When planning a conference or other large meeting, one of your first tasks is to find the right conference space. Houston is home to a great selection of event facilities ranging from large convention centers such as George R. Brown to the traditional hotel conference rooms to more unique venues including Houston Stampede Event Center. Total square footage, capacity, services and amenities vary as widely as the types of venues.
With so many options, how do you select the best venue for a successful event?
First, Determine Your Event Needs
When searching for a venue for a large event, it is helpful to have a list of details and requirements, in addition to questions to ask, prepared in advance. It will make your search for the right conference space easier and more efficient.
Start with obvious details such as the estimated number of attendees, preferred event dates and budget, and then include other considerations.
For instance, what are your audio/visual and other technology needs? Where will your attendees will be coming from and how they will get to the venue? Will the event include activities or entertainment? What staffing will be needed? What type of food and drinks will be offered? Hosting an after-party?
Consider the following 8 tips as you answer those questions and more in preparing your checklist.
1. Venue Capacity: Determining How Much Space is Needed
Knowing your estimated number of attendees will narrow your search for conference space. If you expect about 250 people, you can find different types of event venues in Houston with a capacity level to accommodate; however, the type of space makes a difference.
If you choose a venue such as an industrial warehouse facility with a large open space for 2,500+ people, but you only expect about 250, your event could appear unsuccessful, even if it is not. Consider selecting a venue with a capacity just under the expected number of attendees or, even better, one that is designed to accommodate various levels without appearing empty.
If you are planning a conference for 2,500+ attendees, your venue options will be more limited.
2. Conference Space Availability
When selecting a venue for a conference or large corporate meeting, availability and capacity could be the deciding factors. Houston is among the top U.S. cities for conferences, so if you’re not flexible on the date, finding good space available can be a challenge, especially for those booking less than a year or two in advance.
3. Meeting Your Budget
The cost of venue rental in Houston can vary greatly, depending on the type of venue and services provided. As you look for a venue with rental prices within your budget, consider other event needs including catering, staffing, equipment rental, activities / entertainment, etc. Some venues offer all-inclusive package deals that can lower your combined costs.
4. A Good Location for a Conference
When selecting a conference venue, think about where your attendees, guest speakers and VIPs will be traveling from and how they will get to and from the venue. If many will be flying to Houston, look for a venue near George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), the city’s main airport. The trip from the airport will be shorter (you could spend a couple of hours driving from one end of Houston to the other) and the area offers multiple hotel options.
For those traveling by car, easy access to the venue and good parking is a must. Your attendees should not be expected to pay for parking, and you don’t want a concern about parking to deter people from attending. Some venues offer complimentary onsite parking, which is great if the lot is large enough for your event needs. Valet parking may also be available.
5. Technology & Branding
When selecting space for a large meeting, questions related to technology, branding and more should be answered. What audiovisual equipment will your conference need? Is Wi-Fi available? Will you need a stage with lighting and sound? Does the venue offer branding opportunities, such as personalized signage and monitors throughout the facility?
A venue’s event coordinator/manager should be able to assist you in determining your technology and branding requirements, explain what is available in-house and what you will need to provide, and answer any questions.
6. Food & Drink
Whether you plan to offer a full meal or snacks, food and drinks should be made available during your event. Some venues offer catering and full bar service options as part of an event package, which makes your job easier and may reduce your overall costs.
7. Event Staffing
Some venues in Houston provide full staff for an event, from event coordinator to wait staff to the setup and cleanup crew. Find out what professional staff is provided. For some venues, you will need to hire your own team / recruit volunteers.
Find Venues to Accommodate All Your Event Needs
After considering the above tips and any other needs, and making your checklist with notes, you will be better prepared to begin your search for the right conference space. Search for venues online, browse through the websites to see what each offer, and read their reviews. As you do, build a short list of venues that appear promising.
Once you’ve compiled a manageable list, selecting the right venue becomes much easier. Contact those venues to discuss your event needs / submit your RFPs. When you find the right one, book it quickly. It may not be available tomorrow.