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The importance of securing the right venue

Published: 26 April 2012

When a venue is chosen without considering certain critical factors and not all questions are asked beforehand in the pre-production stages, we end up having to troubleshoot on site and this can compromise the end result. Written by Leigh McCrae, director of Strike Alliance.

Today, most of the venues that are available for functions do provide the basic amenities and facilities that are necessary for an event; however, these need to be checked to ensure that they meet the requirements for the event and have been well maintained. It is easy to draw up a check list of the basics such as size of venue, different spaces available to accommodate the event, parking, basic amenities as well as access for people with disabilities. It is the more technical aspects of a venue that can be overlooked due to a lack of understanding of what is needed and can ultimately compromise the success of the job impacting greatly on the creative concept sold to the client.

If an event is particularly complicated, additional services may be called for, which could narrow down the search for the ideal site. A technical team that understands what the client requires, and what is needed at the venue, should be involved from as early as possible in the venue selection process.

For example, some of the more technical considerations include:
• The Height of the venue is very important. Rigging points that are fundamental to a particularly complex event have to be checked and we need to know where they are situated and what weight they can handle.
• Access points are crucial, from the location of the loading bay to the main entrance. If there are high double doors leading directly to the venue, then there are fewer problems. It becomes more problematic if there are lifts involved, as sets might have to be designed to fit into the lifts.
• Sufficient power should be available, not just for the technical equipment but also for air-conditioning and the needs of the catering company. On numerous occasions, the power in the venue is sufficient during rehearsal days and everything runs smoothly as we are only drawing from one source during this time, but when it comes to the event all other elements are added to this supply and this has a huge impact- a few hours before the event many other suppliers start plugging in. Catering, air-conditioning, camera crews arriving on site – these can be overlooked in the planning phase. We try to remind our clients of this as much as we can at the venue recess and in pre-production.
• The security aspect should be taken into account, with enough aisle space and exit points.
• A front -of-house team is usually needed for a bigger event, to ensure a perfect production from start to finish. Front of house and its positioning is very important regardless of the size of the event. The technical team need to see and hear what is happening at all times, from the activity on the stage, AV screens, entertainers, the speeches and all that, they cue the show from what they can see from controls.

Budget is also a deciding factor and finding the correct balance is imperative. Overspending on the venue hire might compromise the end production, as you would have to cut down on other expenses to fit the budget. So being in a splendid venue that doesn’t meet the all the requirements and therefore requires budget to bring in extras won’t make the grade. On the other hand, settling for the cheapest venue isn’t the answer either.

We are finding more and more that many clients are trying to save on budget so they are cutting back on many elements. One of them is venue hire and not allowing enough set up time, as this would be an extra venue hire charge. Our teams try to set up as early as possible but this does not allow for any delays or unforeseen circumstances and this has an enormous effect on so many aspects such as loading in, having enough rehearsal time with guest speakers, entertainers, MCs as well as technical cue runs and making sure that health and safety requirements are taken into account.

The best way to decide on the final selection is by going to the proposed site and checking everything personally. At Strike Alliance we accompany our clients to the venue to ensure that the choice suits the concept realistically and within the budget. This will give the planner a better understanding of the venue rather than looking at a brochure. Pre -planning, prep and all-round support is what adds to the eventual success of the event.

For more information, visit www.strikealliance.co.za, call 011 466 9462 or email info@strikealliance.co.za.

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