Venue Recce Essentials
There are so many recce essentials, it's easy to forget what you should be looking for. Often on the recce you have a million and one things running through your head, the client has questions, the venue have questions and everything is directed at you. With a full head it's often a good idea to have a check list, it is for me anyway, so here are some of the essentials.
Where is the venue located and how accessible is it for the attendees? Where is the nearest motorway or major road? How close is the nearest train station, airport, bus stop or even helipad?
Car Parking - Can a coach load of people fit into the car park?
Direction Signage - is it easy to find or will it need supplementary signage
Entrance - does the meeting space have a dedicated entrance or shared?
Signage and Branding - are you allowed to add signage in the public spaces for direction and branding?
Decor - does the look and feel of the whole venue fit with the message / brief and does it feel 'fresh' or 'tired'?
Staff - are the staff welcoming and friendly and well presented? Do they have good knowledge of events and their venue?
How Busy - how busy is it in the public spaces and are other events on at the same time as yours (including venue organised events like fitness classes, Murder Mystery evenings etc.)
Temperature - is there air conditioning and where are the controls, can you open the windows, what heating is there (does it ever fail)?
Equipment - do they have existing AV equipment? When was it last checked (look at the PAT testing labels on the plugs)? Can we trust it?
Times - when is the space available for us to set up (often different for meeting rooms and refreshment space), the day before, evening before, overnight, early morning? Who has tenancy before and what are they doing that might affect the space when we arrive and how quickly we can start? Could their event overrun?
Curfew - are there any limitations on the times when it is possible to access or unload vehicles? Some venues have legally imposed curfews that prohibit overnight unloading, or before a set hour in the morning. Others have times when no equipment is allowed through the lobby of a hotel.
Lift Size / Stairwell Size - if the event space is not on the ground floor, then what is the access like and are there any size limitations, particularly in lifts.
Stairs and Steps - are there any on the access route (extra people may be needed to help lift heavy equipment).
Door widths / Height - if there are large set elements or equipment, it is useful to know whether there are any doors, throughout the access route, which will limit what can be brought.
Size - what are the dimensions of the smallest space - taking into account recesses, alcoves, protrusions, wall lights, wall mounted screens, radiators, kitchen access and fire exits which must remain clear. We always take our own measurements using a laser measure.
Capacity - what is the seating style for the event? Dinner, cabaret, theatre, boardroom, reception or something different. How much equipment or dressing will be needed that will take up space - will there be rear-projection AV?
As a quick guide, in theatre style seating an average conference chair size works out at 20 people per 10 metres (without aisles). In dinner or cabaret seating - one 6 foot (72cm) round table seats 10-12 for dinner and 7-8 for cabaret - with chairs it takes up a 10 x 10 foot space (3.5 x 3.5m). At a reception, each person takes up 1 metre square.
Ceiling Height - The minimum height taking into account alcoves, chandeliers, lights, permanent fixings (like mirror balls or projectors) - the minimum base of a projection screen has to be 1.4m from the floor which means you need at least 3 metres total height. The lower the ceiling, the more oppressive the room, particularly in long meetings.
Floorplans - Does the venue have them and more importantly are they accurate? More than once we have received inaccurate floor plans, leading to a lot of tight spaces on the day. That's why we measure! Ideally the venue will have CAD plans that we can work with.
Noise - does the room have moveable dividing walls? What is happening on the other side of them (no temporary wall is ever sound proof. Where are the kitchens, will the noise carry? Is there a lot of echo in the room - when you clap your hands do you hear one or more claps? Are there soft furnishings and carpet to absorb sound? Is there any construction work outside or nearby railway lines, or an active airport next door or a scheduled firework display (we have been affected by all these things).
Light - is there natural daylight? Are there curtains or blinds if darkness is needed? What type of lighting is there and how is it controlled?
Catering Space - is there a dedicated catering space separate from the meeting rooms? Will the catering space share space with displays or registration? Will catering be in the meeting room itself? Where are the kitchens and will kitchen noise before or after the food affect the meeting. What is the access like for catering staff - this can affect what you do and could slow down service.
This is one for a separate post! At the recce, we are interested in where the catering will be provided, Depending on the event, we are interested in: Breakfast (few hotels can cater for all of their bedrooms in one sitting but with a fixed start time, you may put more demand than they can cope with).
Breaks. Where? What (coffee, tea, juice, water, biscuits, pastries, fruit)? How frequently.
Lunch. Where? In a shared restaurant? Buffet (how many stations, how will they be laid out?), seated?
Dinner. How many wait staff, do they have dedicated drinks staff, how will the bar operate (where is it) - there are lots of questions for dinners.
Menus. What are the standard menus like, how imaginative and how prepared are the kitchen to accommodation something different?
Dietary. Plan for them! Lifestyle (vegetarian, vegan), Religious (Kosher, Halal), Medical (nut, dairy, shellfish, wheat, gluten etc.).
Another subject in itself. How many rooms, what type of bed(s), when were the beds last replaced, are they en-suite bathrooms, do they have irons, safes, coffee making, mini-bar (can we deny access), air-conditioning, open-able windows, non-smoking (international). Are all the rooms to the same standard, are some in an annex? Can we provide a group check-in desk separately?
Increasingly essential for the running of an event. Does the venue have WiFi and is this free of charge. What is the bandwidth? How good is the WiFi coverage? Depending on the event and use of technology you may have to add a dedicated line and even suggest having a dedicated technician.
Power & Rigging
This also needs a blog all of it's own but for the recce; What power is available, is it 3-phase, single phase or just sockets on the wall? Where is it located? Find the maintenance people to find out what else is running on the same power ring - you don't want everything to go dark when the oven gets switched on for lunch (it happens!).
Does the ceiling have rigging points where equipment can be suspended? How many points? What is the loading if you need extra power 16 amp plus, don't forget this or much like one of our last blogs you could be facing a pitch black event.
Amongst the above I always find it useful to send a venue inquiry form out to each venue and at least this way you'll always have a record of what they can and can't do.
What's included in the price?
Always check this, never presume. I've learnt the hard way.