Do's & Don'ts for Planning an Event at Austin Convention Center
When you’re hosting a huge event in Austin, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better venue than the Austin Convention Center. Nestled amid 11,000 hotel rooms in the very heart of the city’s downtown corridor just 15 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, this 881,400 square-foot complex has everything you could ever need to host hundreds or thousands of attendees for an unparalleled event.
It’s a lot to take in, so we’re breaking down some of the do’s and don’ts of planning an event at Austin’s premier convention space. Read on for pro tips from those in the know.
Consider the space
Hosting an event at the convention center offers a lot of perks: enormous ballrooms (40,510 & 23,000 square feet each), 54 meeting rooms, a perfect location within a stone’s throw of four entertainment districts, and the ability to move voice, video & data at a rate of 1 billion bits per second. Aside from offering all the comfort, atmosphere and amenities expected of a metropolitan conference space, it’s also a perfect blank-slate venue: decked out in neutral grey tones with abundant natural light flowing into its common areas, the convention center is an ideal canvas on which to project your brand’s identity or event theme.
With so much square footage at your fingertips, it’s important to consider all the ways you can incorporate thoughtful wayfinding into your event. The center lends itself well to an array of simple signage, of course, but ample opportunities also await you on its columns, windows, and escalators, all of which can be transformed into directional guides to help guests get wherever they need to go without an ounce of confusion.
Removable window and column wraps, escalator signs, and interactive wayfinding (i.e., helpful staff or volunteers pointing the way to various destinations and attractions within the venue) are all great options for moving the crowd in the right direction. Take advantage of these opportunities to keep your event flowing smoothly. Just be sure to leave no trace behind (that means no nail holes or stubborn adhesive) so this downtown gem can be fully preserved, respected, and enjoyed by all.
Mind the details
The Austin Convention Center is managed by the City of Austin and inclusive of public property in its common areas. This translates into a slightly different set of rules and regulations compared to a private venue, so be sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s from start to finish. To understand the intricacies of working with a public entity, you’ll want to get ahead of the game by considering all important details, including an emergency plan, fire marshal approvals, security protocols, egress maps, and more. It’s imperative that these processes are locked down far in advance, and the convention center staff is a fantastic resource to walk you through everything you need to know.
Speaking of getting ahead of everything, this venue is in constant demand, which means if you don’t book early, you might be out of luck.
“As Austin has grown, its popularity as an event destination has increased dramatically,” says a senior member of the Austin Convention Center event team, with whom we work often. “The best advice for a planner looking to book at the convention center would be to contract with us as early as possible, preferably several years in advance. The bigger the event, the more lead time you need.” As of summer 2019, the center actually has events on the books stretching into 2030, so the best time to book your event is, quite literally, right now.
Enjoy the ease
Located in the middle of absolutely everything, it would be a missed opportunity not to take advantage of the convention center’s location by planning fun excursions and activities around the neighborhood. Within a few minutes’ walk of world-class attractions like the ACL Live Stage, the live music-packed Red River Cultural District, the popular Rainey Street row of eateries and backyard bars, and more, offsite events can bring your conference experience to the next level, giving your guests a true taste of the city right in the convention center’s backyard.
For those who don’t wish to walk — or to provide a fully cohesive door-to-door experience for all — an event producer or DMC specialist can arrange luxury third-party transport to get them there in style and comfort. And speaking of comfort, the convention center is universally accessible, making an effort to accommodate all who enter: the four-level venue offers mothers’ rooms and nursing pods, ramps, handrails, motion-enabled restroom facilities, and mobility scooter rentals to move about the space with ease.
Partner with a pro
At Kennedy Creative Events and Kennedy DMC, we’ve been in the business of planning and producing flawless, memorable events for 20 years. Based in Austin from the start, our team is intimately familiar with the convention center — in fact, it feels a bit like our second home! We’ve got the ins and outs of working here memorized, and our professional relationship with the staff runs deep. From concept to completion, we can handle everything top to bottom or simply customize the parts of your program that need an extra team of pros to pull off.
But even if you go it alone, you're not alone: the convention center’s sales team is an excellent resource for events of all kinds, so be sure to communicate clearly with your point of contact and let them do what they do best. Either way, hosting an event at the Austin Convention Center is a win-win for all involved.