Questions to ask when choosing a venue for a corporate event or conference
Choosing the right corporate event venue or conference venue is critical to the success of the event. Each venue will have its advantages and disadvantages, but knowing what to look for and what questions to ask can help ensure your conference or event is a success.
Conference Versus Event
There’s a difference between the two, and choosing the right venue depends on you knowing the difference. Typically, a corporate event takes place in a single space within the venue and is more likely to serve food/beverage for corporate attendees and guests. Multiple speakers on stage along with screens for presentations are likely. Corporate events, like shareholder meetings, often have podiums for the audience to speak.
Conferences can have everything events have and more. Conferences may last more than one day, require multiple meeting spaces and breakout spaces all with A/V, and have more attendees. Larger conferences may have dozens or more different businesses requiring booth space, power, pipe/drape and more. Fortunately, most conferences will not supply food to the attendees, beyond a hospitality area although many conventions and conference will require VIP accommodations for privacy, food/refreshments, and to get away from the madding crowds.
When choosing the right venue, it’s up to you to know the difference and know what questions to ask.
Before you ask questions, have some answers
Any corporate event venue or conference venue worth considering will have a laundry list of their own questions for you, too. You may not have all of your ducks in a row in the planning stages of your event, but try to be as prepared as possible. For instance, you should know what kind of event you’re planning (corporate retreat, speakers, party, etc). You should also know the duration of the event, number of attendees, any technology requirements, parking/transportation needs, accommodations, catering, security, and any major special needs or requests. You can likely vet certain venues based upon their capabilities and a cursory review of their services on their website. Read reviews if they have them!
Also, be sure you know what event “success” looks like. Your vendor will more than likely ask you this question. Define the parameters for your definition of success. Make sure your venue representative understands.
Once you’ve narrowed your list to a few venues, here are some key questions you should ask.
What services do you offer?
At Monona Terrace, we offer almost every service you could need, but other venues may not provide such a comprehensive suite of services. Sometimes a venue may say they have a particular service, when in fact it is something they subcontract out or no longer offer.
Chances are you may already know a lot about the services offered by the venues you’re talking to, and you probably have your list of preferred vendors as well. But it’s a good idea to get the rundown of services they currently offer. After all, it may be a new service offering or an on-site service that is less expensive, less of a hassle, and just as good, like catering/food.
This can also be helpful with any special technology needs you have. Most larger venues will have technology and infrastructure in place for A/V, stage/lighting, etc, but make sure they can handle your needs or that they can accommodate your technology vendor.
If you’re planning a conference with multiple companies/businesses requiring booth exhibit space, find out what additional services or offerings they have to support the booths, like electricity/internet, and how the venue handles the foot traffic of conference attendees.
And conferences also may be ticketed events. Ask if the venue provides gated entry, security, and how they manage attendees. If not, what accommodations do they have for your ticketing/gate vendor?
Who will be my primary point of contact?
Make sure you have a primary point of contact who can make final decisions on behalf of the venue. Ask if they have experience with your type of event.
How much time do you have on-site?
They’ll ask you how long your event is going to last, so make sure you know how long you and your vendors have to set it all up and take it all down. Make sure your vendors understand the timeline. This will likely be strictly enforced by the venue.
What is included in basic fees?
Many venues have basic costs associated with reserving time/space for an event. Find out what costs are extra, such as staff or security or a damage deposit. Find out what their policies are on refunds and cancellations.
What insurance and/or certification is required?
Typically, and depending on the number of attendees, you will have to provide proof of insurance for your event. And the venue may require separate insurance or certification for specific vendors you have in place, like for food and alcohol unless those services are provided exclusively by the venue. At Monona Terrace, we work with every client to be sure your event is fully insured and covered.
What’s allowed/not allowed?
Venues may have restrictions on what you can do. This is more of a potential issue with weddings, but make sure there’s nothing with your corporate event or conference that may require prior approval from the venue. This is especially important if you have multiple companies in booths throughout the conference. Make sure they understand the rules, because you may be on the hook for additional costs because of violations.
What are your safety and security protocols?
Event safety and security is paramount these days. Make sure their policies and capabilities meet your needs. Your company or client may have their own safety and security protocols that you can require of the venue, although there may be additional costs.
Also, bear in mind that COVID-19 may impact the rules/regulations that a venue has, so be sure you’re clear on their rule and protocols and that you can enforce them with guests and attendees.
Do you have references for similar events?
Ask to contact another planner or an event coordinator with who they have worked on a similar event. Conversations like this can enlighten you and help solidify your decision about a particular venue.
Can I see a sample contract?
This is the best way to get a deeper understanding of the venue’s legal requirements. Read it carefully, but don’t expect to red-line it and have them capitulate. This is more about reading the small print well in advance of engaging the venue. Monona Terrace works closely with clients to make sure contracts work for both parties.
Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know.
You can’t ask a question if you didn’t know you needed to ask it. So do your own research prior to vetting venues. If you’re new to planning, it’s even more critical you spend plenty of time getting a solid understanding of the questions you need answers for.
More than any other component of planning a corporate event or convention, your venue provider can reduce the headaches and hassles you’ll have to deal with. Don’t be shy. Ask enough questions to satisfy what you need to know.
Some venues have been doing it for a long time and can handle just about anything you throw at them. Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin, is a trusted, respected venue that can accommodate almost any kind of event or conference. And they have the expertise to help guide you around the potential pitfalls and make your event as successful as it can be. From intimate weddings to large-scale conferences, Monona Terrace has been the go-to venue for decades. From the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright architecture to the spectacular views of Lake Monona to the views from the William T. Evjue Rooftop Garden, Monona Terrace is ready to meet your needs.
Learn more about Monona Terrace and our outstanding facilities and services for events and conferences.