Initial venue assessment

AdaCamp was a two-day unconference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. This page is part of the AdaCamp Toolkit, which helps you take AdaCamp’s tools and practices and apply them to your own event. You can re-use the text of this page under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license with credit to the AdaCamp Toolkit.

Overview of venue needs

This is an overview of the venue needs for an event like AdaCamp, which will allow you to quickly determine if a venue is worth a detailed evaluation.


  • one large room to fit all attendees in table-and-chair setup (used for plenary sessions and lunch), and also to fit a buffer style meal service
  • a registration area at, eg, the entrance to the venue
  • one conference room per 15-20 attendees (eg. for a 50 person event, you want 3 rooms) for unconference sessions, set up with tables/chairs
  • quiet room — one room to be set up with comfortable chairs/couches/beanbags if possible (otherwise tables/chairs)
  • childcare —- one larger room, ideally separated from the rest of the event
  • staff room — one small room to store bags, have meetings, etc
  • nursing room — one single occupancy room for babies to feed in


  • Allows food to be served at the venue, provides a catering service or facilities for catering.
  • Centrally located: near public transport (ideally hubs) and near a number of possible accommodations.
  • Accessibility for people with mobility impairments: elevators, level or ramp access to all rooms, and toilets.
  • Access during not only your event hours, but for 1½ hours before and after.
  • Internet access via wifi.
  • Audiovisual equipment in at least the large room: data projector, microphone and amplification.

Venue types

AdaCamps were held in three types of venues: private tech company offices, non-profit spaces for hire, and mainstream event venues. This section lists our experiences of the pros and cons of each type of venue.

Company offices

Companies may be able to allow you to use their offices to your event. This is often an “in-kind” donation or a part of a sponsorship arrangement.


  • Often no cash cost
  • Offices on an open-plan model with many meeting rooms can match unconference needs quite well.
  • Often have higher quality technical infrastructure (projectors, Internet access) than venues for hire.
  • Often centrally located with reasonable parking and good transit.
  • May provide you with a core local set of attendees from among the employees and their connections.


  • It may be hard to hold an invite-only event, as employees may expect to be able to access their work space or even attempt to attend the event on their own initiative and without applying.
  • Offices are usually only available on weekends and holidays.
  • The services may not be up to the standards of venues for hire (eg no liaison staff).
  • Weekend support (security and liaison staff, or even things like air-conditioning) may not be available.
  • May not be wheel-accessible in practice even if they are in theory (eg junk blocking paths, oddly placed doors).

Non-profit community spaces

Some non-profits and educational spaces offer venue hire.


  • May be available weekdays as well as weekends.
  • Often cheaper than mainstream venues.
  • May be more flexible than mainstream venues (eg allowing choice of caterer).
  • Will offer dedicated space, and their own staff won’t want to attend or observe the event.


  • Usually not centrally located.
  • The facilities might not be up to the standards of mainstream venues.
  • The services may not be up to the standards of mainstream venues (eg no on-site staff on weekends, no dedicated A/V staff).
  • Some such spaces have religious affliations, which depending on the details may be exclusionary to some of your attendees.

Mainstream commercial venues

These include conference centers, hotels, and similar.


  • Will be available weekdays as well as weekends.
  • Often centrally located.
  • Possibly high quality beautiful spaces.
  • Will offer dedicated space, and their own staff won’t want to attend or observe the event.
  • Will be staffed and serviced to their normal quality on weekends.


  • Often require that you use their in-house caterer and other services.
  • Are the most expensive.
  • Usually aren’t very familiar with grass-roots or unconference events.
  • May have highly priced but underperforming services (eg, wireless that only allows 20 devices to connect).
  • Are the most strict about access times.


  • AdaCamp Toolkit, Letter to venue sponsor: an example letter to a company hosting an AdaCamp-like event, to explain its needs and norms
  • AdaCamp Toolkit, Venue evaluation: a fuller evaluation which requires a site visit