So you think you’ve found a venue that suits all of your needs. It’s seemingly within budget, can accommodate all of your attendees and is currently available on your tentative date(s). All positives! But before you go ahead and book the venue, there is one important step you must complete to truly evaluate whether the venue is a good fit. You need to book a site inspection so you can actually see the space in person. This may seem like common sense, but in reality, it’s easy to overlook. In a world where photos, videos and even virtual tours can be viewed online, it’s natural to think you have a sense for a space without visiting it in person. Beyond this, site inspections are also critical for thinking through important logistical considerations before being locked into a contract. They are an opportunity to ask questions, clarify expectations and gain valuable information that may affect your costs later on. However, they can also be downright dizzying experiences. Between all the introductions, hand shaking, and small talk, it’s easy to forget to ask the right questions.
To help you prepare for your next site inspection, we’ve compiled The Ultimate Event Site Inspection Checklist. So don’t worry about missing any pertinent details and having to book repeat appointments, as It includes all the basic details a professional event planner would consider upfront to ensure event success later on. Read on for a detailed explanation or skip to the bottom of the page to download our pdf template.
Eventsage’s Ultimate Event Site Inspection Checklist:
When viewing any potential event space, there are a number of things you should consider to ensure the venue works for your needs, the experience you want for your event attendees, and for your suppliers as well. In order to get all the operational, logistical, technical and aesthetic details you need to plan and design your event, you should ask the following questions:
- What is the square footage of the space?
- Does the venue have scaled floor plans with accurate dimensions of the room including ceiling heights?
- Are there any impeding columns or fixtures in the room?
- Is the ambiance of the space relevant to the theme or look you want for your event?
- What will the guest flow look like from the venue entrance into the space? Will it create the first impression you’re looking for?
- For additional functions like lunches or breakout sessions, are there other rooms available for your use?
- Will the venue grant you “first right of refusal” in the event another party enquires about the space? How long will you have to make a final decision?
- Are there sufficient washrooms and are they in close proximity to the event space?
- Are there any sound restrictions or mandatory quiet times?
- What is the venue’s policy regarding hanging decorations?
- Where are the power outlets located? Is there an on-site electrician available to connect items that draw power?
It’s also important to double check measurements and snap a lot of photos so you can remember details later on!
Sage Tip: Obtaining the room dimensions, minimum/maximum capacities, and layout restrictions should be the first step in determining whether the venue will work for your event. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting, general guidelines for space requirements are between 10 – 14 square feet per person. When looking at a blank canvas, you need to consider all the items that will be contained in the room, such as staging, food areas and large decor pieces. These items reduce the useable space for tables and chairs. There are some great resources online to help you figure out your room requirements, such as this helpful space and capacity calculator.
Venue Load-in / Load-out
Another important aspect of a site inspection is checking out where all your event stuff will have to be delivered and removed. It may seem premature to think about that at this point, but it’s key to ensuring everything you’ll want at the event can be brought into the venue. Don’t assume that the custom-built shooter luge built especially for your party will fit through the doorway. Many venues have loading bays with oversized doorways and dedicated parking, but don’t forget to consider the pathway your gear will have to take from the loading bay to your event space in case there are narrow hallways or other roadblocks.
Here are some other things to consider when checking out the loading area:
- Where is the loading area located in the building and how is it accessed from inside and outside?
- Is the area secured? How do you gain entry? If it’s secured, can you store items there?
- Are there any stairs or is there a functioning elevator? What are the dimensions of the elevator and it’s door opening?
- What are the venue’s policies regarding moving in and out? Are there set-times?
- Will the loading bay need to be shared with other deliveries during your set-up?
Sage Tip: Be sure to bring a tape measure! In many cases, venues don’t have the dimensions for all doorways, elevators and hallways. So be a planning pro and get those during the site inspection if you think it might be helpful later on.
Food and beverages are a key component to any event, and as an event planner it’s often easiest to select a venue that offers in-house catering services. In fact, many venues do not even allow an outside caterer to be brought in. This is important to know upfront before signing on the dotted line because in some instances it might actually be to your advantage to bring in an external catering company or take everyone off-site for meals.
Here are some other questions to consider when discussing catering with your venue:
- Does the venue have provide in-house catering? If not, does it have any preferred or exclusive catering partners?
- Is there a fee associated with bringing in an outside provider?
- Where do external catering companies typically set-up?
- Is there a food and beverage minimum you’ll need to adhere to? If so, what is it?
- Does the venue offer a range of catering packages to meet all budgets?
- Are there any a la carte choices to choose from to create your own package?
- When do final numbers (aka ‘final guarantees’) need to be submitted?
- What are the service fees and are these negotiable?
Sage Tip: Final guarantees are usually due 48 hours before your event, but you should always double check this to make sure you understand expectations and their financial implications. If you are bringing in a outside caterer, be sure to ask about a prep area, kitchen access, on-site refrigeration, and power for all equipment. You may be able to shave off some costs if your external caterer doesn’t have to bring all of their own equipment.
Always remember to consider your event attendees and ensure the venue is in an accessible location for them, otherwise you’ll have a beautiful room with no one to enjoy it.
Here’s some things to consider when reviewing the location of the event space:
- Does the location make sense for your event and target market?
- Is the venue easily accessible and can be found using Google Maps?
- Can the venue be accessed by public transportation?
- How far away is it from the office? City? Airport?
- Is the cost of getting there prohibitive to your guests attending?
- Is there ample parking available in the area? What does it cost? Are there any discounts or validated parking the venue can provide?
- What else will going on around the venue on the day of your event? Any community events, road closures or construction that you should be made aware of?
Sage Tip: If you’re saying no to a lot of these questions but you’re in love with the event space and your budget will allow for it, you could consider renting a chartered bus, van or sedans to act as a shuttle service for your guests.
Amenities & Extras
Some event venues come with all of the bells and whistles (a major score!) and some offer minimal amenities. Do your research and ask the questions, because not only will your guests appreciate the little details, but it can also save you some money and planning time when your venue rental comes with tables, chairs, WiFi etc.
Here are some questions you should ask:
- Event Staffing: Will you have a dedicated event coordinator to work with before and after the event? Will they be onsite the day of your event? How can you reach them if there is an issue? What is the venue’s wait staff to attendee ratio? What is their policy should you determine that additional staff are needed either before or after the event? What are the additional costs you need to be made aware of?
- Rental Items: Does the venue provide items such as tables, chairs, linens, easels, etc.? Does any A/V equipment such as a screen, projector, smart tv, podium with microphone or speakers come with the space? Is there a coat check area or does the venue have rolling racks they can provide for a coat check? What about desks or chairs for a registration area? Are any of these items included in your rental? If not, what are their rental fees? Are there any preferred partners that you have to use for rental and A/V items?
- Safety & Security: Is there on-site first aid contact? Where is the first aid kit located in case of emergencies? What procedures does the venue have in-place in the case of an emergency? Where are the emergency exits located? Does the venue have in-house security and if so, what level of security do they provide? Are there any additional charges for these services?
- Additional Amenities: Is there a WiFi network available? Is it dedicated or public use? What is the bandwidth and are there any additional charges for using it? Are there any additional amenities such as storage areas, a business centre, valet, or a networking area available? Is there a designated smoking area for guests?
Sage Tip: At the very least, the venue should have: 1) an on-site contact for emergencies and in case anything goes wrong, 2) a first-aid or emergency plan in place, 3) some level of security, and 4) a WiFi network. Even if you have to pay to use it, in this day and age, your attendees will expect it. If a venue at the very least can’t provide these items, you should probably look somewhere else.
The devil really is in the details and with a venue (like any supplier) you’ll want to double check EVERYTHING to ensure your expectations match theirs.
Here’s some final things to consider:
- What is their policy for handling cancellations?
- Are there any additional policies you should be aware of?
- What can the venue do to accommodate last minute changes?
- Are there any permits needed for your event?
- Will there be any other groups in neighbouring rooms?
Sage Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask too many questions. That’s why you’re doing a site inspection after all. You need to ensure the event will go off without a hitch. If the venue does not fit all your criteria or you just don’t have a great feeling about it at the end, it’s okay to move on and start the process all over again. Listen to your gut!
Don’t forget to keep your pen and paper handy, and bring along a tape measure and your trusty camera too! You’ll be consuming a lot of information that you’ll have to discuss with other colleagues, managers and suppliers so you’ll want to be as prepared as possible with dimensions, floor plans and photos!
To help you remember everything we’ve covered above, here’s a printable version of our Ultimate Site Inspection Checklist.