How to Find the Perfect Location for Your Next Conference
Knowing how to find the right event venue is critical to any event marketing campaign. One of the most challenging aspects of securing an event space is choosing the best one for your unique needs.
The best approach to venue sourcing should involve an haphazard internet search for locations in your preferred area. However, the key to finding event venues is to carefully lay the foundation of your search.
Yes, this method seems to require more work upfront, but do you really want to risk choosing a venue quickly now—only to find it’s actually a bad fit after you’ve already booked it? Investing time to learn how to find the perfect location at any stage of the event planning process is a smart and cost effective solution.
There’s obviously no sure-fire way to guarantee a perfect location for your conference. After all, finding conference venues is a lot different then finding VIP dinner venues. but by having a more refined search plan clever event managers can skyrocket their chances of success.
To help kickstart this approach, here are some tips on how to begin your search and how to best position you to find the perfect location. By having more focus and a clear direction behind your event strategy, you’ll also have more opportunity to secure top-tier vendors and strengthen your overall event marketing campaign, a win-win for everyone.
What to Consider Before You Start Searching for Event Venues
No matter what your conference is about, the right location can make a difference. Here are 10 questions to answer before you even begin looking at event spaces.
- Is it accessible? Maximize event attendance with a location that is easy to get to and has quality attractions just outside the venue.
- Is there appropriate lodging located nearby? If there aren’t any convenient hotels, consider adding a shuttle service for attendees.
- Will it be available for your potential conference dates? If the venue or location is experiencing its peak season during your conference, it will be more difficult to navigate traffic or provide extras like VIP lounges.
- What is the event’s image? How will the space fit into that? Make sure your event venue clearly aligns with your event brand and appeals to your target audience as well as key stakeholders.
- What is your current budget event space? Don’t even think about beginning your search for an event space unless you have an established event budget that you and your team are comfortable with.
- What is the attendee to event staff ratio? Know what you’ll require both in terms of staff size and the types of services they can provide (day-of coordination, event app promotion, etc.), making sure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and expectations have been communicated as the event approaches.
- What additional equipment will you need to use at the event venue? Setting up multiple session presentations? Need additional equipment? Know what presentation components you’ll need and be sure to include the correct set-up capacity in your plan.
- Are you interested in additional branding options? Signage and marquee space availability might add that extra special touch you’ve been looking for.
- What are the technical requirements of your conference? Prevent attendee annoyance with charging stations, WiFi, and onsite tech support.
- Will your conference need food and beverage services? Decide if you’d prefer the ability to bring in outside vendors or use the catering available onsite.
Thinking through your event strategy in detail now will help you find the perfect location later. Here’s how to conquer the conference venue search.
1. Venue Sourcing Tools
If you’re looking for a tool that will make sourcing your event space easier, there are plenty of resources available for your to choose from. Below you’ll find some helpful options to check out.
Splacer was founded by architects, so you know each listing offers the kind of beauty and functionality you’ll require for your next conference. Each event venue on their platform is curated with a keen eye towards design. All submissions to the platform are thoroughly reviewed by their team for approval.
EVENTup is a platform for event organizers to browse, connect, and book spaces for conferences, helping you discover spaces in all major cities. Their minimal site design makes navigating hundreds of choices quick and easy.
This UK-based market for event spaces lets you directly connect with venues through their Instant Messaging system, which is conveniently located on the platform itself. Going as far as payment processing for the venue, HeadBox streamlines the whole process from start to finish.
Source: Event Inc
This German-based venue souring and book tool allows you to find venues in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the UK through their comprehensive online marketplace. Event Inc is a market leader serving both large tech companies and government agency customers looking to plan their next event.
You can find more venue sourcing tools here.
2. Venue Review Tools
Choosing conference event venues can be particularly challenging if you haven’t personally visited a site, or know of other organizations that have hosted an event at that location. With all the options out there, it can easily feel like your endless choices are more of a burden than an opportunity. Luckily, there are several venue review websites that employ the power of digital word of mouth to help provide an enhanced feel for a conference location. Oh, and you're probably already using some of them.
Source: Google Maps
Take the guesswork out of location scouting by reading recommendations from actual conference organizers who have been there, done that. If you already use Google Maps to check reviews you’re not alone. Google Maps is ranked as the internet’s #1 review site, claiming 63.6% of consumers looking for a second opinion on a location of any kind.
There’s a reason why 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Crowdsourcing opinions on a location for your next conference might answer questions you never thought to ask. You can also get a better idea of what an event venue is known for, versus what they primarily advertise.
How to Find Quality Reviews
With an estimated 10%-30% of online reviews considered to be fake, how do you ensure these are trustworthy reviews, written by verified customers? While not all reviews are created equally, there are some telltale signs that point to overly critically or, dare we say it, flat-out fake reviews.
Look for things like exaggerated buzzwords—“must-see” and “life-changing” are most common—reviews written by first-time responders, and reviews that emphasize a subject rather than the event venue itself (such as the reviewer’s family, friends, or a heavy use of first-person singular). At the same time, be wary of extremely low reviews — are the issues highlighted problematic for your event or will it have a minor effect if it were your event? Learning to spot these bogus praises quickly will help you cut through the noise to find more trustworthy sources from which to base your decisions on.
3. Speak with Your Network
If you’ve checked the reviews and still haven’t found anything you like, try talking to people you know in real life. According to SocialToast, we love keeping it in the family so much so, that 92% of individuals trust recommendations made by someone they know—even tangentially—over any other referral source. Besides emailing a fellow conference organizer, there are a couple different ways you can get the scoop on local and global event venues.
Aside from reaching out via email or phone, LinkedIn and Facebook can be great for gathering intel. Post a question, create a poll with your top choices, or join a group for event planners like yourself to help tip you off to locations you haven’t even heard of yet. You can even forego industry resources and instead head to groups your target audience interacts with. Chances are they’d jump at the opportunity to help you find a location you both can be excited about.
If you already have a list of contacts in mind, you can distribute an survey to them through your email marketing or event marketing platform. A quick 5-10 question poll can easily be sent to your existing mailing list, or to past event attendees for their direct feedback. You might be surprised by what they have to say!
4. A Competitive Advantage: See Where Other Events Are Held
Event venue trends vary by industry, but there are some locations that have certainly gained popularity with attendees across every niche. With a 3.7% increase in hotels costs and 3.5% rise in airfare prices in 2018, the rising expense of attending an event has also fueled the heightened expectations of conference attendees in recent years. This increased cost, coupled with an abundance of quality events in the last years means that as event planners, your event has to be continuously improving. To stay in the race, your event can take a cue from these three main event venue trends:
- Aim to create a truly unique event space and, consequently, a unique event experience.
- Select an event venue that aligns with your target audiences’ brand vision, and more importantly one that fosters positive brand association.
- Find a location that emphasizes local pride, showcasing local businesses or culture where appropriate.
The best way to see what other markers you’ll need to hit for your conference is to do some basic research. Look up major events in your area, especially ones that are targeting the same groups as your conference.
Take note of when and where these are held. Once you’ve compiled this list, assess what they have in common and be sure to include these features in your event location must haves. This will help proposition your event as the go-to when the time comes for these potential attendees to decide between your event and someone else’s.
5. Research Recommended Venues
Companies like Bizzabo have already gone through the trouble of researching event spaces in popular cities that are both popular and highly rated by event organizers. Check out these curated lists to get an idea of what hidden gems you might be missing out on in your town:
- New York City event venues
- Boston event venues
- San Francisco event venues
- Miami event venues
- Chicago event venues
- Atlanta event venues
- Seattle event venues
- Washington DC event venues
- Boston event venues
- San Diego event venues
- Los Angeles event venues
- Houston event venues
- Vancouver event venues
- Australia event venues
- Toronto event venues
- Paris event venues
- London event venues
Is your city missing from this list? Let us know in the comments section below.
6. Consult Other Stakeholders
Members of the Eventovation Facebook Group ask for help finding Atlanta Event Venues
Most event planners are fully responsible for all marketing, registering, organizing and execution. Why not expand the team a little by tapping into resources you don’t have to pay any extra? Chances are you already have some stakeholder for your conference. These include people like speakers, AV companies, and caterers.
Similarly, consider joining social groups that help connect you with other event planners outside your network, like the Eventovation Community showcased above. Reach out to them early on and see if they have any specific venue recommendations based on their personal experiences.
7. Have a Clear Vision
It’s important to think through your event, step by step, before you begin to book locations. Especially when taking into account that many of these spaces tend to ask for a pre-event deposit. Make your vision crystal clear and you’ll find the whole event venue search process a whole lot easier.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Conference Goals When Choosing an Event Venue
While you can start diving into online reviews and recommendations lists for inspiration, it’s important to have a concrete understanding of what you’d like to get out of your conference. Establish your goals and how you plan to measure them. Since event venues are expensive, you’ll need to justify your decision with a fabulous location that will wow attendees. Some of the most common conference goals include:
- Educating attendees
- Providing impactful networking experiences
- Activating or releasing a new product or service
- Establishing your brand as a thought leader
- Building a community and lifelong relationships with prospects
Whichever event venue you choose, your selection should align with these goals. The key to setting high quality and achievable goals is to outline your benchmarks, breaking down these goals to be measurable. Instead of trying to add as many email subscribers to your list as possible, why not seek to double your current audience based on the results from last quarter? Case in point: measure results, not activities.
Measuring goals is challenging, especially if you aren’t recording every step of your event. For event ROI and performance, event management software tools are especially helpful. When it comes to marketing, it’s better to focus on data than guesswork. An event management platform can help you track, measure, and analyze what’s working and what you need to change.
Keeping an eye on engagement patterns in real-time can also help you pivot as needed. Whether it’s the week leading up to the conference or the very last lecture, you can continue to improve the attendee experience with live feedback on your goals. Also consider that attendees are much more responsive during an event, rather than once the event has ended.
You’ll also need to make sure your goals are aggressive, but not unrealistic. Run through your event location criteria with these parameters in mind. If your goals are too challenging, you’ll be caught off-guard by problems during the conference. Issues like extreme weather, slow ticket sales, and last minute speaker adjustments are all out of your control. Giving yourself a little wiggle room in your goal setting allows you, and your team, space to learn and grow for the next event.
8. Create Your Dream Interior Design Plan
The perfect location for your next conference should be one that inspires creativity, encourages networking and aligns with your event theme. Creating an event design plan that boosts attendee participation will help you find an event venue that fits best with your unique vision. Use these three main elements when deciding on yours:
- Lighting. Lighting sets the mood, focuses attendees, and can make or break the quality of your selfies. Varying colors and intensities can highlight important aspects of your conference. Having a lighting design in mind now will help you choose an event venue that will make the perfect ambience possible later.
- Furniture. Another powerful mood enhancer for conferences. Whether you’re planning outdoor spaces for mingling or small seating areas for more intimate conversations, keep these choices in mind when scouting locations. Event designers are now leaning more towards minimalist themes—the ‘less is more concept’ is supposed to improve attendee flow and facilitate attendee interaction.
- Mood Boards. Having a mood board, or an inspiration board with you as you browse event venues can help guide you and get a sense of what you want attendees to feel at your conference. You can even use sites like Pinterest to catalogue your inspiration digitally.
In the planning phase, it’s more important to make strong, specific choices than to go with the flow. With so many great options for conference locations, there’s only a handful that will be truly perfect for you and the event you are organizing. Being able to set goals and visualize the look and feel of your future event venue will make the search process a lot simpler in the long run.
In a Nutshell: Your Dream Event Venue
Finding event venues is never a simple process, but with the right resources and strategy, the project might prove much easier and more enjoyable than you ever thought it could. We hope these eight steps will aid you in your quest to find the perfect location while also improving your overall event marketing success.