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June 4, 2007

CONFERENCES 3: The venue says everything

Choosing the right venue really can make or break your event. The mood and surroundings of your venue are vital considerations if you are to ensure delegates get the best from the event. Every single aspect of your event will impact on the experience of your guests and none less than the environment in which you choose to host it. A poor choice of venue will often stick in the minds of delegates more than the content, however inspiring.

“Think of the venue as the envelope in which your conference message is delivered,” says Ben Hunt of Archer Young. “Your choice of ultra-modern will show you as visionary, a Victorian theatre as stylish and a Moto service station as frugal.” Your venue can also say volumes about your attitude to your staff, an exciting and interesting venue and location will leave staff feeling appreciated and valued.


Making an entrance: What would an ultra modern venue
like Roffey Park say about your company?


Hunt continues: “You need to think about your message and how you'd like to be perceived because just this thought process alone will have you on the road to the right venue and you'd be amazed how many clients don't think about it,” advises Hunt.

So, what key factors should be taken into account when deciding on what venue to choose?

Location, location, location

Richard Renau of Roffey Park believes that once delegates are aware they are attending the event two factors come into play: location and perception.
“Firstly, choose your location wisely,” says Roffey. “Consider the practical implications of getting to and from your event. If you are starting at 9am then consider the travelling time of your delegates: they will not be fully effective if they have left their homes at 4am and equally will not concentrate during the end of your event as the long drive home starts to loom in their minds.

Renau highlights other questions you need to consider: How easy is it to park at your venue? What is the nearest train station or airport? Can your venue organise taxi arrangements to make life easier? “Also think about the location in terms of your overall objectives,” he continues. “For example, if you are organising a strategy event for senior managers it may be appropriate to choose a hotel at an airport which makes it easy to get to.  Conversely, the noise and hustle of a busy airport may not be conducive for managers to have the space to think through their strategy.”
A critical eye

Renau also feels perception is also important.  “Look at your venue critically and think about how the style and objectives of the event you are organising.  For example, organising an event at a plush five-star hotel may appear impressive but equally could give the impression that your organisation has spent an inappropriate amount on venue costs.”  
Aside from location, Donna Briant, conference manager at Inntel, highjlilghts some other major considerations: “Cost is a key factor – it is important to set a budget and try to stick to it. You also need to look for good quality service levels, the reputation of the venue within the industry and do research into your meeting room ceiling height – this may sound odd, byt if you need to put in exhibition stands this is extremely important. On top of this there’s delivery access points, coach parking bays for group pick up and pyrotechnic licenses – should you be wanting a firework display.”

Quality assurance

Hunt picks up on the quality of service  issues: “If you are relying on the staff and infrastructure of a venue rather than bringing your own, make sure they are of a suitable quality to reflect your message. Site visits are essential, but should not be trusted in isolation as anyone can brush up enough to pass an inspection and it doesn't necessarily follow that the same standards are adhered to the rest of the time. It also allows you to see where venues are perhaps trading on a reputation earned years ago and perhaps no longer deserve.”

But before you jump in with both feet to a venue, Hunt has some solid suggestions: “Take advice from friends and colleagues, event management companies and DMCs, but if you're dealing with agents make sure that they pass any commissions back to you. You don't want to end up at a dodgy hotel miles from anywhere just because they pay the highest commission to your agent.”

Next week Pete Roythorne will be looking at how the venues market has changed and how you make sure you get the best fit. 

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