As the Site Development and Technical Services Production Manager at Event 360, I’ve spent more hours than I can count scouting and scouring the country in search of the perfect site. For some, when first assigned with the task of finding a site for an event, it can be overwhelming. But I’m here to say that with the right knowledge and preparation, it doesn’t have to be something that stresses you out.

Choosing a site that is a good fit for your event can be time consuming and frustrating. At the same time, it can be fun and rewarding. Let’s hop right in and take a quick look at the basic process of Event Site Development.

Your first move after the initial (or estimated) budget is in place, will be preparing a comprehensive checklist of critical facts and guidelines for the event. With this checklist in hand, you can save a lot of time throughout the procurement process, and assure yourself of securing a venue that fits your event’s needs.

Let’s get started by listing the elements, specifications and guidelines for the event which will help you determine the preferred size, location and special needs for your perfect site. Here are some important elements you’ll want to consider:

  • Preferred event location
  • Preferred date and time
  • Budget for site
  • Attendance projections
  • Size of parking area needed
  • Tents and structure size
  • Staging, sound and other audio/visual equipment
  • Game areas
  • Open areas (e.g. walkways, rest areas, etc.)
  • Infrastructure amenities
  • Food, beverage and dining area
  • Entertainment (e.g. live music, live dance)
  • Possible permits needed
  • Accessibility for large vehicles and heavy equipment.
  • Accessibility for attendees

Using the criteria list and total square footage for guidance, your next step is to get a list of sites together that you want to pursue. List the sites that you find in order of relevance and applicability. Your initial research will likely involve viewing and working with satellite maps, so it’s a must to know how to navigate sites such as Google Earth and Google Maps. Before physically going to visit these sites, find out as much information as you can about each one. Phone calls to and researching the websites of the site/venue can give you a good idea of its potential and if it’s worth pursuing. You want this part of the process to be efficient and do not want to waste time scouting sites in person that you have no chance of getting.

You have now narrowed your initial list of sites to a short list of sites that have great potential. It is time to physically go out and scout this short list of sites. If necessary, make arrangements to meet the owners or managers of the properties. Make sure that you have access to all areas of interest on your site visits.  Don’t forget a camera, measuring wheel, clip board and writing tools. Print a satellite picture of the area and bring any existing drawings that you obtained from the site owners. When visiting each site, drawing sketches, taking notes, measurements and pictures will help with mapping later on. You may have to generate an initial map for some site owners during this process. This may entail a quick rendition of the site with elements placed where you think they might work. Go through the criteria check list with the site owner and make notes of any concerns.

The flow of the site is of utmost importance. Your layout should give attendees the feeling that they are being pulled subliminally from area to area. You want a logical and un-stressful flow paying close attention to areas that have the potential to promote congestion, e.g. lines for food/ beverage and restrooms, or gathering areas around live entertainment.

In my experience some of the most important points to consider include:

  • Main entrances should be close to parking.
  • Determine what areas of the site need to be quiet, and what areas are good for a large sound system.
  • The stage location needs to be relatively flat and accessible, as do areas that have tents, tables and dining.
  • Restroom placement should be convenient but not ‘in your face’
  • Medical/First Aid should be easily accessible from outside the venue in case of emergencies, and at the same time, placed in a convenient spot for attendees.
  • Sight lines through the tents and at the stage should be considered not only for flow, but also for photo opportunities.
  • Look close at the slope of the land in all areas of the site and determine what will happen if it rains.  Work around areas that you believe will be affected.

After you have studied the site and feel that you have a good idea of how and where components should be placed, it is time to make the initial ‘official’ drawing of the site. Use a good 2D or 3D drawing program that allows you to work in scale since this is the only way that you will ever get an accurate rendition of the layout and a good feel for the actual flow space.

The preliminary planning for your event is key to finding the best site within your parameters. Those could be budget and location, or date and overall space. Knowing what is most important to your event, and doing your research in advance will make the site scouting experience easier for you and the site owners with which you work. Being organized also promotes the opportunity of securing a site that can be used year after year, allowing more time to focus on new elements to make your event successful.

Stay tuned for Event Site Development 102 where we will discuss site shortcuts, aesthetics and efficiencies to getting the most out of your budget.

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