The critical first step in planning a gala is selecting the right venue. To help take anxiety out of venue choice, here are some tips from Elettra’s event team.
Decide whether you prefer a traditional or non- traditional venue
Traditional venues include hotels, conference centres, and restaurants. A non-traditional venue can be anywhere, really – a farmhouse, an airplane hangar, or an outdoor plaza to name just a few. The appeal of non-traditional venues is obvious – they tend to be more interesting, creative, and unexpected than the (often) beige four walls of a hotel ballroom. Start by asking yourself if this element of surprise is important to your organization and your guests.
While the cost of hosting at a hotel or conference centre may seem high at first glance, remember that a non-traditional venue is usually a blank slate. That means you’ll need to consider the cost of bringing every single spoon, glass, and chair to the event site. Not to mention the audio-visual and décor required to make the space come alive and the extra event planning and labour hours required to pull it all together.
But when it comes together…wow, you can truly blow your guests away! Elettra worked with the BC Aviation Council (BCAC) on their Silver Wings Awards. For their 20th anniversary they didn’t want the typical hotel ballroom, so we turned YVR’s South Terminal into a gala awards show venue, complete with staging, AV, and a dinner buffet. It was so worth the time and effort to create something unexpected for BCAC’s guests.
A half-full room, no matter its size, suggests that an event is not a success. Before booking your venue, do some serious thinking about how many people will attend. Is your invite list 500? Consider realistically how many people will come at the ticket price point you are setting.
Hotel and conference spaces offer a bit more flexibility on room size as ballrooms often have air walls that can divide up the space. This means you can often make adjustments to your venue footprint once you have a sense of how ticket sales are going. In a pinch you can also use pipe and drape to section off a space, but this isn’t ideal and it’s much better to choose the right size of space in the first place.
Location & accessibility
How easy is your event to get to? The answer to that question has a direct bearing on RSVP numbers. Is your event in the downtown core and starting right after work? Great. Have you chosen a far-flung spot that’s not easy to get to via transit? No problem, but you’ll need to budget for shuttles or taxi vouchers to facilitate guest transport.
Atmosphere & décor
Oftentimes hosts treat décor as a “nice to have,” but it’s every bit as critical to the event’s success as food and drink. A good event manager will insist that this is part of the plan. When choosing your venue, consider what it will take to create the desired atmosphere for your guests. If you choose a beautiful spot like Vancouver Art Gallery’s Rotunda, it might not take much more than a bit of lighting and some florals, but if you choose a windowless ballroom or a warehouse, be prepared to devote some serious budget and effort to creating an atmosphere worthy of your event.
Have an event you need help planning? Contact Gwen or Simone at Elettra Communications. We have a combined 30 years' experience in creating successful events of all shapes and sizes.