrictions. These permits spell out maximum capacities, hours of operation (like how late the music can play), etc. Without the proper permits, all it takes is one unhappy neighbor and the venue is shut down. If your venue has been hosting events for a long time, chances are you won't have any problems. But it never hurts to ask!
Be sure to get a signed contract that spells everything out including refunds and damages if something happens to the venue that would cancel your event.
Visit your site with vendors: A site inspection of the facility is important. You might also consider bringing your vendors. These visits can answer questions for caterers, decorators and musicians about parking and unloading, lighting, electrical requirements and permitted work areas.
Most common room layouts:
- Banquet Seating
- Classroom Style
- Conference Style
- Hollow Square
- Theatre Style
Be honest about your budget: Do not be afraid to tell the facility coordinator or event planner what your budget is. This important information can be used as a guideline that can save time and effort on everyone's part. Make sure to work as a team with your facility staff because they will be the ones that will help create a successful event for you. They can also offer time and budget-saving ideas based on their experience.
Deposits are important: Remember that when you reserve a facility, a deposit is usually required to confirm the date. Do not count on a verbal commitment; everything needs to be confirmed in writing. Facility staff can frequently change, so verbal commitments may be forgotten.
Find out what equipment is available at the facility: (AV, staging, tables and chairs.) Find out what you can get at no charge, as well as the quality and quantity of the equipment. If you are planning to use the equipment, make sure it is reserved in writing. The day of the event, thoroughly check the equipment to make sure it is in working order.
In-house audio visual departments: Many hotels have their own in-house audio visual department. Ask if AV equipment is included in your room charge, then be sure to check out the quality and age of the equipment. If the facility has in-house specialists, they usually know the rooms well enough to help determine the most effective room setup and equipment requirements.
In most cases, facilities only provide a podium and microphone, so you will need to rent additional equipment from a qualified audio visual rental company. Remember: poor quality audio visual equipment can ruin a meeting.
Lighting: Remember to check the lighting for both your attendees and speakers. If your group is large, spotlights may be necessary.