How to Read Venue Seating Charts

Deal Expert, Chicago
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Picture this: You’re sitting at work daydreaming when an awesome entertainment deal for a concert by your very favorite band comes through your email.

You’ve never been to the venue before. You click through to booking site and land on a map with several sections and seating levels, a bunch of different price points, and what seems like a million tiny dots.

Now what?

Reading a seat map is a massive undertaking, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the theater, auditorium or concert hall. Here’s my five-step process for picking the right seats for you.

Step 1: Figure out the range of prices you’re dealing with … and figure out how much you want to spend.

The larger the venue, the more control you have over how much you spend. Special offers may only include certain price points, but in any case, it helps to get a handle on what you’re willing to pay for your tickets, and what you can get for that price. Most of the time, your budget will automatically narrow down your seat selection, making it easier to choose.

Step 2: Figure out where the seats in your price range are.

Never assume that the closest seats to the stage are the best, and the seats furthest from the stage are the worst. It all comes down to how the venue is laid out. The good news is that seats are priced accordingly at their full value, so the best ones, wherever they are, will be the most expensive. Make sure you check out the entire map for seats in your desired price range.

Step 3: Determine what is most important to you in a seat.

If you have poor eyesight, you may want to get as close to the stage as possible. I’m relatively short, so while I don’t care as much about being close to the stage, I care a lot about being in a section that’s elevated on a grade – typically more common with Mezzanine and Balcony sections. That way I don’t get stuck behind someone who’s 6’7″ with a huge head. Considering this will help you avoid having a bad experience at what would have been a great show.

Step 4: After you’ve made your tentative selection, do a quick check of the surrounding seats.

Every once in a while, you can get better seats for a pretty minimal upgrade in the dollar amount.

Step 5: Have your billing info ready when you hit “Buy Tickets.”

Most booking engines give you a certain amount of time to complete your purchase before they let the seats go. For high-demand tickets that sell quickly, there’s nothing worse than losing them right when you submit your order — especially after you’ve spent so long choosing seats. Be prepared and have everything you need handy.

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