Select a venue
You want to choose a space that suits the needs of your audience, theme and event type. It’s always wise to be selective about this decision.
Here are some guiding principles to follow when it comes to finding and choosing your event space:
Strive for intimacy and comfort
It’s important to balance the size of your space with the size of your audience. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, but you want to create enough space to give people room to stretch, mingle and breathe.
Keep it simple
Remember that the venue will set the tone of your event. Don’t choose a space that’s easy to get lost in.
Know your scale and ambitions
Work with your budget manager to figure out what you can afford for your event space. Can you get a space donated? Is your venue union-operated? This may impact your budget.
Here’s an event checklist to use when scouting an event space:
- An ability to project and watch videos
- A stage for the host and live speakers
- A location for food and beverage setup
- Conveniently located bathrooms
- Exhibit space for sponsor materials, speakers, a bloggers’ lounge, etc.
- Party space for sponsored lunches and other events
Venues based on event size
If you hold a smaller event (under 100 guests) ...
- Select a cozy venue. You don't want your guests to feel like they're drowning in the space. It should be an intimate and comfortable gathering where they can easily connect with the people sitting next to them.
- Look for a site that is wide rather than deep, with the shortest possible distance from audience members to the stage, like a theater or an auditorium (as opposed to a conference hall). This helps create a connection between the speakers and the audience, and among all the audience members.
- If you don’t have a theater-style space and your event is small enough, think of any intimate venues you have access to (or even a big room in a venue you know and like) where you may be able to set up your own seats.
- The best venues for smaller events include small auditoriums, hotel conference rooms, theaters, “white box” spaces (think art gallery!), and private music venues.
If you hold a larger event (over 100 guests) ...
- Confirm that your TEDx license allows you to invite more than 100 people.
- The longer and larger your event, the more challenging it is to create intimacy. Remember: your goal is not to secure the largest venue you can find; it is to select the venue that best fits your needs and the expected size of your audience. You’ll lose intimacy if there’s too much empty space.
- Look for a site that is wide rather than deep, with the shortest possible distance from audience members to the stage, like a theater or an auditorium (as opposed to a conference hall). Make sure sight lines are clear and not blocked with pillars or other structures. This helps create a connection between the speakers and the audience, and among all the audience members.
- Create a “thrust stage” where the speaker can walk out into the audience area. You can even create one in your backyard! It’s just a matter of what flexibility you have in creating your seating area.
- We also love theaters with “continental style” seating (deeply spaced rows, no center aisle and a big slope, so everyone can see the stage well).
- Pick a space that is easy to get to and has plenty of parking.
- Make sure that your venue has a large space outside of the main stage area to allow for easy traffic flow. You want your guests to have a good networking atmosphere in between sessions.
- The best venues for larger events include lecture halls, auditoriums, museums or city art centers.
If you hold a MUCH larger event (over 300 guests) ...
Confirm that your TEDx license allows you to invite more than 100 people.
It can be difficult to find a 1,000-person venue, particularly for an event that will have breaks in between. So you’ll want to search very far in advance.
- Look for spaces with outdoor plazas. Is it possible to close down part of a street for your event? Think of some creative possibilities (that are also legal!).
- Make sure to select the venue that best fits your needs and the expected size of your audience. A 300-person venue looks and feels much different than a 1,000-person venue. You’ll lose intimacy if there’s too much empty space.
- The best venues for very large events include concert halls, opera houses, large hotel conference centers and stadiums.
Next: Design the experience
- Avoid ballrooms. Flat orientation makes it difficult for people to see, and the high ceilings and bright lights make it hard to create a TED-like atmosphere.
- If possible, choosing a venue that’s accessible by public transportation is preferable. This makes your event more reachable by a larger audience and helps keep the environmental impact as low as possible.
- Make sure there’s a space outside of your main stage area where you can set up food and drinks in between sessions. Guests are much happier when they’re well fed!
- Consider the production needs of the venue. You may want to rent your venue a day before the event so you have enough time to set up.
- Designate spaces outside the venue’s main area as creative social spaces: an event lab (where attendees try out new software or gadgets), a blogger’s lounge for online media coverage, or a live webcast lounge in case there’s an overflow of attendees. You’ll learn more about these in the following sections.