The prospect of holding an
event in a new venue is often exciting. As you look at the
clean lines, all of the neatly stacked chairs and enticing
architectural details, it is easy to get swept up with the
enthusiasm of the hotel salesperson’s pitch about how many
successful events have been held there and how all of the
property’s customers were completely thrilled.
However, as any good event planner
knows, it’s best to take the sales pitch with a pinch of
skepticism: No venue is perfect, and every meeting presents its own
set of challenges. As events become more technically complex,
planners need to be armed with tools to rate the quality of the
venue quickly and accurately.
Many of the considera-tions outlined
below are things you or your production company typically will ask
after picking the venue. However, by opening the dialogue early
enough, you can ensure a smoother and more cost-effective project.
By asking smart questions and considering a few critical components
in advance, you’ll be able to avoid reshaping your event to fit the
Sizing Things Up
Hotels typically speak of venues in
terms of square feet, as well the number of attendees the space can
accommodate. From a production point of view, the most important
measurement is the height of the room. Ask a few questions right
* What is the ceiling height? For
full-blown productions, anything less than 18 feet should be
dismissed as too low.
* Are there any
obstacles? Some gorgeous ballrooms have fairly reasonable ceiling
heights, but ornate chandeliers can render the room completely
unusable for your purposes.
* What is the rigging
situation? Ask the salesperson to confirm that you can rig (hang
wires, pipes, screens, etc.) wherever you want to. Also important
is whether you can use your own crew and gear to do so. Typically,
hotels require clients to use house points (permanent rigging
fixtures). Moreover, they require that their own crews install all
your rigging. In some cases, clients are required to rent rigging
gear from the hotel.
On the Level
Take a walk from the ballroom to the
loading dock to get an idea of how difficult your desired setup
might be. A few important things to consider:
* Ideally, the loading
dock should be on the same floor of the building as the venue. If
there are elevators involved, get the dimensions from the hotel so
your decorating and A/V companies can determine if they have to
repackage their gear.
* The loading dock
should actually be a dock; it is surprising how often this is not
the case. That means the gear should be able to slide straight off
the back of the truck without use of the truck’s lift.
* If the dock is far
away and/or not level, find out if the hotel has forklifts on-site
and if they can be rented. Perhaps the lifts could be operated by
your team to save costs, but in some circumstances, the hotel might
require that the lifts be driven by their own staff. (Don’t fight
it; this is an area where it pays to leave the task to the
There is value in hearing about the
other shows that have been held in the venue previously. You can
get some real insight about the space by consulting contacts you
trust, specifically vendors you’ve used in the past who might have
worked with the facility.
Even if it’s too early to be talking to
a production company or an A/V house, it can’t hurt to pick up the
phone and ask an old partner if he has worked a venue in the past
and can offer any insight.
Gregory Cohenis a lighting designer and founding partner of New York
City-based Unlimited Visibility Lighting Design (www.uvld.com).