Wouldn’t it be nice if choosing the ideal venue for your meeting or event was as simple as choosing who was “it” when you played tag as a kid? Unfortunately, it’s not been proven a successful method. Luckily, Cookie Coleman of Coleman Mason Events, was willing to share her experience and professional advice on verifiably successful criteria you should use to choose your venue.
Q. Tell me about Coleman Mason and what you do there?
A. I’ve been in the event business for 20+ years and have been partnering with Char Mason for the past eleven years. We act as consultants and an extension of our clients’ team. They hire us to help them get their arms around an event and we guide them in reaching their goals. We’ve planned small events and events for up to 100,000 people; public events, corporate events, non-profit galas, opening events, conferences, and golf tournaments. Not a lot of others do what we do, and we’ve been around long enough that we can ensure our clients get the most bang for their buck.
Q. What information do you gather before you even start looking at venues?
A. We meet with our client and ask for the most important details. We need to know the dates of the event, the event timeline, number of guests, how many days it’s going to run, their budget, how many hotel nights they’ll need, and how many speakers they’ll have if it’s a conference.
Q. What’s on your list of basic must-haves when choosing an event venue?
A. There are several, including accessibility, and within that there are variables depending upon the client. For example, if the client is an athletic group accessibility requirements are different than they would be for a group like PBS, who might have small children and strollers to consider. Also, is it a challenge to reach the venue itself? For example, would the guests have to navigate multiple elevators, stairs, parking ramps and more that could prove challenging for some? Location is another factor…is the neighborhood where the venue is located a safe place? Also, does the venue provide food service or do they allow outside caterers to come in? Do they require that we use only their caterer or is there an option to choose? Parking is also something we consider. Can we have a valet service? Will parking be an issue if there are other events in the area being held simultaneously? For example, a venue located by the ball field on game night might pose a problem for attendees.
Q. What would make you eliminate a venue off a list of potential options?
A. Again, safety, if it appears the venue is not in a safe place. Location as it relates to the distance attendees would have to travel to attend and if it seems too far. If it’s not large enough, venue size will eliminate a venue right away. And weather and outdoor accessibility is another factor. If the venue isn’t big enough is there an option for tenting outside? If so, will the weather be a factor to consider?
Q. Any other advice on the process of choosing the perfect venue for an event?
A. We do a lot of events for non-profits. Because there are only a few venues that can accommodate 1000+ guests, there tends to be a lot of venues used repeatedly, which adds to “venue fatigue.” In that sense, it’s always nice to have a new space; one that’s a little unfamiliar. If that’s not possible, coming up with creative ideas to make a familiar space become more fun and out-of-the-ordinary is the way to go.