Scouting out a location

Last week I scouted out a location for a future event that I am planning. This got me into thinking about what it is that I am looking out for.

First even before arriving and when travelling to the venue I think about how to get there and how to explain it to somebody. How to get there by car or by public transport? Where are car parks or parking garages? How far to walk to the next subway station? How to travel from main train station? Where would I need to put up signs? Taxi stand in the area? I am travelling there for the first time myself, so thats a good time to notice the little things which make the place easy or hard to find.

Next the venue itself. Where is the entrance? Back entrance from car park? Registration area? Coat check? Look at the basic infrastructure. Stairs, elevators, toilets, lockable room for storage and as back office. Hallways which can be used for coffee breaks and exhibitions. Then the lecture halls or seminar rooms. How big are they? How many people can fit in comfortably? Lights, windows, air conditioning, seating. Technical stuff like beamer and microphone setup.

Also I try to imagine what the place would be like in summer or winter, with a hot sun or when it is raining. Many places look great in sunshine, but when the weather is bad you don’t want to go outside.

Also important are catering facilities and hotels in the vicinity, but that is something for another post.

Most important I like to take plenty of photos. With a digital camera this is easy and cheap. The photos don’t have to be good quality, they are there just to help me remembering the place when I am back at the office. Photos are never enough to get a feeling for a place (especially not those carefully taken photos in glossy advertising material). But when you have been there the photos help with remembering. I also take photos of things that would never show up on a website or prospectus but which are important anyway: Storage rooms, hallways, generally the “backside” of things.

When I am walking through there, I keep trying to build the event in my head. Ok, here is where the registration would be. Here we could put three or four exhibition booths. Is this enough? Do we need a different room for that? This is where the speaker would be. Can the people in the back see the screen up front? In the break people would move from here to here. Where would the smokers go? Can we put coffee tables here or do they block the emergency exits?

The point is not to plan all the details, but to get a feeling for the place and whether it would fit. I think about where people will stand and move around so that I can see, where the exhibition space will be. Whether the rooms are too small or too big or just right. I also look for flexibility. What if there are more (or less) people than planned? Can we change something (seating layout, open additional rooms, etc.) to be flexible?

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