My advice: always do a site visit if you can. Obviously site visits are extravagant, they cost you travel and they cost you time, they may even cost you accommodation and you may not be able to afford any of those things – in which case, don’t do a site visit – but if you can, do.
Unless you’re a gifted architect it’s unlikely that photographs and a floor plan will come close to allowing you to envisage your show strongly in a space. When you are in a space you can focus in on details or be inspired by relationships, proportions and accidentals that an outside would not be able to spot and you wouldn’t be able to ask about (unknown unknowns).
Site visits fill you with confidence and allow you to plan with more assurance but they are also wonderful diplomatically. Nothing convinces a host venue/promoter/festival of your commitment than your jumping in a car / plane / train in order to visit them and their proposed venue for your show. This goodwill is built on further in the conversations you will inevitable have about the show on their turf, your site visit will help them inspire their staff and audience about your show. When you arrive with your show you will be a returning friend and everything will be easy from the off.
Today I had a meeting in London with the Warwick Commission and so took the opportunity to visit BAC, the site of our forthcoming production Finger Trigger Bullet Gun as part of LIFT. Even though I had seen photos of their Lower Hall and a floor plan, even though I have been reassured by trusted third parties that the Lower Hall would be fine for the show I still chose to extend my visit by six hours in order to just stand in the space and size it up.
BAC has developed significantly since my last visit four years ago, which in itself was a huge development on my previous visit. The Lower Hall didn’t hold any surprises but it was worth doing. The most outrageous site visit in Stan history? Craig and Karen, Of All The People In All The World, Melbourne: worth it.