It’s All About Location: Managing A Last-Minute Venue Change

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Picture this: everything about your event is coming along nicely. You’ve an awesome stable of speakers lined up; some great vendors to fill the booths on your floor, and a killer schedule that makes it all but certain everyone can attend the keynotes they want to see. Then, just a few weeks before the event, the unthinkable happens – you can no longer use the venue you’d originally planned on.

Maybe it’s the result of an error on your part (event planners are people too; they make mistakes). Perhaps the venue owner stiffed you. On the other hand, it could just be something out of your control – a natural disaster, damage to the venue; you get the idea.

Either way, your venue’s gone, and that sucks. What’s an event organizer to do? How can you handle an unexpected venue change without deep-sixing your entire event?

First things first, don’t panic. Remember how you’ve been advised to have at least a few backup venues in mind? It’s time to contact them – let them know what’s happened, and hopefully they’ll be accommodating. Beyond that, it sort of goes without saying that the infrastructure of your event – your website, registration, mailing list, etc. – must be designed with agility in mind.

“Event planning is dynamic and hectic,” writes Tal Shoham of the Evolero Blog.  “Your speaker list and agenda, sponsor, partners and attendees list develop constantly. As it is all out there in your website, updates must be done quickly.”

“Further,” she continues; “as event day gets closer, every minute of talking to your IT person or asking your designer to redesign items is a torture.  Go for a Do-It-Yourself solution that enables you to set up your site and manage your attendees by yourself.”

Telling you what you should do in order to prepare for a last minute change of venue is all well and good…but what about actually dealing with the issue?

For the answer, we’re going to turn to Jess of Bride’s Butler. Although her blog is primarily made for wedding planners, the advice she offers is definitely sound. It can be applied to pretty much any event planning field.

According to Jess, the first order of business is to retrieve your deposit from the first venue (assuming you were required to give one). This is a situation where you’re going to have to hope you checked the fine print before signing on, mind you. There’s a chance your venue owner may well have pulled a fast one on you.

After you’ve gotten your original deposit back, it’s time to take a look at your backup venues. Do they have the capacity for your guests? Can they accommodate all the conferences and keynotes you had in store? How will your floor plan change at your new venue?

Next up, you need to tell everyone about the change. Let any vendors who’re attending know what’s going on, and make sure you’re not leaving anyone in the lurch. Everyone should be on the same page here – and you’ve got to be sure to account for additional travel expenses in your budget.

Speaking of budgeting, that’s your last step – how is your new venue going to impact your event budget? Are you going to save money, or will it end up costing you more than the previous locale? What extra fees will there be at the new location?

Again, it’s up to you to make sure all of these details are covered.

No one likes dealing with a last minute venue change – it’s rather high up on the list of unfettered nightmares in event management. If you keep your cool, however, and have some backup venues in mind when booking, it shouldn’t cause you any grief. Sure, you might have to do a bit of extra work, but at the end of the day, your event should still go off without a hitch.