Choose the right venue and the rest of the event will fall into place. Well, maybe it’s not quite that straightforward but it is certainly the case that the venue selection is absolutely vital to the success of any business function, meeting or conference, and the foremost decision for any event planner.
Think of the venue as the vessel that delivers your event, or the envelope that contains all the exciting content for your attendees. The location, facilities, and atmosphere all come together in the shape of the venue to form a lasting impression on your guests. Get the venue right and your product launch, training day or gala dinner has the power to become resounding success stories.
So, with the pressure to pull the magic rabbit out of the hat, how do you go about finding the ultimate venue for your needs? Here are 6 key aspects you should be focusing on:
No surprises here but the location of your venue is incredibly important. Ideally, you want this to be a combination of practicality and inspiration, somewhere your guests or delegates can get to easily, and that puts a smile on their face when they get there.
Especially if you’re organising a corporate away day or other business event, logistics play a big part. Bear in mind the overall travel distance and time that people are willing to spend, proximity to good public transport options and ample car parking available for those who prefer to drive.
Nearby amenities and attractions such as restaurants, nightlife, shopping or sightseeing opportunities are always a bonus, but take your cue from the demographics of your attendees to see what they would like to do. Will high-end dining venues be required for client entertaining? Perhaps most people will come on their own, looking for casual dining or after hours entertainment? What comfort level of accommodation will be required, if any?
A visually attractive, luxurious and inspiring venue lifts the heart, makes any company party or celebration feel more special and looks great on social media. For business delegates, it’s a motivating environment where the feel they want to perform at their best. Don’t for a minute underestimate the atmosphere and ambiance of your venue. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so wow your attendees from the moment they arrive. Guests who feel welcome and looked after from the beginning are more likely to return for future events.
The idea venue should be bright and airy, warm and welcoming, whether your delegates are in session, taking a break or are stepping out for a breath of fresh air. Guest comfort is key, as are the friendliness, helpfulness and overall customer facing skills of the venue staff.
If you wish to customise your event with corporate branding or a specific theme, take a look at blank canvas venues where you have free creative reign to make the event everything you want it to be. From specialist catering to stage management and entertainment, it’s all your choice. Make sure that there’s an in-house event planning team on hand to help you facilitate.
It goes without saying that your chosen venue must be able to comfortably accommodate the number of attendees you are expecting. You don’t want your guests to feel cramped and claustrophobic in overly cosy surroundings, but neither do you want them to feel lost in a half empty space that looks like no-one’s turned up. The right size venue will provide optimum feelings of wellbeing and comfort to your attendees.
Check the room or venue capacity against the type of event you are planning, as well as your chosen room layout. A cabaret-style seated dinner requires more space than a standing cocktail reception, and theatre style seating can take more delegates than a classroom setup.
Having found a beautiful venue in a great location, your next step is to drill down into the venue’s facilities. Are they able to cater to the precise needs of your networking conference, training seminar or exhibition? Be very clear about how you expect your event to unfold and what you expect it to deliver. A good event planner will have prepared a list of important questions to ask, ideally while personally visiting and surveying the site.
With attendee comfort foremost on your mind, check that the venue provides adequate space and facilities for the number of delegates you are expecting. First on your list should be basic requirements such as plenty of wardrobe and toilet facilities, an easy flow and good navigation between rooms with high visibility signposting and quality accommodation nearby.
Talk to the venue management about your room requirements to see if there is a good match. This is at the heart of your event and should be a deal breaker if there’s no good fit. Are you having a general session, or lots of sessions running concurrently? How many breakout rooms or spaces will you need and will they all be used at the same time? How will the venue accommodate your audiovisual requirements?
Whether you’re planning a lavish award ceremony in beautiful historic surroundings or a business exhibition in a modern conference center, you won’t get very far without the latest technology. Fast, reliable and secure WiFi is a non-negotiable these days, while a professional AV set-up with proper stage lighting and a high-quality sound system will be expected.
The best tech solutions are those that run smoothly. From basic smartphone connectivity to minimize inconvenience for your guests to high profile social media walls or live streaming to add polish to your event, check that your venue will be able to competently accommodate your IT needs.
In fact, your perfect venue should be underpinned by flawless AV/IT facilities and well-planned logistics that provide a solid yet unobtrusive backbone that adds real value to your event.
- Food & Drink
Last but by no means least, don’t leave the catering to chance. Believe it or not, it’s the highlight for many attendees and the thing they’re most likely to comment on and remember, so make sure they remember it for all the right reasons!
The quality of the food, menu choices, and presentation, flexibility when it comes to dietary requirements – these are all key aspects to look for in event catering. Venues with experienced commercial kitchens really have no excuse when it comes to feeding your delegates. Quantity, quality, imagination, and speed of delivery should be the chef’s watchwords. Even better, s/he may have won awards or other credentials to their name to wow your guests, culinarily speaking.
Alternatively, you may have a particular type of cuisine or commercial catering company in mind for your event. With blank canvas venues, this shouldn’t be a problem – all you have to do is check that the kitchen is suitable for your needs. However, with inclusive venues, it’s best to check before making your booking.
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