Deciding on renting a meeting space is easier now than it’s ever been. From more flexible locations to apps and “rent my space” opportunities, it’s no longer an arcane magic only professional event planners can do.
First and foremost: the budget. That will determine everything else. If the budget’s insufficient for anything requested, it’s better to get that out in the open before beginning a snipe hunt for the impossible space. You might need to reset either location or amenity expectations to make the meeting happen.
Where do you need the meeting space rental to be relative to the organization? In a three-block radius in a city? In town? Somewhere in the Texas Hill Country? The Northeast US?
How big? Finding a meeting space rental for a half-day presentation in a conference room is a snap. There are coffee shops with meeting spaces. Some will allow their use for free if you run up a high enough tab. Same with some pizza shops, which may trade a fairly bare bones meeting space with excellent and fresh-made food. Finding a space where five ten-person breakout sessions and a meeting room big enough for all of them plus visitors is a whole other animal. Know your crowd size, and always plan for close to the maximum, not minimum, attendance. Ten percent extra attendance in a thirty-person at a meeting is three. Three unexpected participants in a room with a ten-person capacity means just-in-time juggling of people, throwing off a busy planned day. Too small a crowd in a large space isn’t comfortable, however. Hotels can talk about screens to hem in a large space but, unless they’re thick, floor-to-ceiling walls, it won’t work—we humans are good at perceiving space and the echoing void beyond the fabric curtains.
Does the rental require special spaces or furniture? An HR expo for employee benefits might require a lot of tables–and room. An all-day sales kickoff meeting with presentations and the need for lunch and a bar at day’s end is very suited by a cinema brewery. Something more relaxed and intimate in a country setting? A winery might be a good choice. Knowing all the quirks of a meeting make it easier to find meeting space for it. Team-building meeting events might do well in a skating rink or ceramic painting studio. Or only a normal meeting room but with more space for floor activities.
For any meeting space you look at, ask if the facilities are appropriate for folks using wheelchairs or crutches. It goes without saying that they need to be able to participate in the event just like everyone else—including adapted bathrooms. If there might be nursing moms at the event, think about where she can nurse in a quiet setting.
Lastly, if this is a high budget meeting, try to visit the top contenders in person before locking in the space rental. Pictures don’t do justice to the space. (It’s a nice place, but isn’t that a karaoke bar next door? Should be great for the evening management get-together, no?) Maybe in ten years you can rent a robot to scout a space for you.