When a professional meeting, event or conference planner goes to evaluate the suitability of a venue for a client this is called a site inspection. There are three basic areas to be considered:
Appearance and accessibility of the location
Service and quality of catering
Amenities and special features.
Without a doubt, choosing a venue for your affair is the most significant aspect of the event planning process. No venue = no event. Choosing the proper setting for your organization is of paramount importance. If you find yourself in a position where you are unable to have a professional planner perform a appointment inspection for you, the following checklists should get you started.
Appearance & Accessibility (Outside)
When you initially approach the building, is the façade well maintained and pleased to the eye? Is there someone available to greet you at the door and direct you where you need to go?
Is the location centered and roughly equidistant from the areas from which your guests will be traveling?
Is parking available for all of your guests? If not, is there a parking alternative outside the facility?
Appearance & Accessibility (Inside)
As you move inside, what is your impression of the inside of the facility? Wallpaper and paint well maintained? Carpets and floors clean?
Are there tables and chairs lying about from previous functions? At the very least, tables and chairs should stacked neatly and out of the way.
How far is the actual room where the event will be held from the entrance?
Will the room itself be spacious enough to accommodate all of your guests and still have room for at least ten more should your count unexpectantly increase?
Does the room have a built in sound system (if applicable)? Does the facility have in-house audiovisual equipment or will you need equipment from a rental agency?
Is the room clean and in good repair? Wallpaper and carpets well maintained? Any visible cracks, stains or tears?
Is the room well lit? If you need to darken the room for a presentation, make sure that the lights are adjustable.
Is there room for a registration or display table if applicable?
Service & Catering
What entry do the waiters use to come in to set up the food? Make sure to stipulate that the catering tables will be placed in a position where the waiters and guests will be able to have access, but also in a position where the wait staff will not have to pass in front of your speaker if they need to set- Up during your program. (If you do not have a speaker presentation, this, of course, is a moot point.) The facility manager can assist you in making a decision.
How receptive was the staff to your request to view the facility? Were they pleasant and courteous? Did the facility manager greet you with a handshake and a smile upon your arrival at the venue?
Sometimes catering or banquet halls have an adjoining restaurant. This is a perfect opportunity to sample the facility's cuisine. Observe the attitude of the wait staff towards their customers. Do they seem pleasant and attentive? Are their uniforms neatly pressed? How often do they come back to check on your table? This is a fairly reliable indicator of the service that you will receive on the day of your event.
If the facility does not have an adjoining restaurant, you are perfectly within your rights to request a small sample tasting. Most facility managers should be happy to oblige.
Amenities & Special Features
Amenities may include any number of items such as a built in sound system, in house audiovisual equipment, valet parking, complementary floral arrangements, a mystery dinner theater or any special perk that sets that venue apart from others. It may be helpful for you to make a list of these features, so that you can compare the various sites that you have inspected. No facility is perfect. If you look hard enough, you are bound to find some small flaw in service or in the maintenance of the building. Use the following checklists as a guide for evaluating the facility as a whole. Do not drive yourself crazy looking for every rip and tear! Only you can decide what type of venue is right for your event. If you are sufficient enough to find a venue that meets all of your requirements and fits within your budget, you've hit the goldmine! However, this may not always be the case and some form of compromise may be required. For instance, you may choose one venue over another because it is more conveniently located for your guests, although you may have felt that the other site was more elegant. Only you can determine what factors will come into play when making your final decision.
Just remember the basics. The following should never be compromised:
1. Cleanness and proper maintenance of the facility both inside and outside.
2. Convenience and accessibility of location.
3. Attentive and courteous service.
4. Quality and presentation of catering.