Southern.California.corporate.entertainment.venues.jpgSouthern California corporate entertainment venues

I lost a gig earlier this month. Actually, “lost” is a bit extreme, since I never actually booked it – “lost out on” might be a more appropriate description. A prospective client called me up, and was seeking to throw a party intended for entertaining employees in Los Angeles. She loved our Website (which we’ve just recently spruced up! Do you like it?), and was really excited to learn we are now offering our team trivia for corporate groups in Southern California (read more here). But soon after sending in a proposal, I was told the unfortunate news: they would not be proceeding with TrivWorks.

The reason? Nothing to do with our offerings: it wasn’t too expensive, they weren’t opting for another corporate entertainment activity, the date didn’t conflict with anybody’s scheduled. No, it was something much more fundamental than that: they didn’t want to have to go anywhere.

This is something that I’ve run into many a time in fifteen years as a professional event planner and producer, particularly with respect to office entertainment events. I suspect now that I’ve relocated to Long Beach, CA to expand our offerings to the West Coast, I’m going to be running into this even more. Venue is perhaps the biggest decision an office party planner can make, one with repercussions which resonate down to every other aspect of the function. Frankly, having your gig offsite can be a big pain in the rear: the hassle of identifying and scoping out potential sites, the additional expense, and simply getting people there, it all adds up. Believe me, I get it.

I firmly believe that with a little effort and creativity, most any staid office can be transformed into a proper party setting. That said, not every event can be held onsite – and let’s be honest, not many people would choose to do it that way, if it can be avoided. Here are five useful tips for identifying and choosing a great venue for corporate entertainment in Southern California:

  • 1. Know Your Audience – Before you do a single thing towards getting the site selected, you MUST ask yourself: who are these people I’m planning an event for? What are their likes & dislikes? Are they younger, older, or a mix? Are they mostly commuters who live nearby, or are they all in town for a meeting or convention? Having a fully and complete understanding of exactly who will be there is crucial for determining your location, because they’re the ones participating! The goal is to give them a great experience, so keep them in mind from the outset of your preparations.
  • 2. Know Your Activity – It is tremendously valuable to know what your group will be doing, before you do it. Not every place is the same, and some have strengths and weaknesses which will impact whatever it is your audience will be engaged in. Does whatever you’ll be doing require a stage? How about microphones, overhead projectors, or other built-in AV requirements? Does the space have fixed seating, or is it a multipurpose area with different configurations available? Do you need access to the outdoors? Once you book the place, that’s it – so if you can answer the question, “what will be doing” BEFOREHAND, you will be in a far better position to host a successful function.
  • 3. Keep It Close – I’d mentioned that I recently lost out on a gig because the client didn’t want to travel anywhere, and that’s fine. However, if you ARE going to book an offsite space to host your party, I’d strongly recommend keeping it as close to the office or meeting area as possible. There are several practical reasons for this, most notably that people may be worn from a long day of work, sessions or travel, and do not necessarily not want to spend a lot of time in a vehicle. By hosting the event offsite and asking people to go there – even if you’ll be providing the transportation – you instantly increase your attrition rate, and will inevitably lose some people. You can mitigate this by choosing a place as close to where your participants are originating as possible.
  • 4. Get an Accurate Headcount Beforehand – Another important tip: know how many folks you are expecting. Oftentimes this is a given: we are a department of X, so we need a space that can hold X. But as you probably know, it’s not always that simple. People get added, back out, decide last minute to attend, and a whole other host of possibilities. The one disaster scenario (which I’ve unfortunately seen – and trust me, it IS a disaster) is having more people than the venue is prepared to receive, or even safely accommodate. Nobody wins in this case: the attendees are cramped and miserable, the people working the site are mad, and it all reflects poorly on you, the planner. The opposite is also the case, though to a lesser degree: a space that’s entirely too big for the group. No one enjoys feeling like they’re in a big, empty space, especially when it’s a party. It’s just awkward.
  • 5. Be Flexible – I’ve been doing this for a long time, and know that despite the greatest intentions and most ardent planning, not everything is going to go perfectly. Also, you’re never going to please everybody, including yourself! To this end, be as open and accommodating as possible when looking at your venue options. The best place may actually NOT be your first choice, believe it or not!

There are no guarantees when it comes to corporate party planning. Especially when you’re taking a risk on a new space or activity, you never know how it’s going to go, or how well it will be received by attendees. However, you can take the above steps at the outset to maximize the odds of success. Chances are, if you’ve selected a venue which is at the bare minimum appropriate to your group and activity, can safely and comfortably accommodate all of your attendees, and isn’t a schlep, you’ll have a group of very happy people!