“Available: charming, cozy, lower-level flat. Walk-out to a shared garden. Bright and cheerful, the space has a lot of character, friendly neighbours.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Do you know what would happen if you rented that living space without going to see it first? You’d find yourself locked into a lease for a dark basement that’s saturated with cat urine; that “shared garden space” is a patch of weeds tucked between two buildings, and the “friendly neighbours” are cockroaches the size of your fist. It’s for reasons like this that one should always, ALWAYS do a site inspection—be it for a flat you’re renting, or the venue where you’ll be holding an event: you have to know up front what it is you’re getting yourself into.

When hunting around for a location, keep in mind is that venue owners want you to rent their space, so when they’re trying to promote it for rental, they’re going to puff it up in order to make it sound ideal. They’ll tell you how great the acoustics are, how spectacular the lighting is, and how perfect it is for your event… which is fine and encouraging, but take note of how they react when you say that you’d like to stop by to check it out: if they balk and try to dissuade you from seeing it first, run away. Quickly. If they encourage you to swing by to see it and take a tour of the premises, that’s already a huge mark in their favour.

Don’t Trust Photographs

Those photos might have been taken a decade ago, and bear little resemblance to the festering cesspit being offered to you now. Go see the place for yourself: you may be pleasantly surprised, or you’ll run screaming… but either way, you’ll have a solid idea of the place.

Take Measurements: Size, Sound, etc

Take a tape measure with you when you go to see the space so you have a general idea whether everything’s going to fit: even though the venue might be large enough to suit your event it’ll be a rampant embarrassment if the doors are too small for larger pieces that need to be incorporated (booths for trade shows, pianos/misc for live music, etc.) If you need incredible acoustics for your space, take sound equipment with you and test it out there. If you need 3m-tall ceilings to accommodate banners or somesuch, measure what you can so you can get a solid idea of the space you’re working with.

Note the Details

• Is there an electrical outlet behind the area you’ll be using as a stage?
• Will you need extension cords?
• Will you need more speakers to carry sound?
• Is the venue bright enough, or will you need additional lighting?
• What’s the maximum amount of power each outlet can provide before a fuse will blow out?
• Are there any pillars or other barriers that might obstruct the view?
• Is there wheelchair access?

These are just a few items to check off your list when you inspect the site, but there are many, many more to consider. When you’re creating your critical path, be very diligent about the requirements needed for every aspect of the event, and make a list of them. By the time you’re done, you’re likely to have a full page of them to tick off at the site: make notes as needed, inspect several venues, and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Doing site inspections is time-consuming and can be a bit inconvenient, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure that your event is a success. The last thing you need is the realisation of inadequate space after you’ve signed a contract site-unseen.

Lana

After spending over a decade coordinating and managing events ranging from weddings to celebrity charity functions, Lana Winter-Hébert has stepped away from active event work to pursue a new direction in her career. With the event companies and home décor specialists she writes for, she has the opportunity to flex her creative muscles to conceptualise memorable celebrations, and to share inside tips with those new to the industry.

Currently, Lana divides her time between writing for various clients and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as "endearingly eccentric", she spends
most of her spare time wrestling with knitting projects, and cohabitates with two hand-raised sparrows who live in her writing-desk.

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