Choose a venue like a pro by following these simple steps

Kevin Penner

Choose a venue like a pro by following these simple steps

Choosing a venue

Choosing a venue for your upcoming event can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here are some tips to help bring focus to the most important points.

Picking a prime location

The most important part of the equation is finding the right venue, something that fits your budget and your theme. Dedicated meeting venues are your best bet when there are so many small details involved in creating an amazing event. You don’t want to have to worry about infrastructure challenges on top of everything else.

Internet searches will yield lists of Hotels and Conference Centres (including all those venues with interesting websites on Trip Advisor).  You may feel satisfied that the search for a great venue is successfully underway after sending out a few emails. However, there are likely a lot of factors you have not yet considered. Of course, those are the same ones that might come back to bite you right around the time of your event.

Event planning takes patience

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to research Trip Advisor results and visit venues in person. Instead, it’s a good idea to sit down with your event committee first to discuss a few key points.  If you don’t even have an event committee yet, then you need to back things up even a little further. Anyone new to choosing a venue will find tons of useful information in my in-depth articles and e-books in our Learning Zone

Okay, have you formed a committee, done some research, and implemented a few key points? If so, you are finally ready to do some event planning. Your first and most important decision is still choosing the ideal venue. Let’s dive into understanding the key differences in the three main venue types:


Hotels usually consist of dozens or even hundreds of hotel rooms as well as a place to swim and stays may include complimentary breakfast. They are generally not the best solution for hosting group events due to a lack of meeting space and catering facilities.  Suitable A/V equipment and other technological conveniences may also be hard to track down.

Conference centers

Large complexes located near your city center probably come to mind when you think of conference centers. These vast spaces where conventions and major events are hosted usually include ballrooms and meeting areas.  They often need to refer guests to local hotels for overnight accommodations since their main focus is on the meeting, not sleeping space.

Retreat centers

Retreats usually offer accommodation, meals, and activities, and tend to be the most relaxed venue category. The best retreats boast luxurious guest rooms, generous meeting facilities, and flexible dining options, often situated in outdoorsy, natural settings. Conveniences such as daily maid service, menus, and wake-up calls generally are usually not included.  Retreats are often the least expensive option in terms of affordability when choosing a venue. Many venues today are now offering things like Painting Nights and Fitness Hikes, which encourage people to have fun and generate lots of positive energy.

Hybrid accommodations

One of the newest and most interesting venue categories is the so-called hybrid meeting space.  Blending venue types has become more popular in recent years as the group event trend continues to grow.  These hybrids are often categorized as “Retreats and Conference Centers” or “Hotel and Conference facilities”.

I believe the hybrid solution to be the most exciting option when it comes to choosing a venue. Combination retreat and conference centers provide all of the convenience and luxury of traditional accommodations. They are also well-equipped to provide large meals and generous meeting room spaces.  Generally, Hotel and Conference Centres cost more money than Retreat and Conference Centres because of amenities such as daily maid service. Some high-end retreat centers offer this option as well, in which case the deciding factor usually comes down to location.

Hotels are often found in proximity to a city or major center, while Retreat and Conference Centres tend to be situated in more scenic settings surrounded by parks and rivers.  Retreat & Conference centers should most likely be your focus, particularly if your budget is limited or you are looking for a group bonding experience.

Nearby amenities

If your goal is to fit as much face time as possible in for your event attendees, it’s important to ensure that any surrounding amenities or outside entertainment does not interfere with or detract from your plans. An audience that is somewhat captive is generally the dream of event organizers. Attention to such factors encourages your group to stay together and focused on building personal connections and instilling the values that the event is meant to foster.

Consider building nearby amenities that are conducive to your team-building goals into your scheduled agenda. Outings like golf, rafting, curling and group hikes are all highly effective ways of strengthening the bonds between people.

Travel convenience

Make sure the venue you choose is conveniently located for everyone attending.  As a general rule of thumb, I like to suggest ensuring travel time of 90 minutes or less for events of three nights or shorter durations. For those flying in, try to choose a venue within 1.5 hours of the airport.  If people are expected to travel two or three hours to attend your weekend talk, chances are you will lose out on sign-ups and participation.

Meeting room and venue capacity

Any venue must be chosen according to the size of the conference and how many attendees are expected to attend. Beyond these factors, the layout, meeting space requirements, available natural lighting, and even the views from the various rooms are all variables to consider.

Meeting rooms

Whether a small workshop for a dozen participants or a larger conference for a few hundred people, you want to right-size your event to the facility you choose.  You don’t want 20 people rattling around in rooms meant to hold 100 or, even worse, try to squeeze 300 people into a room intended for 250.

Breakout spaces

Will you be needing any “breakout rooms”?  These small spaces can be booked alongside larger meeting areas and used for smaller committee meetings, interviews, or even for administration.


The availability of such technological conveniences and equipment such as wi-fi, video projectors, and audio systems must be carefully considered. Check to make sure your wi-fi is free, un-metered, and reliably available both in meeting and guest areas.  With today’s well-distributed network of internet coverage, the days of being expected to paying extra for wi-fi are long over.


One of the biggest challenges can be finding a quality venue within your budget, so be adaptable to looking for options outside the box. Hybrid configurations usually offer the best value, with Retreat and Conference Centres likely charging the lowest cost per attendee. City by-laws will often levy hotel or conference taxes, which can be great motivation for hosting your event outside the city. Search the internet for lesser-known facilities. These little gems are often the venues that can make your event stand out.  If the salesperson you are talking with seems to be vague or otherwise not forthcoming on prices, take it as a sign to move on. Remember to ask about their deposit requirements and any hidden fees.

Food catering

Focus on traditional, high-quality foods that are likely to appeal to the majority of attendees.  Meals that are fairly priced and served without too much delay will leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth.  House specialties, on-site-catering, and an enjoyable mealtime atmosphere can also make all the difference. These subjects are also thoroughly covered in my article,  Your Event Planning Guide-Catering.


Try to have at least two or three backup dates ready in case the venue you’re leaning towards isn’t available for your first choice. Flexibility is key when narrowing your options down to just the right facility.  In addition to accommodation requirements, check on the availability of meeting and guest rooms, food services, and any extra entertainment or activities that can be added to enhance your stay.

Customer service

Event managers must be polite, knowledgeable and have friendly support staff in order to maximize the value and enjoyment for guests who choose their venue. Look to sources such as video testimonials, Trip Advisor reviews, and other online accommodation ratings to assess their track record.


We hope you’ve picked up some valuable tips for choosing a venue that will make your event a complete success. Check out our Learning Zone, with a special focus on Retreats, Gatherings and Conferences, for more ideas and suggestions for coordinating awesome group events.

Wilderness edge amenities
Group of people

Large meeting rooms


143 guest rooms


Catered meals

Location pin

One hour from Winnipeg

Located in Pinawa, East Whiteshell Provincial Park


25+ outdoor activities

Rafting, canoe rentals, snow boarding, hiking trails, etc.


Team building

Rafting, canoe rentals, snow boarding, hiking trails, etc.

High tempurature

Hot tub

Spa / sauna


Parked car

Free Parking

Fire pit





Walking trails

Convenience store

Convenience store

Credit card

nearby ATM


Golf Course

Umbrella on a beach



Pickle ball

Tenis ball


Plan everything in one place

A super simple dashboard for you and your attendees

Pair of people

Easily share with anyone

Open book

Attendee self sign-up option


Special organizer pricing

Start planning now
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