Special Events

Space Planning

All spaces need to be designed with function in mind. Sometimes a great-looking room is only that, once everything else is taken into consideration. But you never want to sacrifice functionality for the look. Space planning requires that you look at the flow of your event — including access to different areas of the room, guest access and service entrances — and sightlines issues.

  1. HELPFUL TIPS (may vary slightly by marketplace):

    Don't use the online capacity guide that is posted for most venues. Most of those capacities do not take into consideration pillars, weird angles for sightlines, rear projection, front-of-house, dance floors, staging or a plethora of other elements. Unless your event simply consists of rows of chairs, a flashlight and a bullhorn, you are going to run out of space if you use the guides.

  2. Space requirements are based on a lot of different things, including demographics (children attending versus all adults, larger adults, older adults, male or female, etc.) and the actual venue (types of chairs, etc.). Use these guidelines as a starting point:

    • 10 square feet per person for a cocktail reception

    • 12-15 square feet per person for cocktails with food stations

    • 20 square feet per person for a seated dinner

    • 3 square feet per person for the dance floor (based on assumptions regarding how many of your guests may dance at one time).

  3. Plan for one bar for 100 guests at a minimum (although I like to negotiate the venue to one bar for 75 guests). A great way to make an impact and have functionality become part of the decor is to use a central bar or in-the-round setup.

  4. Try to avoid allotting more than 50 percent seating for the guests in a lounge environment (sometimes the percentage must be higher due to the age of the guests). Anything higher, and guests will stay put instead of mixing. Choose a menu that allows guests to stand and mingle while eating rather than forcing them to sit.

  5. Arrange lounge seating in “pods” or groupings so it doesn't look like a mess of seating. Keep pods at 12 by 12 or 16 by 16 feet maximum. The negative space around the pods will encourage people to move around the room. Think of it as an adult playground.

  6. When working in a new venue, take the time to ask about the maximum power that is available. Count out those U-grounds and request plans from the venue showing which U-grounds are on iso-lated breakers. Consider what power you need for AV, as well as where you may need standard outlets available for registration or simply to recharge your phone and laptop battery.

  7. Just because the ceiling is full of grid work doesn't mean you can hang items everywhere. Spend some time determining if the space will be suitable for flying things or if everything will need to be ground support. Remember, if you can't fly your AV and you don't want to see the projector, you have just added a minimum of 14 to 26 feet (depending on the projector and size of screen) of extra space behind the screen for rear projection.

While every event is unique, I hope these simple guidelines will give you a starting point to plan the space of your next project purposefully.

Name: Kenneth Kristoffersen CSEP, CEM

Company: experiential events/experiential weddings

Address: Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Canada

Phone: 866/921-9801

Email: [email protected], [email protected]

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