Choosing and finding the right venue remains one of the biggest challenges Meetup organizers face all around the world. This article touches upon two key aspects. First, how you should think about a good venue. Second, how you can find one.
What makes a good venue?
Meetup groups gather in all sorts of environments: bars and cafes, office conference rooms, parks, school gymnasiums or auditoriums, and more. Different activities and communities naturally have different needs. You’ll want to think about the right fit for your context. However, there are a few commonalities across all good venues. Here are a list of traits and questions to ask yourself that can help you identify a good space.
Common “good” traits
- Attendees can easily find the event without getting lost. This applies both to the general location, as well as finding you within the location.
- The atmosphere feels comfortable and safe to attendees.
- The space adequately fits the number of attendees.
- All attendees, including those with disabilities, can access the space.
- Restrooms are available for any event over 30 minutes.
- The venue owners (if owned) know you are using the space and are happy to host you.
Questions to ask yourself when considering a venue
- Do you want to meet indoors or outdoors?
- Do you need a quiet space or can it be loud?
- Do you need to take over the space or can your attendees mingle in with others?
- Are food and drinks available, either to be purchased or brought into the venue?
- Do you need access to key utilities, be it electricity, Internet, or running water?
- Do you need a space to be furnished or are you looking to bring in your own chairs, tables, and other furniture?
- Do you need special equipment, whether microphones, speakers and projectors, or sports related items like basketball hoops or dance mirrors?
- Do you need secure storage space?
How do you find a good venue?
You’ve thought about the above questions. You might have attended a few similar meetup events to see what you liked or didn’t like about their venues. Once you have a guess as to what you want, what comes next?
- Get to know the area where you want to host your events. You can use Google Maps to uncover spaces in your desired area, including stores, studios, schools, community centers, libraries, and churches. Yelp is also a great resource, and the reviews often contain venue details you might not see on a space’s website, including whether it’s good for groups. Of course, you can also walk around and get a feel for the area. It can even be worth it to look at the tenant directory of a building you are interested in to see if there is a company worth approaching.
- Ask other organizers. Other Meetup organizers in your town, especially with the more longstanding groups, will have good and bad experiences with venues, so leverage their knowledge to get a step ahead.
- Ask your community. The members of your group are passionate about the same thing you are, so they likely already have some good ideas about where to go. Ask them to share their ideas . You may find someone with a connection to the perfect space.
- Visit the space. Whatever space you decide on, check it out in real life. Pictures, reviews, and recommendations can’t replace an actual experience.
- Approach the venue owner. Once you have a place in mind, approach the venue owner and see if they’re interested and what their terms and rules might be. Sometimes a venue owner’s motivation is as simple as “you pay them rent.” That said, if you aren’t paying rent, stay aware of their true goals. A bar or cafe might be happy to have more people come on an “off night,” but they’re still hoping that you order food and drinks. A tech company might let you host a coding meetup event because they’re looking to hire, as long as you are likely to have the kind of talent they’re hoping for.
Finding a venue can be a stressful part of an organizer’s job, but take heart—there are great spaces out there that are as keen to host you as you are keen to find a home. Before we finish up, there are a few more tips around venues we want to share:
- Capacity. Good spaces are like Goldilocks—you don’t want them too big or too small. But how do you know how many people will show up? First of all, you can set an RSVP limit to your event so that your event doesn’t get too big. You can also estimate the number of attendees based on the number of RSVPs you get. Every group is slightly different, but a general rule of thumb is that only 50% of RSVPs show up for free events, while 75% to 85% of RSVPs show up for paid ticketed events.
- Covering costs. There are lots of free venues out there, but sometimes it’s necessary or simply better to pay for a space. As an organizer, you don’t have to bear the brunt of that yourself. There are two places to look for help: your community, and sponsors. Your community can help cover costs with something as simple as a ticket price for the event, or monthly/annual dues. Many Meetup groups also have interested sponsors, who offer free use of their space and/or money to cover food and other costs for a great experience.
- Change and evolution. If you are starting a new group, it can take a little while to settle in on the format and specific focus that feels best for you and your community. The same thing goes for a choice of venue. If and as you change, your venue might need to change. But don’t fret, the right space is out there for you.
Cover image: Chicago Paint Your Pet and Sip
Last modified on June 23, 2021