Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Producing an Event for the First Time at a “State of the Art” Venue like Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

UPSTAGE’s Director, Ilai Szpiezak, at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

As a live entertainment and events producer, I feel lucky that I get the chance to work at some of the most incredible venues in London. From the most intimate spaces to the most breathtaking ones, London has a lot to offer.

Since I founded UPSTAGE a couple of years ago, we have created, performed and produced events and entertainment for venues including The Royal Albert Hall (with over 5,000 guests), restaurants and private spaces, home marquees, hotels including Claridges, The Dorchester & The Berkeley and many other quirky and diverse venues.

Due to the fact that London is constantly evolving, renovating and expanding, there are always new venues to discover; and every time you step into a new space, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. Some of them are indispensable to ensure a smooth and successful event. Do you know them already?

A few months ago, one of the most exciting new venues in Europe, opened in Tottenham, London. Even if I am not a huge football fan, I got really excited to become one of the first-ever external producers to create a private event at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this October.

Opened in April 2019, the 1-billion GDP “state of the art” stadium does much more than just hosting football games. With over 10 event spaces across the whole venue, I knew we were going to work somewhere truly special.

I was therefore thrilled to be held responsible for producing the first ever Bar Mitzvah at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last month. And like everything, when something is new, it can bring some surprises and challenges.

It is the perfect occasion, then, to introduce my seven-question checklist to ask yourself when putting together an event in a brand new “state of the art venue” like Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Question 1: Date vs Venue: what is my priority?

What is more important: date or venue?

Venues in London get booked many months in advance… And a “London landmark” venue such as the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, might be booked within 12–14 months in advance. So, first things first. Before going any further in the event production, check the availability of the venue on your desired date.

If the venue is not available on the desired date, it is important to question the order of priority. Should we rather change the date to get our favourite venue or change the venue to keep our desired date?

Question 2 — Does this venue reflect the values of my company/family and the type of event I want to create?

Photography courtesy of James Shaw Photography

Choosing a venue means more than just choosing a room with a set of features. The history of the venue, the building itself or location come with an identity and set of values. Do they reflect the values of your company, your staff, your family or your guests?

For example, choosing a function room in a hotel on Park Lane might be suitable for a wedding, or big charity dinner, but not a 40th birthday where maybe a private marquee in a garden in North London might be more appropriate. (It is important to always follow the event brief).

Some venues are more luxurious, others more intimate. Some are modern & contemporary and others are classical and historical.

Which type of venues reflect best your type of event and audience? Do not forget that any venue can be transformed into a complete different “world” based on the design and theme brief — this will be addressed in question 4.

Question 3 — When can we have a site visit?

If you are producing an event in a venue where you have never been before, you need to ask for a site visit, NOW!

This is imperative to achieve a successful event. Check every possible detail and ask as many questions as needed to make sure we can mitigate any future issues.

For example, one of the things you need to request is a floor plan of the venue in order to plan the flow of people with entrances, exits, room layout and more.

This is especially important to be able to understand the use of the space when more than one room is used such as a reception or ceremony room for a wedding or a drinks reception at a corporate event with a different room for a conference.

Question 4: What is supplied by the venue?

It is now time to start designing the event. Together with the client, we’ll discuss what the style and the goal of the event are. Design, style and theme include room layout, colour theme, music & entertainment style, the catering options and more.

Here, we will discuss the ordinary and the extraordinary. From selecting our sound/lighting engineers and AV staff, to hand-picking the best performers and creating a bespoke stage for your event, we’ll define everything needed into details.

Each of the aspects should be itemised so we can generate a real experience for the guests which will create an emotional connection. It is like a “conversation” — we need to develop a 360 degrees “language” in order to translate the objective of the event visually as well as physically.

Some of the goals we could achieve are: providing a high-level dinner experience and making people dance; sharing a positive brand message while entertaining guests; make people share and connect through a networking evening; encouraging pledges and donations through a powerful emotional immersive gala dinner; etc.

In order to achieve the success of the event, it is important that the venue knows and confirms what is the desired setup for the type of event. To make sure that both the venue and the client know what to expect, we deliver a visual 2D/3D plan. This will include the position of the tables, stage, dancefloor, bar, performers, etc.

This is the moment when you need to confirm what furniture (table and chairs for example) and services (AV, catering or security staff) are supplied by the venue and what you need to order from an external company (UPSTAGE can help).

Also, do the venue team set it up themselves based on your plan or do we need to do it ourselves?

Talking about AV… It can be important to ask who manages the house lights of the venue… In a previous event, we were told last minute, that the ceiling lights couldn’t be switched off.

This was not good news as we were doing a private dinner/party and it was not questionable that we needed a dark atmosphere with only our lighting effects in the room.

After some conversations with the different teams at the venue, we managed to get the lights switched off and achieve the desired atmosphere. At UPSTAGE we always support venues and help them in what they required, but at the end of the day, we are working for our clients and we need to keep them as our priority.

Question 5: Do we have all the H&S documents from everyone who is involved at the event?

I don’t run a venue (yet!), but I do understand that from their point of view, it is very important to have everything in writing prior to the event.

It may vary from venue to venue but usually, Health & Safety documents include PLI (public liability insurance), Risk Assessment, Event times, Production schedule and contact details.

Make sure you ask the venue what they need, fill in all the documents in time and ask the client for the appropriate information so that the safety and security of all involved is covered. Safety is a priority ALWAYS.

It may seem silly to forget to share all contact details with everyone, but it is necessary that all parties know who is their key contact at all times. Big venues have a large staff list who might not be aware of everything happening on the day, or might not be there for the full length of the production. Written communication is key to show confirmations and what has been agreed…

Having a clear “green light” to proceed with the desired plan is essential. On the day of the event or production, there is no time to waste and everything should be ready prior to the arrival of the audience.

Question 6: What are the security procedures?

At UPSTAGE, we are always happy to help with anything needed.

Each venue has its own security procedures which we — as an external production/events company — must always respect and facilitate. In a venue like Tottenham Stadium, you can expect to be checked for your name and company, go through a security gate and also get your equipment checked.

Some venues might even ask you to provide a list of all the people in your team and clients’ guests so they can be verified on arrival.

Make sure that all your team, partners and suppliers know about any time or height restrictions as this might impact the production schedule.

As a professional production house, we take every detail incredibly seriously and we spend several hours developing and going through the best possible schedule and plan for each event and production. This is one of the key differences in working with a production company and not just a DJ or band… We not only deliver a fantastic event, but we work on the planning and producing beforehand to achieve it. Yes, this has a price… but we can assure you it is worth it!

For example, at the new Spurs Stadium, it was required to receive written authorization from the inhouse events’ team so that security staff knew who was expected for arrival and at what times. This included names, car registration numbers, arrival times and most importantly (believe it or not!) if that person/staff/supplier was arriving by foot, car or van.

Why was this so important? The different options meant that there were different entrances for each person and when you are trying to arrange logistics for a large team at a BIG venue over a period of 12 + hours, entrances and exits can be confusing.

Question 7: What can I do to surprise my clients/guests and go above and beyond their expectations?

(Past events by UPSTAGE — Entertainment & Production including Ballerinas, Lighting, Design, Circus & more.)

We don’t know what we don’t know, so our role as event production professionals, is to help the client understand the range of possibilities in front of them.

At UPSTAGE, we encourage our clients to dream big and set high expectations for their event while respecting their budget and needs.

Have you thought that a DJ is something “cool”, but having a DJ together with a violinist and percussionist could make a real difference? At UPSTAGE, we are big fans of live entertainment as it brings such a human and vibrant atmosphere to any occasion. Our hat as theatre producers also enables us to put together the very best acts, shows and entertainment and design it specifically for each event.

The possibilities are endless and it needs only a few hours of our time to come up with plenty of creative ideas to go above and beyond to achieve your objective.

So feel free to browse our website and look more at some of our past events and CASE STUDIES for private, corporate, charity and theatre.

UPSTAGE is a hybrid between an events agency, a creative entertainment company and a production house. Therefore, we are able to create, produce and deliver high-impact entertainment, creative production, a team of international performers, crew, designers and creatives all under one roof to transform a simple idea into a real experience.

As humans we are always after an emotional connection with our audience or guests. Everything we do, we do it to generate a “living experience” that hopefully people will keep with them even after the event, show or production has finished.

So don’t forget to ask these questions and go through all the necessary details with venues/suppliers/clients/production company:

  1. Date vs Venue: what is my priority?
  2. Does this venue reflect the values of my company/family and the type of event I want to create?
  3. When can we have a site visit?
  4. What is supplied by the venue?
  5. Do we have all the H&S documents from everyone who is involved at the event
  6. What are the security procedures?
  7. What can I do to surprise my clients/guests and go above and beyond their expectations?

For more information on UPSTAGE: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Website

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Award Winning Creative Producer, Choreographer & Master of Ceremonies / Founder & Director at Upstage Creative Ltd. Argentine living in London

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Ilai Szpiezak

Ilai Szpiezak

Award Winning Creative Producer, Choreographer & Master of Ceremonies / Founder & Director at Upstage Creative Ltd. Argentine living in London

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