Published 12th November 2019
The following guide was compiled from 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 venue 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 (e.g. 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 the organisers phone number and description so the group can be easily identified, and anyone lost can call.
- While google maps solves most transportation questions, it may help to put in the event description about how to get there by public transport and where the nearest parking is. If your event is on Sunday, or will go late, check how frequently the public transport will run.
- Host events centrally relative to your group members, or in a variety of places to help attract a more diverse group. For example, some people may not have a car, so they may struggle or be less willing to travel to suburban locations. Other people may more frequently drive to events, so may be less likely to come if parking is an issue, such as in central locations.
With some ideas from Zoe Savitsky . It may not be possible to make an event fully accessible, even if you try, so it’s a good idea to provide as much relevant information as possible.
- Host your public events in places that are wheelchair accessible where possible. This is also helpful for people with other mobility issues. Also ask about the accessibility of toilets and disabled parking places. If you are meeting at a place that has difficult access, make sure to note this in the event description with an apology, so 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 specific information.
- Make it clear whether the event is child-friendly. It is also helpful to note whether there are changing tables nearby.
Understand that 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 an event at home, or in an open space like a park or open courtyard can allow parents flexibility.
- Try to vary the time of day and time of week when scheduling events. An evening event may be great for parents of a little baby who can sleep in the stroller, but terrible for parents of older kids who need to be in bed early. Add some lunchtime or afternoon events to the mix.
For more tips on making your events child-friendly, check out this forum post by Julia Wise.
- In some cities, women have reported heavy levels of street harassment while travelling to EA events in certain areas. Ask a few attendees if they had any problems getting to and from venues, and 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 (and make sure people feel comfortable asking others to walk them to their car/train station)
- Have earlier start and end times for events.
For most events, try to make your events free or cheap. University groups will often have free access to venues as well as some money to provide food and drink. If you have to pay for venues regularly, then you may like to ask for donations to cover room hire, or apply for funding to cover venue hire and drinks and snacks for your group.
Venue Ideas for Social Events
Social events in pubs, restaurants, and cafes are popular, but can have some drawbacks.
- Some people struggle to communicate in noisy environments, so try to also offer socials in quieter settings. When choosing a pub, cafe or restaurant, look or ask for quieter rooms, avoid big sports match days if the venue screens sports. (This is based on experiences in many western countries like the US, UK and Australia). Having a quieter room is more important for those whose first language is not English, those with hearing loss, or people sensitivity to noise, touch or other conditions can find it difficult to hear in loud environments.
- Avoid using restaurants as your main event location because buying food can be inaccessible for people with little money or those prioritising donations. It also can be difficult for people with children, or those with special food requirements. Some of these concerns can be reduced by finding cheap vegan-friendly restaurants to meet. Read here for more considerations for eating out.
- For smaller events, try cafes, bookshops and hotel lobbies.
- Public parks and gardens may be a good location to have events in good weather, but make sure to have a rain-check location! Choose a location not far from toilets, that ideally has a mix of sun and shade so people can choose to be in or out of the sun. Make sure the location can be easily described, and pinpoint this location exactly with a Google maps link so you can be easily found.
Some locations have open courtyards near cafes which serve as a quieter place to event and since they are outside there is no pressure for attendees to buy food.
Hosting the event at your home is another option if your group is small (or your home is large!). Some new people might find it a bit intimidating coming to the house of a stranger, so personally contacting new people who RSVP to the event, and putting up an EA sign outside can help welcome new people. See this document for on tips and menus if you are hosting.
You can go on walks or hikes together. This is ideal for generating smaller 2-person conversations, and is good exercise too!
More information for holding social events can be found here.
Rooms for Discussion Groups and Presentations
- In some cities, public libraries or community centres have affordable rooms that can be used for meetings, speaker events, discussion groups or workshops. Sometimes community groups can access these at a discount, or even 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
- If you are hosting a social, you may want to meet somewhere participants can move about, e.g. if you are at a restaurant, you may want to ask members to switch seats after they have eaten, and if you are having discussion and snacks after speaker events, ensure there is space to do this.
Will your event contain presentations or videos? If so, find a venue with access to a projector and sound system.
You probably want to arrive at least half an hour in advance of the event to set up and test out the equipment (including the sound).
- Will there be worksheets, meaning people will want somewhere to lean?
- Will people be eating a meal and want somewhere to put their plates?
Configurable environment (movable chairs, tables)
- If there is any discussion element of your event, you may find that rooms where you can move chairs around are more conducive to conversations than auditoriums.
- These can create a much more informal and relaxed atmosphere than that of a board room or auditorium
- Consider how comfortable your seating will be for a long discussion. For example, tall chairs or bar stools may be uncomfortable for sitting, 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 help make your event welcoming, check out the page on “Community Health”.
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