How to choose the perfect event venue
There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right event venue. For a gathering of any size or occasion, the venue can really help to bring the whole thing to life and provide space for a memorable, comfortable and successful event.
It can be overwhelming when starting your search for the perfect space; there are over 1,000 venues in the UK alone (1). There are also lots of variables and things to consider.
Will you be able to find a venue that caters for your attendee numbers? Do you have a budget you need to stick to and objectives to hit? Will your guests require accommodation or transport options to and from your venue?
At Secret Spaces, our aim is to help you find the right venue to make sure that your event is spectacular and memorable. We want to make sure you are equipped with all the information you need before starting your search using our venue finder.
Below are just some of the things you might want to consider to ensure that you are making the most informed and suitable choice when selecting your venue for your upcoming event. You can bookmark this page and come back to it during your event planning – and even tick off the items as you go!
Whether you’re planning a business meeting, a celebration, a country wedding, or exploring party locations, the venue is the backdrop to your event – and it holds the key to creating an unforgettable experience for your guests.
Choose your date and start planning early
This may sound obvious, but if you’re striving for a unique and fabulous experience – then you need to secure the venue well in advance. Depending on the type of event, some venues can get booked up weeks – if not years – in advance, especially during peak seasons.
For wedding venues, this is between May and October, so if you aren’t set on a particular time of year, then ask what is available outside of these months.
Hire prices can also differ significantly depending on the date and time of year of your event. It’s worth asking venues if they have any special deals if you book outside of peak season, or if they would be willing to throw any extras in if you book far enough in advance.
It’s also a good idea to plan backwards – so if your event is at the beginning of May, then invitations should be sent mid-March and so on. Consider your suppliers too and any deadlines that they might impose. If your event is near any big holidays, keep this in mind when it comes to organising other elements such as catering and transportation.
The last thing you want to do is hire a magnificent venue to find that all of the local taxi companies and hotels are booked up on that date!Always give yourself a little extra wiggle room to allow for any delays. It’s better to be over-prepared and avoid any last-minute panics.
How clear are your objectives for the event?
Your objectives depend entirely on the type of event you’re hosting. If you’re planning a corporate event to wine and dine potential clients or long-standing customers, then your event objective might be to find a venue with a ‘wow-factor’, offering immaculate services and conference facilities – and there are many ideal corporate venues to choose from in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Secret Spaces website!
A birthday or anniversary party, on the other hand, may call for a more intimate or romantic setting – and so your objective as an organiser would be to explore smaller places to have a birthday party; venues which provide opportunities for live entertainment, photo opportunities or a sit-down meal.
Your event objectives should be as specific and measurable as possible. There are many ways to think about ‘success’ when evaluating an event, so consider what this means to you. Specifically, you could set your sights on the following targets:
More attendees – an increase in ticket sales or sign-ups vs. different/competitor events, or the same event on a previous month/year.
Higher customer satisfaction – you may ask for feedback or conduct surveys afterwards to understand how your attendees have experienced the event.
More profitable – you may have financial targets to achieve through the event via ticket sales, raffles, or via sponsorship.
Subscriptions or sign-ups – you may be hosting an event in order to develop more business leads or a bigger customer base.
Relationship building – for corporate occasions involving team building games for work, your event could be a springboard for stronger and healthier relationships in the workplace.
When looking for party venues, wedding venues or prom venues, you’re less likely to be inclined to set targets, but your main objective is simple – that everyone has an amazing time! Your venue will play a big part in this and partnering with a venue that supports your vision for the day will make a huge difference.
Consider your budget
It’s a good idea to have an overall budget in mind for your event before starting your search.
The cost of hiring an event venue can eat up a lot of your budget, so you want to make sure other elements of your event don’t suffer. It’s so easy to get carried away when you think you’ve found ‘the one’!
There are many factors that can affect the price of hiring a venue, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can amend times, dates and any added extras to bring the cost down.
Here are some of the most common areas that could affect the cost:
Peak-season – You might find that moving your event by a couple of weeks could dramatically affect the price if your event is in peak season.
Catering – Does the price you’ve been quoted include any catering options? Could you skip the canapes or only serve a limited amount of tea and coffee? Could you cut the numbers on your attendee list? Food and drink easily adds up and can make a big difference when it comes to saving your budget.
Event locations – If your event is a smaller affair, you could ask your venue if moving your meeting to a different room would bring the cost down. If you are hiring several rooms, is there a bigger area available to accommodate your whole group? Make sure to find out all of the options available when hiring a venue – you might be able to save a fair amount by slightly adjusting numbers or tweaking your agenda.
Furniture – If your event venue is charging you extra for the hire of tables and chairs, see if there is a ‘dry hire’ option. Although it may take a bit more organisation, if you can source these items elsewhere for free, it can help to free up your budget.
When it comes to budget and choosing the right venue for your event, our tips are to be realistic, open-minded and don’t be afraid to negotiate! 25% of event planners said that ‘negotiated rates’ was the factor most likely to influence their decision to use a certain venue (2).
Who is attending your event and how do you make them feel special?
Carefully consider who is attending your event and what is most important to them. You may personally be enticed by an edgy bar or a new trendy restaurant – but does it really suit the needs of your guests or is it a case of ‘style over substance’?
Tempting as might be to satisfy your own personal tastes, you’ll need to exercise some objectivity and think about the diversity of your attendees. You can help yourself in the research process by taking someone else with you on a venue visit – a second opinion will allow for a more objective decision.
Do some research and get to know your attendees – this will help you to understand what they will enjoy most at your event. It is also important to factor in any cultural or religious needs in your group, along with the usual dietary and accessibility requirements. Think about age ranges and gender splits, and how the venue will be able to accommodate for this.
A venue might tick all the boxes on paper but not have the right atmosphere for your target audience. Think about your delegates’ demographics and backgrounds – if you’re planning corporate team building events for high-flyers for example, go upmarket. If you’re booking a musical event, your attendees will expect to find themselves in a room with good acoustics.
Be strict with your guest list, as many event venues have pretty uncompromising capacity limits – not least for safety reasons. Your guests will need to feel comfortable and have enough access to amenities. Similarly, don’t over-face yourself with a huge venue for a relatively small number of attendees; for instance 50 people in a vast conference hall more suited to accommodating 500 will make the event feel sparse.
Consult your event planner on capacities as many Secret Spaces venues have side-rooms and versatile layouts to help scale your event perfectly.
Where is the best location?
Choosing a location can be the most challenging aspect when picking a suitable event venue. Your venue needs to be accessible to your guests and cater for all of their needs. Our advice is to take a look at your guest list and see who might need to travel, especially if your event is bringing people together from different cities (or even countries!).
When looking at travel arrangements, here are a few things to consider:
Transport links – When conducting your search, consider the transport links. If the venue is not situated within walking distance of a train station or airport, is there a local taxi company you can call upon?
Parking arrangements – If your guests are likely to be driving to the venue, investigate the parking arrangements and be ready to inform your guests of any directions or charges they may incur.
Accommodation options – If your venue location is out of town for your guests, you may want to consider nearby accommodation options. Some event venues will have accommodation on site, and others may have deals with nearby hotels or guest houses – this is often the case with wedding locations.
Travel home from your event – Depending on your agenda, your event may finish late at night or even in the early hours of the morning! If your venue is situated in a rural area, it could be advisable to ensure that your guests transport home is organised prior to the event. Nobody wants to be caught short with dodgy phone signal and no way to get home! If your guests will be enjoying a few drinks, make sure they are safe in the knowledge that their trip home is organised once they’ve partied the night away!
Put together a varied agenda to make best use of the venue space
Sit-down dinners, drinks and canapés receptions, conference and networking meetings – one space will not suit all. Have a clear plan in mind about how you want the event to feel and flow and create your agenda around it.
That’s not to say that you can’t think outside the box. An unconventional space, as long as it’s comfortable for your guests, can seriously add to the wow factor. Spice up a birthday party by introducing activities, sports and competitions. Bowling, fancy dress or games may be popular with young ones, but certainly aren’t exclusive to kids’ parties.
Deciding a theme for your event or introducing a novelty dress code or an activity – such as wine tasting – will get people talking and allow your attendees to get creative
46% of event marketers claimed that curating content and building their event agenda are the most time-consuming aspects of event planning (3) – so think carefully about logistics when creating your agenda:
Where is each session being held – and, in a venue with multiple spaces, how feasible is it to move your attendees between rooms?
Who is leading each section of your day and how familiar are they with the event facilities and space within the venue?
How long should each section of your agenda last, and what is your time management system? (Our top tip is to delegate someone to keep time – the venue may even be able to do this for you)
Between agenda items, ensure your venue is able to accommodate refreshment and comfort breaks.
For event venues with great outdoor spaces (perfect for corporate team building activities, for example), don’t forget that the weather could put a spanner in the works – so speak to the venue about alternative arrangements should rain put a dampener on any of your agenda items.
However, you plan to spend your time, and however eclectic your agenda, Secret Spaces offers a wide range of versatile event venues sure to make the day a big hit!
What facilities will your venue need?
Depending on the type of event you are holding, you’ll need to think about the facilities required to ensure everything runs smoothly. Every event venue is different, and it’s useful to have a checklist of amenities as well as your agenda to hand when searching.
Here are some of the top event facilities to look out for:
Parking – if the majority of your attendees will be driving to your event, then parking facilities are a must when searching for the right event venue. It’s also worth noting if this is chargeable, to avoid any nasty surprises when your guests turn up! If parking is limited, find out if there is on street parking available or a nearby car park at a discounted rate.
Changing facilities – If there are children attending, this is essential as well as plenty of washrooms. If your event is held in several different areas of a venue, you could provide your guests with a map when they arrive so that they can find their way to the nearest washrooms and changing facilities quickly and easily.
Wi-Fi – Technology can often make or break an event; there is nothing worse than watching someone struggle trying to get their presentation slides up on a projector. When visiting corporate and conference venues, try out the Wi-Fi during your tour, and find out if you are able to host a technical run prior to your event date.
Breakout rooms – If you are holding a larger event, you might want to provide attendees with the option to choose sessions as part of the agenda – this is particularly important for team building venues. For this, you will need breakout rooms as well as a bigger area for any plenary/keynote talks. Make sure to find out the capacity of all available rooms at your event venue, and also if they have adequate technology for your needs e.g. TV screens, internet connection, projectors.
Research, research, research – do some digging!
Who books anything without reading reviews these days? As you start your search for the perfect event venue, the first port of call is to conduct some research online. Do this as early as possible, as many venues will get booked up months in advance.
Word of mouth or a personal recommendation can be a good way of whittling down your options (69% of event planners said they selected venues based on word of mouth (4)), but sites such as Trust Pilot and Trip Advisor will present many more user-generated reviews. Reading the recommendations and notes left on the venue’s Facebook page and Google listing will allow you to build a pretty clear picture of how the venue is perceived and experienced by other customers.
You should also pay attention to the responses from the venue itself on these reviews – if previous customers have suggested improvements, then it’s a positive sign to see the venue staff replying directly and acknowledging these comments. A venue’s social media accounts can also be a good way to get a sense of the tone and responsiveness at the site.
However, if your venue is super exclusive, it might be more difficult to scope it out online in advance. In which case, don’t be afraid to ask the person you’re booking with for the telephone number of a previous client who’d be happy to have a chat with you.
Advance research will also allow you to filter suitable event venues – for instance, if you know you need outdoor space, or have specific technical requirements, then you may be able to find out if this is available from the outset. This process then enables you to create a shortlist and start making contact with the most viable options.
Finally, a key part of your research should be to visit the venue in person. There is no better way to experience the feel and atmosphere of a place and seeing your event space will give you a much clearer image of how certain logistics will work on the day.
Get in touch with Secret Spaces today for all your event needs!
Choosing an event venue can feel overwhelming at first, with so many plans to put in place and logistics to consider, but Secret Spaces is here to guide you through the process and help you tick all the boxes to find the ideal spot for any occasion.
You can use our venue finder to help find the perfect space for your upcoming event – we have a wide range of versatile venues to make sure your occasion is one to remember! Secret Spaces showcases a hand-picked selection of unique event venues in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – get in touch today!