It’s no secret that we get excited about a great venue. Whether we’re taking you on a virtual tour of the stunning Banff Centre campus or giving you a heads up about the incredible food at Hotel Arts, we regularly use this platform to celebrate our favourite event spaces and share the many things we know you’ll love about them too. But with so many great options available, how do you narrow it down and make the decision for your corporate event venue? What are the most important considerations that will make or break your final choice? If you’re new to the game and feeling a little overwhelmed about where to start, we’ve got some tips that will help you make an educated choice on securing the right space.
Location matters, but timing is everything.
You can (and should, because why not?) have a dream venue wishlist as long as your arm, but the first-things-first question will always be about timing: when is your event, and how long do you have between now and then. If your event is tied to a very specific time of year, or if it’s mere weeks away and you’re under the gun for a “where” to put on the invite that should have gone out yesterday, your options are going to narrow considerably. Whenever possible, our advice would be to start looking at venues early – actually, decide what you think is early, and then do it even earlier. Trust us, it’s incredibly worth it to be a keener on this one.
It’s not going to come as a surprise that the holiday season is the busiest time of year for most venues, and that means your corporate holiday party venue should ideally be booked no less than a year in advance. If Valentine’s Day rolls up and you haven’t booked, you’re a little late. If Canada Day arrives and you still haven’t booked… well, give us a call and we’ll do everything we can to help! No matter what kind of event you’re booking, if you’re under a tight timeline you’ll need to be flexible on everything from location to exact date to amenities in order to secure something. That said, we love a challenge and nothing’s impossible with hard work and great friends. Leveraging collaborative relationships and partnerships becomes incredibly valuable in tricky circumstances.
Assuming you have time, use it to research and tour potential venues before making your final decision.
How many guests are you inviting – and what will they be doing?
To put this in perspective, a guest list of 1,000 or more in Calgary will mean you’re choosing from a limited number of potential venues, and those book up quickly during the busiest times of the year. That can either make the spaces unavailable to you in your desired window, or it can mean the logistics get tricky as you’ll be setting up and striking overnight, which is what we did during grad season at Calgary Stampede. Perhaps you’re seating almost 1,700 people for dinner, all of whom need a sightline to your stage – you’ll need not only one of the three spaces large enough to accommodate your numbers, but a clear understanding of how the space can be used and any potential obstructions.
With a lower guest count comes more options, but you’ll still need to factor in seating, sightlines, acoustics, catering, and more, depending on your plans. Do you need space for dinner AND dancing? Is it going to be to a huge advantage to have in-house lighting and sound equipment and infrastructure?
Along with the more quantifiable and obvious aspects of your guest list and activities, it’s equally important
to consider the demographics of the guests and the expectations around your event. The setting and history of the space itself can play a huge role in supporting your brand and leave the right impression on your guests. Consider how different your event would feel held at the beautifully restored Hudson, an historic downtown address with glass escalators and crystal chandeliers, as opposed to The Big Four Roadhouse, with its entrenched Stampede history and energy-filled entertainment set-up. Knowing what ‘feels right’ for you is as important as knowing whether you need a stage or a seating area.
The elephant in the room.
Lastly, assuming you’re not a member of the royal family or a Forbes’ List regular, budget is going to be a major factor in all of your decisions regarding your corporate event, including venue selection. Make sure you are aware of and have made peace with your budget before you start researching venues, because the last thing you want to do is fall in love with the perfect space, only to find out it’s way out of your reach.
If your budget is tight, there are a few things you can do to maximize your venue selection. First, we’ll say again that timing is crucial, and the more time you can give yourself to secure your venue, the better it will be for your budget. With time to spare, you’re able to be more choosy, shopping around for the features you need and want and negotiating the finer details. To really make your dollars go a long way, ask as many questions as possible about what’s available in-house, and what’s not; ideally, basics like tables, chairs, and linens, kitchen access or catering services, basic audio/visual and technical support, etc. will be part of the package.
If your budget is fairly generous, in-house inclusions are certainly still something to consider but there are many additional options available from outside vendors that you can factor into the mix as well, to get exactly what you’re looking for. A more comfortable budget means that you can choose your venue based exclusively on other features you love, and not worry so much about what’s available in-house and what you’ll need to bring in.
Ask questions, and lean into your partnerships.
There’s a lot to consider when planning a corporate event, and venue is just one of them. Regardless of your timeline, budget, or guest list, the key to pinning down the right venue is to ask lots of questions. It’s also incredibly valuable to build and foster a support system of partners – after all, no great live event or experience is pulled off alone, and why you want it to be? Lean into your relationships with other event profs, and build your own network of partners that can make your job both easier, and more fulfilling.
We’d love to talk about the great things we can do together! If you have any questions about corporate venues, or want to pick our brains about corporate event planning, get in touch. We’ll answer all of your questions, or get you in front of someone who can.