In the beginning, creating and organising an event requires bags of imagination, vision, belief and optimism. Whatever your event is, you will have ambitions for it – to be the best, the biggest, the most successful one it can be. But when you come to choose your venue, it's worth tempering that optimistic enthusiasm and stepping back from the fray for a moment. Take a realistic and detailed look at how your venue can save you time, energy, frustration and even your whole event. You may be surprised at what you find.
Driving towards a best-case scenario for your event is absolutely the right direction, it fires the imagination and builds enthusiasm. But you have an opportunity when dealing with the countless ‘nuts and bolts' of any successful event, to pare away the wishful thinking and hopeful assumptions and get to grips with the precise nature, quantity and quality of resources you're going to need.
Keeping a ruthlessly realistic picture of your event as it comes together is essential if you want to avoid the twin pitfalls of over and undersupply. Undersupply of, for example, catering or toilet facilities, can have serious consequences for visitor satisfaction, whilst oversupply of either will quickly eat into your margins. Do your research, and update your estimates regularly!
Listen to your venue partners, and ask them questions! Venues are likely to have hosted many similar events in the past, and may well have many of the things you need on-site already. Do you really need to hire in those lighting towers, if there are already ones available on-site?
Take care that your vision is realistic, given your chosen venue's guidelines and manual. It may be possible to have your music stage facing west, or to use the carparks for stunt-driving – but don't assume, always get the definitive answer from your documentation or by asking the venue staff. Use your chosen venue's knowledge and expertise! I sometimes see organisers getting frustrated, here and at other venues, because they have placed outdoor stands needing power in areas where power is not available. All that frustration could have been avoided for the sake of ‘asking the question’!
Realism also means accepting the vagaries of the weather. The time of year you choose may give you some indication of likely temperatures to expect, but without a realistic wet weather plan in place, you are gambling your whole event on British weather, and that's never a good idea.
If you go too far beyond realism and stray into pessimism, you will end up paying for hundreds of contingency plans that will never be used. As with so many things, finding the balance is what matters, and again, let realistic thinking be your guide.
As a business, our venue relies on helping our organisers create successful events – and every venue is unique in its location, facilities, staff and resources. Our most successful shows have been where organisers come to us with a vision and a plan, and make us a part of it. Our experience of all kinds of events, from trade shows and conferences to festivals and live comedy, means we often know the best configuration of resources and facilities to achieve a certain goal.
You can keep your head in the clouds, so to speak, and maintain that all-important positive belief in your event, whilst you keep your feet on the ground and ensure your event makes the best, and most cost-efficient use of the venue and all it has to offer. Being realistic means working with the facts, but it doesn't mean scaling back your ambition.