Start with the venue when planning an event

I start looking for the venue even before I know what my budget is. I usually have a rough idea of the maximum I can spend without living off two-minute noodles, but I only draw up a budget once I know what place I’m working with. After all, you need a venue to host your event and you don’t know how much you’ll have to spend on making things awesome until you have the basics covered.

10 venue basicsVenue infographic

When you choose a venue it doesn’t matter how safe the place really is. If a venue is in the CBD, less people will come because the city centre feels unsafe.

I’m always convinced it will rain, so I’m weary of outdoor events. It only rained one Upcon; I felt completely vindicated as the pouring rain drained down my back as I lifted the 15th box of mugs out my car. Depending on your event, rain might not be a complete wash out. But if you’re organising anything where people bring collectibles (wargaming, collectible card gaming) or fancy outfits (cosplay and wedding), I recommend a roof.

The plugs are for stalls at a geek event, and for fancy lights and such at a wedding. When I worked in the con kitchen (2004), most stalls only took cash. By the time I skipped out on organising (2014), almost every stall had a card reader or cellphone system. You also need power points for your electronics like screens, microphones and keeping your phone charged. You’ll also be surprised how many plugs you use in a kitchen.

Start the budget with how much you can spend

If you’re starting a small geek event as an individual, you are your own funding. If possible, don’t go into debt since small conventions usually don’t make money. The money you do make goes into growing the geek event for the next year.

I inherited Upcon (University of Pretoria Convention). The university had a project pool and you could apply for funding for a project. Even so, when I first got involved the committee, friends of the con, and occasionally family, used to lend the convention money. We’d pay them back by the afternoon of the first day. Over time, we built a small nest egg after the university let us have the venue for free.

The Catch-22 of event venues

Google isn’t that helpful for convention venues. It will show you the most expensive venues first. That’s because they have the best advertising budget and SEO. They usually have all my ten basics.

If you pay more for a nicer venue, people are more likely to attend. However, you have to push up your stall and entry fees to make up for the venue devouring your budget. Higher fees means people are less likely to attend.

One of the reasons Upcon could keep its stall and door fees so low was because we first got the university venue at a huge discount, and later years for free. If you have a larger event and a fancier venue like ICON – comic and game convention at Gallagher Estate, you have to balance it with higher entry and stall fees.

I never thought I’d say this, but this is where a wedding’s easier. The whole budget is for spending and I don’t have to dream up a single way to make the money back.

Convention: 0

Wedding: 1

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