Choosing the Venue
Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks when getting a big LAN party started is finding the right facility and location. So many factors come into play that your head may be spinning after a while! But ultimately this is an important aspect of the party that you'll have to stick with from event to event. So be careful who you partner with, and make sure you are comfortable dealing with the people who own the facility.
Here are some key considerations when looking at venues:
Location, Location, Location - Convenience for your prospective attendees is often an issue, so try to locate a venue which is central to most of your target audience. When the party gets bigger and more well known, you will probably have people coming from all over the country. But to get started, a convenient location will be very helpful.
Space - If there's not enough space to seat the number of people you plan to have attending, that pretty much takes a site out of the running. Of course, if the venue turns out to be the largest you can find, then maybe you might consider compromising on the number of people in attendance.
Power Needs & Flexibility - I've seen so many halls that have gobs of space available and nowhere near enough power available to run the hundreds of computers that will be plugging in. If enough power circuits are not already available within the building and you're not able to locate another comparable venue, ask if the have additional capacity on their incoming "switch gear". With the proper hookups, you can contract an outside power rental company to bring in proper power equipment and tap directly into the building power to give you the extra capacity you need.
Figure 2: Sometimes you need to go direct to the Source
Food & Beverage Contracts - $2.50 for a Coke? Ouch! Yeah, sometimes venues have exclusive contracts with vendors that provide food and beverage for all events in their buildings. But LAN attendees are usually going to lots of events and pinch every penny, so $2.50 for a cola isn't going to cut it at anything but the largest parties. If you want to provide more reasonably-priced food and drink for your attendees, you might ask the vendor if they have a "buy out" price. This would allow you to run your own concessions at a much lower profit margin. Sometimes you will just have to move along if you think this will cause a loss of interest in your event.
Figure 3: Concession stand ready for business
Overnight Stays - LAN players are night owls, but you will find that a lot of venues will not allow people to stay inside the hall overnight for security reasons. If the venue is your only option, you might consider paying an additional (usually pretty reasonable) fee for security to be on-site during the night. Be sure to have this arranged ahead of time before your event, because they have to locate a guard who is willing to work overtime for you!
Cost - Of course cost will come into play as well, but take this one up with your accountant and find something that you won't lose money on.
If you're running a tiny party, you don't have to go any further than your garage. But be careful, power is an important thing even for a garage party!