Tag Archives: venue

The 10 Tips on Choosing a Venue for Social Events

My group Nashville Hiking Meetup (and I’m sure many others) plans regular social events throughout the year in order to keep the group connected. Although we’re not a social group by definition, getting people together apart from our outdoor events is a key goal.

Social events have many benefits: existing members can re-connect with folks they may not have seen in a while, new members can get a feel for the group and meet existing members without having to take the leap on a long day hike with us, and a leader can use these events for making special announcements or giving awards.

Drink a Pint Night (September 2012) with Nashville Hiking Meetup at Sam’s in Nashville, TN by Reiner Venegas

But how do you choose a location? After several years of successful social events, we’ve learned a few things about picking a venue:

  1. Determine and document your basic requirements of any venue:
    • Number of people you generally have RSVP and whether you can fit comfortably in a venue.
    • Location or proximity to city center.
    • Parking or public transportation convenience.
    • Food and alcohol choices.
    • The image of a venue and how it matches your group. We’re a hiking and outdoor club so I don’t see us having a social at a swanky hotel.
  2. Figure out how much variety you want. You may meet at the same place every other month and alternate with a new place on those off months.
  3. Seek out unconventional locations. Not all socials need to happen at a restaurant or bar. We’ve had events at members’ homes, fitness clubs, car dealerships, and park picnic sites.
  4. Seek out new places by word-of-mouth. Ask other meetup leaders what venues have worked for them.
  5. Seek out places that may be willing to make you a deal. A brand new restaurant may be more likely to book your event in order to get the exposure. Also, monitor Groupon and other daily deal offers. This often indicates a willingness to get people in the door.
  6. For a restaurant or bar, book on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. These are typically the slowest nights and a manager is likely more willing to work with you.
  7. A large party sometimes scares the manager of a venue. Quite often they’ve been burned in the past (75 people promised and only 10 show up). Offer one of your previous venue contacts as a reference. I know this sounds unconventional—a manager calling a competitor—but quite often just making that offer will convince the manager you’re real.
  8. Create a short list of the best venues you’ve worked with including contact information and share this with your leadership team (in case you’re not available to run a social in the future).
  9. Locally owned restaurants and bars almost always have more flexibility in offering specials and discounts. If you can, avoid the chains who often have to “check with corporate” before they can give you a drink special, for instance.
  10. In very, very few cases, and only when you really want a venue, make a deposit guaranteeing sales. Risky, but will get noticed.

Tips for successful relationships with venues:

  • Communicate often with your contact at the venue.
  • Encourage your members to tip the wait staff (and tip well if appropriate). This is the best way to get welcomed back and get exceptional service the next time.
  • Scout the venue ahead of time if you’ve not been there and arrive early on the day of your event.
  • Afterward, follow up with the venue contact to communicate any problems. Don’t trash the venue on the social networks. Work out your issues directly with venue management first.
  • Follow up with the venue contact afterward to see if they’re happy. This may seem counterintuitive—you and your members as customers should be happy—but you won’t believe how far this goes to solidify a relationship. This is sort of like a reverse Yelp: “please give me a review of my group.”
  • Promote the venue before and after the event. Make clear mention of the establishment in your event posting, on Facebook and Twitter, and in any email you send to members.

What advice to you have on choosing locations for social events?

 

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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Adding value

By guest blogger Eve

Call me lazy.

It’s true: One of the reasons I like to do things with Meetups is that the leaders do some of the work for me. If it’s hiking, they scout the trail, and they figure out times and trains/carpools. If it’s eating, they find out about new restaurants, and they make the dinner reservations.

Hiking boots!

I went on a hike this past weekend that used mass transit to get us to the hike. However, this wasn’t a simple “get off the train and go,” as the park was a mile from any stop. The leader had spent a lot of time (including a scouting trip) to find the closest transit and then to find palatable routes to the park, minimizing road walking. Even if I had been willing, I don’t know the area well enough to have done that kind of planning. The group enabled me to see an area I thought was off-limits without a car. That is one reason I hike with a group.

But I see far too many Meetup events like this one:

You are responsible for your own travel to [out-of-town location]. You need to make your own reservations for the campground. You can choose the route you want to go; we will not hike together.

At that point, I scratch my head and ask, “Why I am hiking with a group?”

The key to your job as an organizer is in the name – organizer. That means it’s up to you to do more than pick a day and expect people to show up.

To be fair, an organizer can’t do everything. Nashville Hiking Meetup has held events at campgrounds without group sites, meaning that members had to book their own campsites. But NHM provides carpools and plans group outings for these events. For restaurant and movie meetups, it’s reasonable to expect members to buy their own food or tickets. And yes, given a map and an address, your members should be able to find their own way – to local events.

If you are asking your members to do much more than that, you are abdicating your responsibilities as an organizer. I know it’s a lot of work – I’ve done it. But that’s one advantage of having a deep leadership pool; you don’t have to do it every time.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a checklist of “the things a leader must organize on every event.” Events are too varied for that. As a general guideline, however, if the event is out of town or longer than a day, you should take some of the planning work out of the attendees’ hands. Arrange carpools (and let members opt out if they wish). Reserve a group site. Plan group activities. Give drivers turn-by-turn directions. Arrange group deals with a specific outfitter.

While many people use meetups to meet new people, the job of the organizer doesn’t stop with saying, “Come, meet cool people here at this time.” He or she has to add some additional value, and most of that value comes from the behind-the-scenes work of organizing and planning.

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Eve is an experienced trip leader with several meetups and is an Oregon/Tennessee transplant living and working in New York City. See Eve’s Google+ profile here.

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