Published 12th November 2019, Updated 28th July 2020
The following guide compiles information from LEAN, CEA’s guide on making a welcoming group, and tips from local group organisers.
The types of venues available to you will be specific to your group, location and type of event. No place is perfect, but the following contains a few tips for what to consider when seeking a suitable location for your event. If you are considering hosting a dinner at your own home, check out this page on hosting dinners.
- Venue Ideas for Social Events
- Equipment and Facilities
- Further Reading
- Host your event at an easy-to-find location.
- If meeting at a large place such as a park or food court, choose a precise location. Communicate this in the event description, and, if outside, use google maps to put a pin in the exact location. Also, give an organiser’s phone number and description so people can easily find the group if they get lost.
- While Google Maps solves most transportation questions, it may help to put public transport directions or nearest parking information in the event description. If your event is on a Sunday or will go late, check how frequently the public transport will run.
- Choose locations that are easy for your group members to reach. Remember that some people may not have a car, so they may struggle or be less willing to travel to suburban locations. Other people may prefer to drive to events, so the parking difficulties of central areas may deter them.
- It is generally better to host events centrally relative to your group members. However, holding meetings at different places can help to attract a more diverse group.
With some ideas from Zoe Savitsky. It may not be possible to make an event fully accessible, so it’s a good idea to provide as much relevant information as possible.
- When possible, host your public events in places that are wheelchair accessible and ask about the accessibility of toilets and disabled parking places. These considerations are helpful for people with mobility issues unrelated to using wheelchairs as well.
- If you are meeting somewhere with difficult access, make sure to note this in the event description with an apology so that people are fully informed.
- If you are meeting somewhere that serves alcohol, find out if underaged people can still attend. Note this in the event description.
- Make sure there is a clear way to contact an organiser, like an email address or phone number so people can ask for specific information. Clearly state whether the event is child-friendly. Note whether there are changing tables nearby.
A few hours’ babysitting can be prohibitively expensive. Many parents can’t afford to do this every time they want to come to an event, so excluding children also excludes their adults.
- Hosting meetings at home or in an open space like a park or courtyard can give parents flexibility.
- Try to vary the time of day or week when scheduling events, especially if you hold multiple meetings per week. Evenings may be great for parents whose babies can sleep in a stroller, but terrible for parents of older kids who need to be in bed early. Adding lunchtime or afternoon events can help.
Julia Wise shares more tips on making your events child-friendly.
- In some cities, women have reported substantial street harassment while travelling to EA events in certain areas. Ask a few attendees if they have had any problems getting to and from venues. Try to host events in areas with lower levels of street harassment.
Many people, especially women, may not feel safe when travelling alone a long way after dark, particularly in quiet areas at night. During evening events, try to:
- Choose easily accessible locations
- Encourage people to travel in groups
- Make sure members feel comfortable asking others to walk them to their car or station
- Have earlier start and end times for events
Try to make your events free or very cheap. University groups frequently offer free access to venues as well as funding to provide food and drink. If you have to pay for venues regularly, you may like to ask for donations to cover room hire costs. Otherwise, apply for funding to cover room hire and refreshments for your group.
Venue Ideas for Social Events
Social events in pubs, restaurants, and cafes are popular but can have drawbacks.
- Some people struggle to communicate in noisy environments, so try to offer socials in quieter settings. When choosing a pub, cafe or restaurant, look or ask for quieter rooms and avoid big sports match days if the venue screens sports. (This is particularly relevant in western countries like the US, UK and Australia). Quieter rooms are especially considerate for those whose first language is not English, those with hearing loss, or people opposed to loud environments due to sensitivity to noise, touch or other conditions.
- Avoid using restaurants as your go-to location because buying food can be inaccessible for people with young children, food requirements, donation priorities, or little money. Reduce some of these concerns by finding cheap, vegan-friendly restaurants. Ben Kuhn shares more considerations about eating out.
For smaller events, try cafes, bookshops and hotel lobbies.
Public parks and gardens may be excellent choices when the weather is favourable.
- Have a rain-check location!
- Be close to toilets
- Have a mix of sun and shade so people can choose to be in or out of the sun
- Clearly describe the meeting place and pinpoint it precisely with a Google Maps link so visitors can easily find you
Some locations have open courtyards near cafes. They tend to be quieter, with much less pressure on attendees to buy food.
Hosting the event at your home is an option if your group is small or your home is large. New attendees may find it intimidating coming to a stranger’s house, so personally contacting new people who RSVP to the event and putting up an EA sign outside can help welcome newcomers. See this document for tips and menus if you take this approach.
Going on walks or hikes together is ideal for generating one-on-one conversations, and is good exercise too!
Rooms for Discussion Groups and Presentations
- In some cities, public libraries or community centres have affordable rooms for meetings, speaker events, discussion groups or workshops. Sometimes community groups can access these at a discount or for free.
Utilise EA or EA-aligned contacts to get access to locations.
- EA Melbourne was able to get a workspace through a company with EA-aligned employees.
- EA London and EA New York have had meetings at a member’s office building.
- When sharing a venue with a non-EA organisation, bear in mind that attendees may think that you are associated with the other organisation.
Equipment and Facilities
Ask yourself if you need any of the following:
Space to move around and talk to others, especially if you are hosting a social
- If you are at a restaurant, you may want to ask members to switch seats after they have eaten. Further, if you plan to have discussions or snacks after speaker events, ensure that there is enough space for movement and extra food.
- Will your event contain presentations or videos? If so, find a venue with access to a projector and sound system.
- Arrive at least half an hour in advance to set up and test out the equipment, including the sound system.
- Will there be worksheets, meaning people will want somewhere to lean?
- Will people be eating a meal and want somewhere to put their plates?
- If there is a discussion element to your event, try to use rooms with movable chairs and tables rather than auditoriums.
Sofas and cushions
- These can create a more informal and relaxed atmosphere than a board room or auditorium set-up
- Consider how comfortable your seats will be for a lengthy discussion. Tall chairs or bar stools may be uncomfortable, especially for shorter people.
- Some people might need special accommodations for seating if they have chronic physical disabilities or an injury.
- For further reading on how to make your event welcoming, check out the page “Community Health”.
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