If you want everything to go as plan and you would prefer to avoid nasty surprise, don’t be begrudge time and effort for the only instrument you have: knowing, seeing measuring everything in advance. So…
1. First of all
After choosing the venue for your event, you will have to organize an operational inspection as soon as possible to verify the feasibility of the program and to establish the what the how and the when. If you manage to have an inspection (even if a quicker one) also before the choice, this could avoid making the wrong decision.
Don’t underestimate this passage, and don’t rush it, because it could make the difference between an incredible success and a series of small/big inconveniences that, if discovered too late, will not be fixable. It’s also a good thing, especially for complex events, to perform your inspection together with some key-suppliers, mainly three:
- technical services: hirers of equipment especially if the event will be held in a “complicated” venue.
- catering: to verify the spaces and equipment available
- setting: scene set and so on, time of preparation and disassembly.
For a good operational inspection some very common instruments are necessary: a rule, pen and paper, recorder and digital camera. On the venue, ask for a map and for the internal regulations, if there are any. With this equipment you can start, and here you find a check list of the things you have to pay attention to.
2. Service spaces
Identify and tick on the map all the spaces that you see and visit, because you could notice some renovation or transformation in the venue, not transcribed in the map you received. It happens often that rooms are merged or divided without changing all the maps or forgetting to notice the clients about that. Take pictures of the main features of the venue and record your impressions. Follow logical paths , evaluating the external areas and their services first: parking areas, loading and unloading areas, spaces for the exposition of big props, walls for writings and images.
Think also to the merchandise (printed matter, stands and other materials of a certain weight and volume) and to the way it will have to be carried: Where can it be unloaded? Where do they have to get? In which warehouses will it be stored? And what about the package? Will it be possible to get to the warehouses with the trucks or will it be necessary to use a fork lift or a cart? Is there an elevator? Walk along the path that will be followed by the participants, from the entrance to the reception, to the wardrobe and the foyers, the bar and the refreshment area, the halls and the toilets. Take pictures and record your comments on the spot.
Proceeding systematically, you’ll have a clear view of the real and concrete needs of the participants of the event. Study the entrances: which and how many of them you can use, measure them and relate them to the amount of people you are expecting. Consider the presence of disabled people and verify the lack of impediments and steps. If there is any take your time to solve the problem.
Properly check the toilets (that’s of key importance!), they have to be enough for the number of people you expect and it’s important that they keep up with the image you want to give of your company. They also have to be equipped for disabled people. Verify that inside the cubicles there is a coat hanger. Make sure that the venue will provide the constant presence of a member of the cleaning staff in the restrooms.
3. Reception areas
The reception of the event should be right at the entrance of the venue, the wardrobe shouldn’t be far and it should be adequate to the number of participants (considering the season) and it should be able to store the luggage of those who arrive directly from the train station or the airport. Make sure that there will be adequate spaces for the socialization of the participants: one of the main aims of the conventions is networking. You should plan moments and areas dedicated to allow the participants to get acquainted.
If you want to direct the flow of the participants, for example towards an exhibition area, try to organize the spaces so that it happens naturally and spontaneously. If that’s not possible you will have to create set courses (hurdles, cords, etc), but don’t forget to consider that they aren’t always allowed by the safety rules, which always require accessible exits and clear escape routes. Always verify first.
4. The halls
And now about the halls, usually the very heart of the event.
Check and write down everything, even things that may seem useless: is the floor inclined? Are there any steps? Is the ceiling uniform or does it have different heights? Are there any columns? Draw on your map the details of the stage, especially if you plan to add a big and important structure to it.
Check the real number of seats in the room, verify the routes for the disabled and save some seats in the front row for the people with mobility impairments. Make a detailed list of the provided equipment and of what you’ll need to hire. Read the article “Magic measurements for successful meetings”.
5. And to conclude…
Having done all of this (it takes a few hours, take your time!) go back to the office and, as soon as possible, write down on the map what you decided during your visit, download the pictures and write down the comments you recorded. Share your ideas with your colleagues talking about the difficulties and what you don’t like and write a short document you will sent to the suppliers and, if necessary, to the Client.
If your inspection will be careful and without assumptions, a lot of troubles will be avoided. It’s impossible to completely negate Murphy’s law (all that can go wrong, usually does!) but it is possible to reduce its effects to the minimum… with a good inspection, to begin with!