What’s the best venue for your conference or business meeting? You want your event not only to run smoothly, but also to deliver on your promises to delegates and business results upon returning to work. Choice of venue is central to these needs. Planning a conference is a big job and there are many factors to consider, such as timing, location, style, and on-site facilities.
Budget & Cost
Always start with a budget and try to stick to it. Your budget will help you in not only choice of venue, but also how many delegates you can invite, conference length, interior decorating, what meals and accommodation you can provide. Get a fixed quote from the venue ensuring that there are no hidden extra costs. Costing varies from venue to venue. Some charge by room hire, some by the number of delegates. Ask if the price can be negotiated or if there are any discounts available, especially if you’ve narrowed your choice down to two or three venues. Finally, ask when a deposit and full payment is required, and payment method.
The location of your event is probably the most important decision of the planning stage. There are two general options: an urban or rural location. The perfect venue for your conference should reflect the theme as well as how you want your staff to feel before, during and after the event. A town or city centre location will have a busier, focused atmosphere while a rural setting will be more relaxed and is ideal for team-building, reflection and inspiration. Obviously urban locations have better transport links, making travelling for delegates easier, but don’t rule out a rural venue just because there isn’t a nearby airport or train station. If you’ve found the ideal venue but it is off the beaten track, look into bus hire so your delegates can arrive together. Some smaller venues have the advantage of being able to hire out the entire facility for your event. This will ensure that there are no interruptions and focus kept high.
Fixing the Date
Decide whether your conference must be held on a particular date or have a choice of dates, as this will determine what venues you can add to your short list. How flexible are venues if you need to change the date?
Will you need accommodation for delegates? Not all conference venues have onsite accommodation so consider the convenience of staying in one location or moving to a separate venue for meals and overnight stays. Determine the number of delegates and check with your choice of venue if there are enough rooms available. Ask the venue if they have rooms available before and after the conference. Your dates may be available, but some delegates may want to arrive a day early or leave a day or two after.
There is a long list of facilities that a successful conference needs. Can your choice of venue supply equipment or will you need to hire it or bring your own? What type of rooms are available? Is there a variety of rooms – not just for meetings, but break out areas? Are they well lit and laid out with adequate table and floor space and seating? Is the venue accessible with good access for the disabled? Good venues should provide items such as flipcharts, audio-visual equipment, a projector, lectern, stationery, a photocopier, refreshments and meals (including providing for special diets). Also, consider the experience and skills of the venue’s staff. Good staff should be courteous and knowledgeable during the first contact, and demonstrate a professional and helpful attitude.
You want to get the most out of your conference, seminar or business meeting and your choice of venue must be able to add significantly to its success and enhance the experience for organisers and delegates alike.
Harry Young works for Toltech Internet Solutions and writes on behalf of Loch Melfort Hotel. A family run, comfortable and friendly 3-star, 2 AA Rosette hotel on the coast of Argyll in the Scottish Highlands with the finest views on the West coast. Offering comprehensive and versatile conference facilities and the very best in tranquil accommodation.