It’s that time of year again, and you’re facing the looming task of organising your company’s annual conference. Regardless of how daunting it may seem, choosing the perfect conference venue is really just about research and planning. If you’ve got a clear vision of your own requirements, and a detailed insight into your guest’s needs and expectations, the rest is fairly straightforward. Still dreading the task? Here are some tips on how to negotiate your way around choosing a conference venue.
What type of conference is required?
Consider whether you are hosting a simple business conference, or whether your overall event might include several smaller activities that involve business discussions throughout the day, as this will definitely affect your conference venue selection. If you require multiple breakout rooms for group activities, hotels and conference centres can easily accommodate these types of events, but if not, it might be worth investigating smaller, less costly venues.
What is the overall purpose of the conference?
When choosing a corporate event venue, the purpose of your event can often totally dictate the venue, so ask yourself whether the goal is to provide an opportunity for colleagues to share information between themselves, whether you’re purely educating your attendees, or whether the overarching purpose of your conference is to help build a cohesive team and have fun!
What type of message should the conference convey?
Every venue, whether it’s an understated conference room or a large-scale convention centre meeting room will have its own character that will be inherent in its architecture, facilities and vibe. In order to choose the right conference venue, you should consider ways that your venue can enhance the meaning and purpose of your event. If the conference is based around presenting difficult subjects or material, familiar conservative environments are advisable. However if you’re hoping to get staff excited about something new, then boost their confidence and excitement levels by choosing a venue that’s completely different to where you’ve been before.
What style of conference is it?
The style of your conference is largely dependent on the type of attendees that will be present. For example, will you be hosting energetic uni students or conservative high-powered business executives? Understanding exactly what you need can help narrow down your conference venue choices based on décor, ambience and style. Also consider whether or not your conference should be themed (although if hosting business executives, possibly not!)
When is the conference taking place?
The date of your proposed conference is paramount to your choice of venues. Remember that public and school holiday periods are peak periods, particularly in terms of accommodation availability, so try and plan your event around these. Also consider the time of year your conference will take place. A fun, team building conference in a windy winter beach location for example is probably not anyone’s idea of fun!
In what location will the conference be held?
Metropolitan areas offer a huge variety of traditional and non-traditional venues, and hotel function rooms and other dedicated corporate event spaces normally offer standard packages and reliable services. Finding a venue within a reasonable distance from your actual office may assist with your staff’s travel arrangements, and if you have attendees flying in from interstate, you might want consider a venue close to the airport.
Large events with a lot of attendees are often suited to major conference centres, as they are normally quite central in location with access to public transport and multiple hospitality venues like bars, cafes and restaurants. And remote locations are great as a conference venue if your event has a reasonable budget and you would like to reward your loyal customers or staff with a trip away where they can experience a new location, with everyone’s attention focused on their colleagues and/or the business for a few days!
How many attendees should you cater for and what are their needs?
Consider how many attendees your venue should accommodate and whether your guests will be standing, listening attentively or actively networking. Will your audience be too tightly packed or looking lost in a cavernous space? To better accommodate numbers, ensure you’ve allowed plenty of time for RSVP’s, then discuss your requirements with your venue provider/s. There’s no point paying for space you don’t need! Think about your guest’s physical comfort as well. You should make sure your conference venue is adequately cooled or heated depending on the season, that the venue is easily accessible, and there are disabled facilities if required.
Factor in logistics like the venue’s equipment, rigging and power capabilities An important part of choosing an event venue is confirming what in-house equipment and services you’ll need, and if they’re not available, how you can source these externally. Things like chairs, tables, projectors, screens, whiteboards, sound and lights are normally provided as part of the venue fee, however you should also think about things like cutlery, crockery, papers, pens, flowers, decorations, food and entertainment.
If you need larger items hired or custom-built for the event, check that they can physically fit into the venue. This aspect is not just about whether their dimensions can accommodate the room, but whether the venue’s rigging points can actually handle the weight of the item/s, and that they can fit through the doors and/or lifts in the first place!
And don’t overlook a venue’s power capacity. Heavy users of power include things like LED screens, large PA systems and lots of large moving lights, and older venues may not have the capacity to handle such overloads.
It all comes down to the budget!
You should have a set budget in mind before even starting the planning process of choosing your conference venue, as understanding how much you can spend will immediately narrow your choices. Catering costs can be anticipated once you’ve confirmed numbers, and logistical items like equipment hire, accommodation and transport costs should all be fairly easy to factor in if you’ve done your research and adequately consulted the venue manager.
Once your basic costs have been budgeted for, you’ll have a fair idea how much is left over to spend on the fun stuff – like decorating, menu selection and entertainment!
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