Are you in search of the ideal venue for your next conference? As an event organiser, you will understand the significance of choosing a venue that aligns seamlessly with your event objectives and ensures a memorable experience for delegates. However, the task of finding the perfect venue can be daunting as you navigate a multitude of choices while managing concerns like capacity, location, facilities, and budget.
This guide will provide you with valuable insights and considerations on the importance of choosing the right venue, from evaluating capacity to ensuring accessibility requirements are met for delegates. As event industry experts, we’ve got the essentials covered to make choosing your event venue straightforward and stress free.
When To Start Looking For An Event Venue
The most successful and well coordinated conferences initiate their venue sourcing process early on. The choice of venue will impact event planning, therefore it is advised to begin searching for a suitable venue as soon as possible. For instance, if you’re organising a large-scale conference for more than 500 attendees, it is recommended to begin the venue search at least two years in advance. This timeline allows for negotiation, contract signing, and planning other elements such as logistics, accommodation, and marketing campaigns.
However, it's important to note that specific timeframes for finding an event venue can vary depending on the type and scale of the event. For example, a product launch may require a shorter lead time as the focus is more on showcasing the product rather than accommodating a large number of attendees.
Top 10 Considerations For Choosing An Event Venue
Choosing the right venue for an event is important as it sets the stage and impacts logistics, attendee comfort, and overall experience. The venue's location, size, amenities, and atmosphere can significantly influence the event's success and how it resonates with attendees.
These are our top tips for choosing the right venue:
Date and seasonality
Size and capacity
Layout and aesthetics
Parking and accessibility
Services and facilities
1. Venue cost
Cost is paramount to event venue selection given its significant impact on the overall event budget. Venues typically account for a substantial proportion of the allocated funds, making it crucial to carefully assess and manage costs. Various factors influence venue costs, including the type of space required, such as exhibition halls, as well as additional services and facilities desired. Seasonality can also affect pricing, with certain times of the year offering greater scope for negotiation. Moreover, factors like location, size, duration of the event, event production and marketing can all contribute to the overall venue costs. By diligently considering these factors, organisers can make informed decisions that ensure the budget supports the delivery of all event objectives.
ICC Belfast tips for success
Here are our three top tips for event planners to negotiate with their preferred event venue:
Be flexible with dates: Explore different dates and times for your event, including weekdays, off-peak seasons, or non-traditional times. Venues often offer discounted rates for booking events years in advance or if multi-year deals are required allowing you to secure a more favourable price.
Compare multiple venues: Research and obtain quotes from multiple venues that meet your requirements. Destinations and venues often offer conference support, so make sure this is discussed at an early stage of the selection process.
Consider package deals: Enquire about package deals that include additional services such as hospitality, audio-visual equipment, or event marketing. Combing these services with the venue hire can result in cost savings or added value.
Look out for:
Hidden Fees: Be as detailed and specific as possible when communicating your requirements and provide examples of what you’ve done previously if possible. This allows venues to provide you with a more comprehensive quote from the outset and avoids potentially ‘hidden fees’ for services such as cleaning and security being added retrospectively.
2. Venue Location
The location of an event venue holds great importance due to several practical considerations. Accessibility is a key factor, with proximity to airports and well-connected public transport routes ensuring convenient travel for attendees. Choosing the right location enhances the overall experience for attendees and minimises logistical challenges.
ICC Belfast offers superb access to overseas visitors boasting two local airports and Dublin Airport, which is just 90 minutes away. Additionally, our location is just a few minutes’ walk from Lanyon Place train station, multiple bus stops, and secure car parking facilities.
Here are our three tips for event planners when deciding on a location for their event:
Consider accessibility: Choose a location that offers easy accessibility for attendees. Look for venues near transportation hubs, such as airports or train stations, and ensure there are convenient public transport options available.
Understand the target audience: Take into account the demographics and preferences of your target audience. Consider their geographical distribution and choose a location that is appealing to them.
Assess event requirements: Evaluate the specific requirements of your event and ensure the chosen location can meet them. Consider factors such as venue capacity, layout, amenities, and technical infrastructure. If your event involves specific needs, such as breakout rooms or exhibition space, ensure the venue can accommodate them effectively.
Look out for:
Lack of accessibility and transportation options: Beware of event venue locations that lack convenient accessibility and transportation options. If the venue lacks nearby public transport links, it can pose significant challenges for attendees, leading to lower attendance and overall dissatisfaction.
3. Date and seasonality
Careful consideration of dates and seasonality is necessary when planning an event due to several factors that can significantly impact its success. The choice of the event date, including the day of the week and time of day, can affect attendee availability and engagement. Venue availability is also influenced by seasonality, with popular venues often booked well in advance for peak seasons.
ICC Belfast tips for success:
Here are our three tips for event planners when deciding on a date to host their event:
Research competing events: Check for any major industry or community events that may be taking place around the same time. Avoid scheduling your event on conflicting dates to prevent a clash of audiences and potential competition for attendees.
Consider target audience availability: Understand the availability and preferences of your target audience including keynote speakers and stakeholders. Consider work schedules, holidays, and cultural or religious observances.
Allow for adequate preparation time: Event planners should factor in sufficient preparation time when finalising the event date. Consider the complexity of the event, the time required for logistics and planning, and any necessary lead time for promotional activities.
Look out for:
Conflicting industry events: Event planners should be cautious of choosing a date that coincides with an event happening in the same industry. Scheduling your event on a date that directly competes with another significant event can lead to divided attendance, reduced participation, and may make sponsor and exhibitor recruitment more challenging.
4. Size and capacity
Venue size and capacity are important factors to consider when planning an event as they directly impact the comfort and overall experience of attendees. It is essential to ensure that the venue's capacity, including legal occupancy limits, can accommodate the expected number of attendees without overcrowding. By carefully evaluating and matching the venue's size and capacity to the event's needs, event planners can create an environment that, promotes interaction, maximises networking opportunities and most importantly, is compliant with all safety requirements.
ICC Belfast tips for success: Here are our three tips for choosing a venue with the right size and capacity to suit the number of people attending the event:
Estimate attendance -Begin by estimating the number of attendees expected at your event. Consider factors such as target audience, event type, and historical data if available. Having a reasonable estimate will guide you in selecting a venue that can comfortably accommodate the anticipated crowd.
Consult venue capacity - Check the capacity specifications of potential venues you are considering. Review their maximum occupancy limits and ensure they align with your estimated attendance.
Consider flexibility - Opt for a venue that offers flexibility in terms of space options. Look for venues with different room sizes or configurable layouts that can be adjusted based on your attendance requirements. This flexibility allows you to adapt the space to match your needs and ensures a comfortable and appropriately sized environment for your event.
Look out for:
Inflexible or fixed room layouts - The ability to dynamically tailor the spaces booked will allow you to influence attendee behaviour. For example having catering points located throughout the exhibition will increase delegate circulation in these areas.
5. Layout and aesthetics
The venue layout, style, and aesthetics play a decisive role in choosing an event venue as they contribute to creating a captivating atmosphere and leaving a lasting impression on attendees. The first impression of the venue sets the tone for the entire event and can significantly impact attendees' overall experience. The layout of the venue should be carefully considered to ensure it aligns with the event's purpose and objectives, catering to the specific needs of the target audience. A well-designed venue layout helps facilitate the flow of the event, allowing for seamless transitions between different areas, such as registration, sessions, and networking spaces.
ICC Belfast tips for success: Here are our three tips for using venue layout and style to your advantage when planning events:
Look out for:
Estimate attendance: Begin by estimating the number of attendees expected at your event. Consider factors such as target audience, event type, and historical data if available. Having a reasonable estimate will guide you in selecting a venue that can comfortably accommodate the anticipated crowd.
Consult venue capacity: Check the capacity specifications of potential venues you are considering. Review their maximum occupancy limits and ensure they align with your estimated attendance.
Consider flexibility: Opt for a venue that offers flexibility in terms of space options. Look for venues with different room sizes or configurable layouts that can be adjusted based on your attendance requirements. This flexibility allows you to adapt the space to match your needs and ensures a comfortable and appropriately sized environment for your event.
Inflexible or fixed room layouts: The ability to dynamically tailor the spaces booked will allow you to influence attendee behaviour. For example having catering points located throughout the exhibition will increase delegate circulation in these areas.
Consider flow and functionality: Evaluate the layout of the venue and consider how it can be optimised for the flow of your event. Designate specific areas for registration, sessions, exhibition, networking, and catering, ensuring a logical and smooth transition between spaces.
Reflect the event theme or brand: Use the venue's style and aesthetics to reinforce your event's theme or brand identity. Incorporate decor, lighting, and signage that align with the desired atmosphere and messaging.
Enhance visual appeal: Pay attention to the visual appeal of the venue by incorporating elements such as lighting effects, captivating displays, and eye-catching focal points. Striking visuals can create a memorable experience and leave a lasting impression on attendees.
A venue that doesn’t match the atmosphere of your event: The ambience created by the venue's layout and aesthetics should align with the desired tone of the event. An added bonus of ICC Belfast’s central location and panoramic city views is that delegates experience a true sense of the destination inside and outside the venue.
Event planners should carefully consider the acoustics of different venues as it significantly impacts the overall event experience. Acoustics refers to how sound moves and interacts within a space. Depending on the type of event, such as conferences, presentations, or live performances the quality of acoustics can greatly affect engagement. Good acoustics ensure clear and intelligible sound, allowing participants to hear and understand speakers without strain. On the other hand, poor acoustics can result in sound distortion, echo, or excessive noise, leading to difficulties in communication. By selecting a venue with favourable acoustics, event planners can create an immersive and enjoyable auditory experience.
Here are our three tips for finding an events venue with suitable acoustics:
Think about the audience size in relation to room size: By matching the audience size to an appropriately sized room, event planners can ensure that the sound is distributed evenly and reaches all attendees, creating a more immersive and engaging auditory experience.
Enquire about speaker options: Different speakers may have specific requirements, such as microphones, sound systems, or stage setups, to deliver their presentations effectively.
Technical capabilities and support: Assess the technical capabilities of the venue in terms of audio equipment and support. Ensure that the venue has qualified technical staff who can assist with sound setup, troubleshooting, and monitoring during the event. Adequate technical support is essential to optimise sound quality and address any issues promptly.
Look out for:
Excessive echo or reverberation: Excessive echo or reverberation in an event venue is a common issue that event planners should be wary of. Event planners should listen for any noticeable echo or reverberation during a site visit or ask for testimonials from previous events to ensure that the venue's acoustics are suitable for their specific needs.
7. Parking and accessibility
Event planners should carefully consider the parking facilities and overall accessibility of an event venue before booking to ensure a smooth and inclusive experience for all attendees. Event venues should have designated parking areas that can accommodate various vehicle sizes, including buses or larger vehicles. Additionally, considering the accessibility of the venue is crucial. Event planners should ensure that there are accessible entrances, ramps, and elevators available for disabled guests, elderly individuals, or those with mobility challenges.
Here are our three tips for accessing parking and accessibility facilities at event venues:
Identify nearby parking opportunities: Adequate parking is essential to ensure convenience and ease of access for participants.
Determine whether the space is suitable for audience accessibility needs: Consider the accessibility requirements of your audience, including individuals with disabilities, elderly attendees, or those with specific mobility needs. Check if the venue has accessible entrances, ramps, elevators, and restroom facilities.
Assess public transportation options: Evaluate the accessibility and availability of public transportation near the venue.
Look out for:
Inadequate accessible parking or facilities: Insufficient accessible parking spaces or inaccessible routes from the parking area to the venue can create challenges for attendees with disabilities or mobility limitations. Event planners should ensure that the venue has designated accessible parking spaces that comply with accessibility regulations and are conveniently located near accessible entrances.
Opting for a venue that provides comprehensive in-house services can prove to be advantageous in several ways. Firstly, having in-house services such as catering, audiovisual equipment, and event staff can minimise the need for outsourcing, simplifying the planning process and potentially reducing costs. By relying on the venue's in-house services, event planners can streamline coordination, communication, and logistics, ensuring a more efficient event flow. Moreover, in-house services often come with the benefit of familiarity with the venue, ensuring a smoother execution and integration of various elements.
ICC Belfast tips for success:
Here are our three tips for choosing a venue with comprehensive services and facilities:
Choose a venue with a strong Wi-Fi connection: In today's digital age, a reliable and strong Wi-Fi connection is essential for events. Ensure that the venue offers a robust Wi-Fi network that can support the connectivity needs of your attendees, such as live streaming, online registrations, social media engagement, and interactive activities.
Enquire about hospitality options: The food and beverage offering will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about aspects of your event. When selecting a date and venue, enquire about the menu options available such as day delegate rates or retail catering options. Assess the quality and variety of menu options and ensure provision is made for specific dietaries to ensure that the venue can meet the culinary expectations of your attendees.
Find out any connections the venue has with entertainment: Entertainment can enhance the overall experience of an event. A venue with established connections can provide you with recommendations or even assist in arranging entertainment options that align with your event’s theme, audience, and atmosphere. Check out ICC Belfast’s sister venues Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall.
Look out for:
Venues with outdated tech and AV equipment: Watch out for event venues that do not continually invest in their technological capabilities. Outdated or malfunctioning tech can result in technical difficulties during presentations, poor sound quality, or disruptions in visual displays, impacting the overall attendee experience.
Event planners should consider accommodation options close to their chosen event venue for several reasons. Firstly, certain event types, such as conferences, trade shows, or multi-day seminars, often require attendees to stay overnight. Having accommodation options nearby allows participants to conveniently access the event and avoid lengthy travel times, ensuring they are well-rested and ready to engage. Providing a range of options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly accommodations, allows attendees to choose what suits their needs and financial capabilities. Moreover, proximity to the event venue can facilitate networking and socialisation among attendees outside of event hours, fostering a sense of community and enhancing the overall event experience.
Here are our three tips for choosing a venue with extensive accommodation options:
Proximity and convenience: The proximity of the venue to various accommodation options is a significant factor to consider. Look for venues situated in city centre or central locations.
Capacity and variety: Consider the capacity and variety of accommodation options available near the venue. Different attendees may have varying preferences and requirements when it comes to accommodation. Ensure that the nearby accommodations cater to a range of budgets, from budget-friendly options to luxury hotels, to accommodate the diverse needs of attendees.
Special arrangements and packages: Check if the venue or accommodation providers offer special arrangements or packages for event attendees. Some venues have partnerships or agreements with nearby accommodations, which may result in discounted rates, special packages, or exclusive perks for event participants.
Look out for:
Limited availability of nearby accommodation: If there are only a few hotels or accommodation options near the event venue, it may pose challenges for attendees to secure suitable lodging. Limited availability can lead to inflated prices, difficulty in finding accommodations that meet attendees’ preferences and budgets, and potential dissatisfaction among participants.
Incorporating sustainability into the overall event programme aligns with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. Event planners can start by selecting venues that have a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, such as those with green certifications or eco-friendly practices. Additionally, sourcing from local and sustainable suppliers can reduce the event's carbon footprint by minimising transportation distances and supporting local communities. Considering energy-efficient facilities, waste management systems, and sustainable food and beverage options further contribute to the venue's sustainability efforts.
In January 2022, ICC Belfast became the first green meetings certified venue on the island of Ireland, reflecting our investment in sustainability and commitment to the development of a sustainable tourism plan, in line with Belfast’s transformational resilience strategy.
Here are our three tips for event planners who want to consider sustainable event venues:
Look for eco-friendly certifications: Choose event venues that have obtained recognised eco-friendly certifications. These certifications indicate that the venue follows sustainable practices and meets certain environmental standards.
Assess energy-efficient features: Consider event venues that prioritise energy efficiency. Look for features such as energy-efficient lighting systems, renewable energy sources, and smart HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems. These features can help reduce energy consumption and minimise the environmental impact of your event.
Evaluate waste management practices: Opt for venues that have effective waste management systems in place. Ensure they have recycling and composting programs, as well as measures to minimise single-use plastics and packaging waste.
Look out for:
Venues with poor waste management and recycling practices: If the venue does not have proper systems in place for waste segregation, recycling, and responsible disposal, it indicates a lack of commitment to sustainable practices. Event planners should inquire about the venue's waste management policies, recycling programs, and if they work in partnership with any third-party companies or charitable organisations.
Event Venue Checklist
Download our ‘10 Considerations For Choosing An Event Venue’ checklist.
Northern Ireland’s only purpose-built international convention centre
ICC Belfast stands as a state-of-the-art event venue in the heart of Belfast that offers competitive pricing, a prime location, flexibility in dates, ample space, captivating aesthetics, superior acoustics, convenient parking and accessibility, comprehensive services, nearby accommodation options, and a commitment to sustainability. Event planners can trust ICC Belfast to deliver exceptional experiences for larger-scale events.