This is a guest blog post by Howard Givner, Executive Director of the Event Leadership Institute

You’re planning a product launch and it needs to be held at a cool location to show how cutting-edge your brand is.

It’ll be a theater-style presentation for 30 minutes, followed by a reception for 300 media, customers, and other guests.

A nightclub is perfect, right? It’s the trendy, chic place everyone reads about in the gossip columns, but that no one you know is cool enough to get into. During the day, however, it sits empty, and they’d love to host your meeting and reception.

The manager shows you the club’s two rooms, one of which has great audio/visual capabilities built in and would be perfect for the presentation. The other is gorgeous but seems like it might be tight for the reception.

No problem, he says. Last Saturday night they had 500 in that room dancing up a storm.

Well, he’s the manager, you think. He should know his own club’s capacities, right?

Doubtful.

Keep this in mind …

Nightclubs are designed for elbow-to-elbow dancing, hobnobbing, and flirting. Those 500 people were probably packed in a lot tighter than your VIP guests are accustomed to. The expectation of comfort is significantly lower for the paying nightclub guest than it is for the top customer invited to your reception.

And that assumes all 500 nightclub patrons were there at the same time, which is unlikely.

Club managers focus on the number of paying guests in a given night, and rarely pay attention to the fact that people come and go during the course of the evening. Maybe 500 people entered the club over a six-hour period, but the maximum number of people at any given time was only 200.

Get references of other meetings and receptions held there. Get a floor plan and do the proper analysis yourself. (There are a number of calculators available that can help with this, such as the Super Planner mobile app.)

Or maybe an art gallery would be better?

High ceilings, pristine white walls, great lighting, and polished hardwood floors are all common features of art galleries. That could be just what you need.

Having learned your lesson at the nightclub, you ask for a floor plan with square footage. You measure it and confirm its accuracy. The space seems more than ample for your event, right?

Not quite.

Did you check the restrooms? An art gallery’s got lots of space, but it’s designed for low traffic — maybe a handful of wealthy collectors and buyers. Maybe 300 people could physically fit comfortably in the space, but don’t be surprised when you find two single-stall bathrooms. That’s probably plenty during the gallery’s normal course of business, but no match for 300 people who are going to be served drinks.

Along those lines, what about a registration area, and coat check? You need to earmark space for those things, which may have to be deducted from the gross square footage you’ve been dealing with.

The bottom line

Picking the right venue for an event isn’t just about choosing the coolest or nicest place. You also have to pick the one that will best fit your guests.

Gauging accurate capacity is key for insuring your event fits properly in your chosen venue.

For more information, check out the Event Leadership Institute’s video class on Alternative Venues, taught by Adam Sloyer, of Sequence Events. Here’s a clip:

How do you choose the best venue for your events? Share your tips in the comments section below. And for more insights, “Like” the Constant Contact Event Marketing Page on Facebook.