by Jay Ward
When selecting a venue there are many considerations that meeting professionals must take into account. Location and capacity are always the top priorities, but I would argue that having a clear vision for the AV production before selecting a venue is critical to the success of any event. None of the following considerations should be a deal breaker when assessing a venue, but they should each be a factor in the overall decision process.
Capacity charts always list the maximum number of attendees they can legally squeeze into a room if there were nothing else that needed to be in the room. Depending on the size of the AV production, you need to always subtract a certain percentage from this number to accommodate all of the AV elements.
A good guideline is to subtract about 20% from the listed capacity for the seating style you will use for your event. This could be more, and it could be less depending on how elaborate the production is going to be. It is always a good idea to have a floor plan drawn of the event space before you sign with the venue just to be sure everything will fit. Since this is not always possible, you may need to use the 20% rule as a rough calculation. This will, at least, get you in the ballpark and usually give the AV team enough room to figure out a reasonable solution.
Rooms will often have pillars or other obstructions to deal with. It is critical that you visualize the event and try to figure out if there will be sightline issues created by these obstructions. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to design an event in a space where there will be absolutely no way all of the attendees will be able to see the stage or screens.
Ceiling Height and Chandeliers
Ceiling height issues are very common and difficult to work around. Low ceilings can have a dramatic effect on your ability to use sufficient projection or lighting. As a general rule you always want your screens to be at least four to six feet off the ground in a large room. If the ceiling height does not allow for this, the only other option is to go with smaller screens. To avoid this, you must think about your audience size and ensure there is enough height for appropriate size screens. I suggest making note if the ceiling seems like it is not very high and make sure to address how this will restrict the visuals before signing a contract.
One more height consideration is the ever-present issue of the ballroom chandelier. Even some rooms with very high ceilings have chandeliers that can affect the lighting and projection of the event so it is one more thing to be aware of. If it seems to you like it could be an issue you may want to address it in advance.
Access to the event space is probably one of the least considered issues. Usually it is not a problem. When it is a problem, it’s a big one. This is really simple… If you are planning to bring an AV production into the space, just make sure everything can get in. You don’t need to take measurements of freight elevators or hallways, but it is a good idea to walk the access path to make sure it isn’t obviously impossible to get any large pieces into the room.
While it is the job of the AV production staff to devise solutions for any issues that are presented by a particular venue, there are some things that just can’t be fixed. So be aware of these possible pitfalls when sourcing venues for your next event. All of these items I have listed don’t take much time to assess. For the most part, it’s just doing a visual assessment while on your site visit and making note of anything that seems like it may be an issue. Taking pictures of the event space can be a big help as well.