Choosing a conference venue is huge commitment. The booking takes up a large part of your overall budget and often means you’re signing up for specific catering options, too. Needless to say, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Thorough research is imperative when choosing the best conference venue for your event. Putting the following ten questions to your short-listed venues will ensure you end up with the best fit for your project and that there are no nasty surprises during the planning journey.
With any event currently being planned, the big question is numbers. Restrictions will mean that almost every venue’s capacity has been slashed, and you’ll need to be clear about this from the start. It’s also worth remembering to communicate this with your invitees so they know to register early to avoid missing out.
As well as reduced numbers, find out what specifically is being done to ensure social distancing measures are being adhered to and what else the venue is doing to keep your guests and your team safe. It’s also important to understand the cancelation policy and to make sure if there are any loop holes, that your insurance covers them. In uncertain times, crossing the ‘T’s and dotting the ‘I’s is more important than ever.
Exclusive access is always ideal when holding a conference – taking over a venue in its entirety can really help with branding – but it’s even more important now than ever. Your delegates are going to feel far more confident about your health and safety promises if they know it’s only your event taking place. It also gives you the ability to communicate with everyone in attendance about the protocols and procedures that will be in place on the day.
The ease of getting to and from any conference is an important consideration for any would-be delegates who are still undecided about their attendance. Being close to trains and tube stations makes your guests’ lives so much easier. Private parking might be a bit of a big ask, particularly if you’re hosting a London conference, but you should at least make sure there are public car parks nearby. More visitors than usual are likely to be driving to your event, as many individuals have not yet returned to using public transport, so you need to take this into account.
It’s easy to fall in love with a venue and forget to ask the basics, so make sure your preferred dates are pencilled in from the first conversation you have with the venue team. Remember to ask which days and dates might give you better value for money. Also find out what access you’ll have to the venue either side of your event dates, as a leisurely-paced set up will help make sure no details get forgotten and that stress can be kept to a minimum. Similarly, getting a chance to clear out afterwards is a far more pleasant experience if you’re not worried about rushing.
Food and drink can make or break a conference so don’t forget that when booking a venue, you’re likely to be committing to their catering team as well. Take time to study their menus and ask to speak to previous clients who can give you an honest opinion about the quality and value of the catering. Ask if you can sample some of the dishes – but be aware this might not be possible until after you have secured your booking. If you have different caterers in mind, it’s always worth asking if you can bring them in and use the venue as a dry hire booking.
Organising a conference requires building a rapport with the venue team and this is a relationship worth investing in. But is your contact, the person who knows your event inside out, actually going to be there on the day? Being left high and dry at the culmination of all of your hard work could seriously impact the success of your conference, so make sure you know who from the venue team will be there so help the whole thing runs smoothly on the day. Does your venue provide cloakroom and security staff? What about people to help with registration? And do these individuals cost extra or are their wages included in the hire fee?
Making the venue your own is an important part of giving your delegates a completely immersive experience. You want them to leave your event with a clear picture of who you are, what you do and what your branding looks like. It also really helps to welcome guests with plenty of signage and familiar visuals, like your company’s colours and logo. Speak to your venue team as soon as you can about where and how you can dress your spaces.
Even if you don’t need all-singing, all-dancing audio visual equipment and support, you’ll need to make sure your venue has the right facilities for you. You’ll also need to decide if your team can operate the technical side of things, or, if available, you’d like the in-house technician to do it for. Always ask about AV costs upfront as often not all of the equipment will be included in your hire fees and the technician is more than likely to cost you money.
You may well have a list of trusted suppliers you want to use for your conference, but it’s worth asking your venue who they have relationships with. Suppliers who know the venue and its quirks could be invaluable. You might even be able to get a discount if you ask. Your venue should also be able to recommend local hotels for your out-of-town visitors and again, always ask about special offers and discounts.
Every venue has its own rules and oddities so if you’re at a loss and worried there’s something you may have forgotten, simply ask if there’s anything else you should need to know. Here at W12 Conferences, we have a highly experienced events team who can help organisers out with as much of the planning and logistics as you need. Give us a call to discuss your next conference on 020 3313 1606.