A beginner’s guide to picking unique venues in Vancouver

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FINDING THE PERFECT VANCOUVER UNIQUE VENUE FOR YOUR NEXT SPECIAL EVENTevent venue and meeting space showing square tables and chairs decorated in red and white for fine dining

Vancouver is blessed with many unique venues – parks, plazas, restaurants, museums and heritage buildings – and the Deeley Exhibition is one of them!  We get new inquiries from corporate clients all over North America looking for a unique event space that “isn’t a hotel” but provide the service levels and comfort they would expect from a full service facility.  Increasingly, such inquiries come from event “Newbies”, people who have little to no experience planning corporate meetings, training sessions or parties but have been tasked with finding, planning and executing an event at unconventional location. Clients with little or no experience with planning meetings or corporate events are not prepared for how time consuming and stress finding that special venue for their event is.  Having helped countless organization, experienced or not, plan their events, here are a few pointers to consider when choosing a venue for your event.
  • KNOW WHAT YOU ARE PLANNING
Unless you fall in love with and are determined to select a particular venue, most event organizers start with venue selection first.  However, knowing what kind of event and the specific outcomes you are expected to deliver is the NUMBER ONE thing you should determine. When tasked with your first training session, fundraiser, corporate cocktail reception, quarterly meeting, or AGM, make sure you understand the entire scope of what elements need to be present for the event to work.  For example, if you are responsible for planning all aspects of an AGM, you need to know the number of people attending (from historical information), know your desired room layout,  Presenter requirements, the timeline of the event, AV requirements, and the other event elements that will be present (ie.  Registration, the F&B component, tradeshow and networking sessions).  If you are searching for a location for a tradeshow, you will need have an idea of space and power access needed by your exhibitors. Before your search, make sure you are very familiar with every required aspect of the event so that you can ask the right questions before you contact prospective venues.
  • KNOW WHAT YOUR BUDGET IS
Second to understanding what kind of elements will be required to make your event a success is to make sure you understand your primary decision maker expectations and budget.  Before you start looking at unique venues in Vancouver, make sure you have an overall budget range and an estimate headcount.  If there is historical data from a previous event, this may be the best place to start.  However, if you start looking at venues without knowing your budget, you will waste your time investigating space options outside your price range. All venues operate differently and, in the case of special venues, it is often difficult to compare “apples to apples”.  Some, like hotels, are full service and require that all F&B and services be handled in-house or by preferred suppliers.  Others allow you to plan and use your own caterers and event planners, while others do not and may require minimums.  In other words, every venue has their individual service, requirements, rental and/or catering costs. When choosing a unique event venue, please be aware that each one will have different in-house services, rates and conditions. Most special venues may require you to bring in every element of your event, including furniture, décor, staff, F&B, China & Glassware rentals, etc. The venue fee can become the least expensive component of an event once you factor in all the other desired elements. If your stakeholders on planning committee have champagne tastes on a beer budget, their concepts will not work well with your budget.  It is important to bring up the budget and expectations early and often to determine what is more crucial to your team, managing costs or delivering a vision.
  • INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT
As soon as you have your shortlist of venues for your Cocktail reception that are within your budget, schedule a site visit. While you may find a fantastic looking venue on a website, it is crucial you visit the site in person whenever possible.  If you are part of an organizing committee, make sure to bring in your shareholders.  Be sure to schedule these visit well in advance of your event and make certain the dates you seek are available! Due to the exclusive layouts of unique venues, space capacities and or amenities may not be suitable for the look and feel you are looking for in your event. For example, you may require aerial acrobats to perform during your event.  Or maybe you want to bring in a 10 piece band with 32’ stage.  Make sure when you walk through the venue, you are visualizing where you want to put every one of your elements and ask a LOT of questions.  If a venue cannot safely, practically or functionally make your “must have” event component workable, you will need to either choose another place to host your event or revise your vision. If you have already selected your caterer or any other suppliers, be sure to bring them along to your site visit and have them discuss their operational needs as well.
  • KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Is your audience predominately Male or Female?  Millennials or Gen Xers?  Are they sales people or are they technical staff?  Where do they live and or work?  Will any guests require mobility assistance? Knowing your audience allows you to identify certain “must haves” when you make your venue selection decisions.  If a “must have” is to have easily accessible entrances & washrooms, a special venue without elevators, ramps or lifts may not work for your event.  If many of your invitees are using transit, you may decide that the venue must be located close to transit hub in order to ensure the highest attendance possible.  If you are keen on finding a unique venue that appeals to your primarily male, technical staff, you may select a museum that offers tour components that showcase science, car or motorcycle exhibits (Shameless plug!)
  • LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The final factor you should consider is where your audience is coming from?  The location of a special venue has an impact on attendance.  When you are making your final decisions, ask yourself, “Will most attendees drive/carpool or will they travel by transit or taxi? If the majority of your audience is attending from a larger geographical area (ie. The Lower Mainland vs. Burnaby or Vancouver), selecting a unique venue that is central to everyone maybe more appealing than a venue in the downtown core, primarily due to traffic conditions.  Attendance matters – Event Invitees are more likely to RSVP if the event is conveniently located for them. There are so many important factors when choosing that perfect, unique Vancouver venue.   Good luck in your search and if you are ever looking for space that will WOW your predominantly male audience, be sure to call us for a site visit!
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