Location Is EverythingJanuary 31, 2018
By Laura Schraufnagel, Senior Experiential Producer
As part of the experiential process, our team is constantly flying around the country scouting locations for upcoming events. This part in the process is one of my favorites, as the venue you select really sets the tone for the entire experience. It’s the backdrop, it sets the mood, and it has the ability to create that unforgettable wow factor from the moment guests walk through the door. So as fun as it is to gallivant around NYC for a few days looking at fabulous venues, there is so much more that goes into selecting the perfect space for an event.
The space needs to elevate the experience we’re creating.
Before we start our research, we consider what will be taking place at the event so that we research spaces that will be conducive to the activation we ultimately need to build. For example, if the objective is to capture incredible content, then things like lighting, aesthetic, location, the surrounding environment like the exterior might become more important. If we are creating a pop-up experience, then things like accessibility for guests, venue floor plan, flexibility to rig and hang things, wall space, etc. are critical considerations. If it’s a mobile experience, we consider what vehicle will be most impactful. Is it a vintage VW van that helps set the tone? Or is it a bus that travels from city to city opening up to offer consumers an immersive experience inside? There are so many possibilities, so focusing in on the type of event you’re planning, the objectives and what will be taking place at the event helps our team narrow in on the types of spaces we need to research.The venue selection process is both strategic and creative.
Our job isn’t just to find the coolest or most beautiful spaces out there. It’s about finding the right space that brings the brand’s personality and tone to life and will work hardest for the event. So, if the brand is tone is quirky, fun and colorful, then the venue we select probably shouldn’t be dark, raw and edgy. If the brand is polished, clean and simple, then the venue should reflect that.
In addition to the venue being the right fit for the brand and strategy, we also want to find the most unique and unexpected venues for our clients to truly set their events and experience apart from everyone else. So, we go through an intensive venue researching and vetting process, tapping contacts and networking with venue owners and rental companies across the country, researching different space options, and vetting them to create the perfect scouting list.
We think about all the ticky-tacky details so that our clients don’t have to.
When we are on-site scouting, we think big-picture but also get into the weeds, so we can produce and deliver a flawless experience. Therefore, we take into consideration not only the aesthetic but also the technical and logistical components. For example, we consider things like this:
- Electricity: We need to understand what we’re working with, so we can be prepared when we get on site. For example, if the event is outside with limited access to power, we’d bring in a generator.
- Load in and load out process: Understanding load in/load out hours and how the venue typically handles this is important and needs to be communicated to all vendors in advance of the event. Sometimes there are time restrictions that can impact the setup or tear-down process, so we ask so we can create a logistics plan around that and ensure the venue has any required certification, insurance or paperwork from our vendors pre-load in day.
- Venue access: Understanding building access, freight elevators and loading dock accessibility is important and must be communicated to all teams and any event vendors in advance.
- Shipping, receiving and storage: Understanding whether or not this is something the venue can accommodate is important at the onset of planning. Trust me, the last thing you want is to assume you can ship event materials to your venue in advance only to find out that they are not able to receive or store shipments.
- Construction: It’s important to inquire with the city and make sure there won’t be any major construction happening in/around the venue that could impact the event.
- WiFi: We confirm whether or not the venue offers on-site WiFi. If not, we can then research options for bringing this in.
- Permitting: Depending on the type of event, our team will determine if any permits need to be pulled in advance. This can include event permits, AV/sound permits, food/beverage licensing to name a few.
- Noise policy/quiet hours: This can greatly impact an event, especially if we’re planning something at night. We double-check to make sure we won’t be disturbing anyone or risk having our event shut down because we are too loud and its past quiet hours.
- Rigging, painting, hanging, décor restrictions: These can impact the overall experience we’re trying to build so it’s important to understand what’s feasible right away in the planning process. Sometimes there are creative workarounds and other times it just means it’s not the right venue for the experience.
- Onsite amenities: For example, you don’t want to get on site to activate and realize there isn’t running water. Or if your event has a large food component to it, having a kitchen on site would likely be a priority.
And that, my friends, is just a quick snap shot of some of the things we consider when going through the location vetting and scouting process.