Venues: What Planners Want

By Anna Sekula October 5, 2007, 10:47 AM EDT

What do event planners and producers look for in a venue, besides the obvious things like capacity, location, and cost? We recently asked them to tell us—and to share their pet peeves. Here are some of their thoughts:

Bathrooms: “Somehow it seems that the line for the women's room is always twice as long as the men's room, which is precisely why I like venues that have twice as many women's rooms as men's rooms. Furthermore, there should be enough bathrooms so that the lines are minimal, if not negligible. [There is] nothing worse than waiting in line for a restroom at a great party. These are the things that people tend to remember.”
—Patti Rego, promotion manager, W magazine

Ceilings: “High ceilings with rigging points allow us to suspend design elements—and people! When a room becomes full of people, the only visible branding is seen overhead, so high ceilings or the ability to raise elements up high are extremely valuable when large numbers attend an event. Another problem is that you cannot project light or video images across a room when guests' heads are interrupting the images.”
—Alice Turner, executive vice president, XA, the Experiential Agency

In-House Contract Vendors: “Ideally, I like to work with a caterer of my choice, but it is always helpful when a venue has strong contacts for production, lighting, sound, etc.”
—Cara Gorman, associate director of event marketing, People en Español

“I would like fewer restrictions on vendors. I think it's really great when venues are more open to [outside] vendors. Working in a nonprofit, I'm always trying to get the best deal possible, and [in-house vendors can] make it difficult to get competitive rates.”
—Liz Gilchrist, event manager, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council

“When you're relying on [a venue's] in-house department, [sometimes it's] what you want versus what they think you need. When there are in-house vendors, you're really at their mercy. It's a major pet peeve when we have to relinquish control, because it's our reputation at stake.”
—Lara Baldwin, executive vice president of business development, Landmark Event Services

Extra Space: “My biggest pet peeve in general is that there's not a lot of storage space. Every event we do has gift bags, and coat-check areas in the city can be a little tight. With some of the midsize venues, the 100- to 200-person ones, it's a challenge.”
—Sara Shenasky, promotion and event manager, The Wall Street Journal

Staff: ”[Having] attentive staff in-house at a venue is very important to me. I want to know who I'm working with. Do they know what they're doing? Do they know the facility? If I don't feel like they will work with me, even if it's a great property, they may not be our choice.”
—Amy Bernstein Stover, director of events, Reed Smith LLP

Kitchen Space: “If you've got a catered event, you're going to want a kitchen or dedicated prep space, because it will dictate the kind of service from the caterer. They are obviously equipped to handle certain situations, but it's easier if there are already things like sinks.”
—Leticia Adams, creative director, Jack Morton Worldwide

Air Conditioning: “Air conditioning is a big thing for me. If it's not right—if the talent is cool but the guests are stifled—then it's something that people will remember. [On site visits] if it seems off, you just have to ask.”
—Jennifer Dunn, director of corporate sponsorship and special events, VH1 Save the Music Foundation

Flexibility: “Typically, you are stuck to the venue's overall theme—nightclub, jazz club, outdoor deck. No matter how many flowers you put in there, you can't go beyond that one venue's theme. I was in an incredible hotel room in L.A., and they had walls and screens that moved, lighting that could be adjusted from each bulb, illuminating each part of the room differently.”
—Emily Kampner, group marketing director, Niche Media

Layout: “A lot of raw spaces don't have multiple rooms, like a greenroom where you can do interviews. if you have a big open space—especially when there's talent or celebrities—it's important to have an area away from the event. Creating a V.I.P. space is tough; once you designate that area, everyone wants to gets in, and that can be detrimental and get overcrowded. and you certainly don't want to alienate non-V.I.P.s. A bilevel space is a great way to [avoid] that.”
—Sara Shenasky, promotion and event manager, The Wall Street Journal

Load-In Access: “In a perfect world, if I'm designing my own [venue], move in and move out would be easy. And it wouldn't have a lot of stairs.”
—Lori Norian, brand manager, Unilever

—“The ideal situation is to have the largest freight elevator possible if you've got extensive scenic elements. A tiny elevator drives the cost up because load-in takes longer.”
—Leticia Adams, creative director, Jack Morton Worldwide

Electrical Outlets: “It's not ideal when we have to take wires across the floor and put a rubber covering over them. Having more outlets would be helpful. There aren't always plugs in the floor where you need them.”
—Matthew Glass, president, Grand Central Marketing

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