Finding a venue for your public engagement event
Digesting Science is a set of educational and interactive activities, run as an event, to explain multiple sclerosis to children aged 6-12. It was developed by the Barts-MS team at Queen Mary University. Below, they share their tips for finding a suitable venue for your event:
If you've run a Digesting Science event before, you'll know that we send you everything you need to run an event, including balloons and tablecloths to decorate your venue. And a speaker so you can play music to create a relaxed atmosphere as people arrive. We've thought about this a lot!
In fact, all you need to run a Digesting Science event, that we can't provide, are families, and a place to put them all in! We have had chats with people who want to put on an event, but have difficulty finding a venue. And with a few Digesting Science events under our own belts, we thought we'd share these tips and tricks for finding the perfect venue.
Go to what you know
Think of all the churches and organised groups (scouts, guides, WI, etc) that you know exist near you. Make a list and set about contacting them. Many will have their own venues, like church halls and scout huts. If they are accessible and big enough, you may be able to use them for the event! If they meet in another space, they can give you the details of how to hire it. You may even get yourself some volunteers at the same time!
Try the local big players
Have you spoken to the local schools, the leisure centre, the hospital, the library or even the local supermarket? All of these places can have accessible, large rooms that they may offer to a community event like Digesting Science. Tesco supermarkets not only have community spaces that they offer for free, but they also have community funds allocated to each store. So if you can't hold your event there, you may well be able to access some funds to hire another venue. It's worth asking!
Ask your friendly internet search engine
If the first two suggestions haven't yielded anything, it's worth Googling. Try 'venues near me', 'community venues near me', 'halls for hire'. Or try these websites:
Advice from Sandeman Events
Natasha from Sandeman Events kindly gave her time to talk to us about finding venues. And she had lots of fantastic tips!
- When approaching venues, emphasise that this is a charitable community event. Although you're not raising money, this is an event to help local families who are affected by MS. People may not be aware that you and your team are volunteers; and that the Digesting Science team have, through grant applications, fully funded the project. No one is making any profit! Using words like 'charitable' 'local' 'community' and 'families' help to get the point across and make venues more amenable to giving you their space for free.
- In addition to using those key words when approaching venues, have in mind who is benefitting. Tell venues a little about the event and how it will help children, and people with MS. If they want to know more, direct them to our Facebook page where they can see pictures of events in action and lots of smiling people!
- Try the council. If you can, get in touch with your local council or attend a council meeting. They will not only know venues, but the big community movers and shakers are usually part of, or in close touch with, the local council. You'll meet people who will be willing to help, or fund, or give time or their space to run the event. People can be incredibly generous, but you have to ask them first!
- Think local. Have you got community noticeboards, or (the 21st century version) a local Facebook group? It's worth putting out a call for help on finding a venue on a local social media group or well-used noticeboard. You never know who may respond with offers of help! And ask anyone and everyone you know. It could even be that a person who owns a big house with enough space (ok a really big house, but you never know!) could offer their home.
- If you know any cafes or businesses with a suitable space, go and ask them directly (see tip 1). Remember, they can talk about how they've hosted the event, which is advertising for them and boosts their local profile.
- Big event venues often allocate a certain number of days per year that they set aside for events that are for a good cause. They use this allowance to let people run their events free of charge. So don't rule out venues that ordinarily would cater for weddings, large corporate events or private parties. Don't be afraid to ring and ask! They are benefitting from fulfilling their corporate social responsibility and helping out people in their community.