Ideally, the meeting space offers both a large room where the group can meet as a whole, as well as "break-out" spaces, where smaller sets of participants can have discussions and collaborate.
In particular, an optimal venue for a participatory event has:
- Capacity to seat all participants in a circle in the main meeting area
- Ideally 1 breakout space/room per 10-12 participants
- No fixed-in-place furniture; collaborative events go better when participants face each other without any furniture between them
- Wireless internet, or an ethernet jack where a wireless router can be connected. See Wireless Best Practices
Things to obtain for venue comparison include:
- A floor plan that shows what space we have to work with
- A link to images of the event space
- Information about building security: do folks have to sign in to enter, is it easy to go outside for a smoke or fresh air, are there other protocol issues?
- Any other venue guidelines, policies or constraints to be aware of
- Confirm hours of access, and verify that you can be in 1 hour before event start time and stay up to 1 hour after event closing time
Other considerations include:
- Catering: Can you bring in your own food/catering, or are you obligated to use the facility's?
- Cost: If you're lucky, you can find a free or cheap place. In most US cities, $10/person/day is a good price for rental, and we've gone as high as $25/person/day. Anything above that is silly for nonprofit budgets, spend the on something else.
- Policies on cancellation and reschedule: if you have to move your event dates or cancel outright, what happens with venue, including deposits, any penalities, and other responsibilities
- Ask about any potential conflicts within the space. If other people/orgs will be using space and overhearing proceedings, make sure to explore potential noise and resource conflicts (e.g. limited bathrooms or a slow internet connection for the facility)