Pulling off a successful corporate event depends on many factors, but the most crucial is selecting your choice of venue.

Why is choosing the right venue critical? The location, ambience, set up, and overall feel of your venue sets the tone for the entire event, so getting it right is key. It needs to be practical, flexible, functional, in the right location, and in line with your budget.

There are several factors to consider when deciding on a venue – from location and cost to layout and amenities. In this guide, we explain how to find an event space, including the upfront planning that will help you narrow down your choices to the questions you should ask during your site visit.

Lay the groundwork to narrow down your choices

Before you jump into researching venues and scheduling site visits, take a step back to get a handle on the big picture so you start off with a clear vision of what you need. Ask yourself important questions like:

  • What is the overall objective of the event?
  • What type of event are you planning—is it a trade show, conference, seminar, workshop, product launch, or networking event?
  • What is your overall event budget and how much of the total will be allocated towards the venue?
  • Do you want a space with a formal, corporate feel, an artsy, downtown vibe, or somewhere in between?
  • Will the event be primarily in-person or virtual? What’s the total number of people you’ll need to accommodate?
  • Will you bring in an event management company to help with planning and execution, or are you handling all details in-house?

How to find an event space

Once you’ve clearly defined your event needs, it’s time to start looking for the right location. The best spots book up fast, so start your search as far in advance of your event date as possible to give yourself plenty of options.

The types of venues for events run the gamut from standard convention centers and hotel ballrooms to unique event venues like urban lofts, art galleries and museums, historical locations, and converted barns. You may want to work with a venue sourcing solution that can help you find the perfect location – and they may even be able to secure better rates and more favorable terms and conditions. If you’re handling site selection on your own, online directories that let you filter by location, size, capacity, and other criteria can help you find and narrow down options that will work for you.

Once you find a few locations that tick all the right boxes, do your research: check online reviews and ratings, but also ask for testimonials from other event planners who’ve hosted events in the spaces you’re considering. With your options narrowed down, it’s time to book site visits.

How to plan a site visit

A thorough, in-person site visit is essential to make sure the venue can deliver on your event objectives. Start by contacting the venue’s event planner to check availability, ask some preliminary questions, and schedule an assessment of the site.

Before your visit, create a detailed checklist like the one below to make sure the venue meets all your needs. Use it while you’re on-site to consider the functionality of the event space and envision how (or if) it will work for your event. As you’re checking out the space, ask yourself questions like:

  • Does the venue reflect your corporate image?
  • Is the location safe and appealing?
  • Is it easy to get to?
  • Are there adequate parking and transportation options?

You should also take the opportunity to test audiovisual (AV) equipment and the quality of the acoustics. Ask to see staging and storage areas to make sure they’re large enough and easy to get to.

Checklist: What should you consider when selecting a venue?

This checklist can help you find the perfect location for your next business meeting, conference, or other event. Use it on your site visits to evaluate potential venues to assess if they meet the needs and goals of your event:

  • Cost and budget: Ask about the rental cost structure and clarify any additional fees, such as catering and equipment rental, to avoid unexpected charges that could blow your budget.
  • Capacity and size: Can the venue comfortably accommodate your expected number of attendees? Are different rooms or areas available, and do you have the flexibility to adjust the layout based on your event’s requirements?
  • Location: Is the location convenient? Consider accessibility, proximity to airports and public transportation, availability of nearby hotel rooms, and local amenities.
  • Ambiance and mood: Does the overall atmosphere and style of the venue reflect the aesthetic of your company and the tone you want to set for your event?
  • Layout: A well-thought-out layout is critical for the flow of your event. Ask for an illustrated floor plan and discuss seating arrangements, the placement of stages or presentation areas, and any specific requirements you may have, such as break out rooms or separate spaces for panels and networking events.
  • Access to Wi-Fi: A reliable internet connection is non-negotiable. Confirm that the venue can provide secure, reliable high-speed Wi-Fi for your event and ask if back up Wi-Fi and technical support is available if you have connectivity issues.
  • Parking: Does the venue have sufficient parking spaces available for both attendees and staff near the venue?
  • Technology: Ask if the venue has state-of-the-art AV equipment, including projectors, screens, and sound systems, or if you need to bring equipment in from a third-party. Be clear about any technical requirements specific to your event.
  • Acoustics and sound: The quality of the sound systems can make or break your event. Test the acoustics to check that presentations, speeches, or performances will be clear and impactful.
  • Food and beverage minimums: If the venue provides catering services, ask about food and beverage minimums, and make sure that catering options offer choices for attendees with dietary restrictions or allergies. Get a clear understanding of any extra catering-related fees, such as linens and party rentals. If you’ll need to bring in an outside caterer, ask if the venue has an approved list of vendors that you’ll be required to work with.
  • Insurance: Review the venue’s insurance policies and liability coverage to make sure it meets your needs.
  • Additional services: Ask about additional services offered by the venue, such as event planning assistance, on-site coordination, or AV support. Think about specific questions, like, is signage included, or will you need to create it in-house and have it shipped to the venue? Will their staff be available to help with pre-event planning processes and set up and post-event clean up?
  • Special access and amenities: If you’ll need VIP areas, backstage access, a green room for keynote speakers, or specific accommodations for individuals with special needs, make sure the venue can meet these requirements.

Get help choosing a venue for your next event with expert guidance from American Express Global Business Travel.