How to choose where to host a conference
What should you consider when choosing where to host a conference?
Think big, start small. Completing the ‘1,000-piece conference puzzle’ cannot be possible in one sitting. The duty and responsibility of a conference organiser can at times feel incomprehensible and daunting, albeit exciting. The first and only question you need to be asking right now is… where to host a conference?
Granted, that question can lead to many answers such as ‘London’, ‘a place that accommodates my audience’, ‘somewhere affordable’ or ‘close to a train station’. Therefore, we have compiled all the key aspects of what you need to consider before choosing where you need to host your conference.
Setting a budget for your conference
A wise decision would be to learn what your given budget is before looking into the other factors of your trade show destination. Planning everything that caters to your desires would soon be a huge sucker-punch when it dawns on you that you have overspent on outstanding venues, or not-so-spectacular venues during peak times, for example. You need to know your budget, and obtain the best venue within your financial restrictions.
When analysing your budget, be aware that the venue may be the largest chunk, but it’s by no means everything. Other costs will need to be factored in, so don’t go overboard on the venue until you have quickly estimated potential future spending. Another thing to ponder is that some venues provide free marketing services too which can be extremely beneficial, and will help you further down the line.
Choosing the location for your conference
Deciding where to host a conference geographically can be downright difficult and not for the reasons you may initially think. Chances are, people expected to come are from all areas of the country, and potentially from all corners of the globe, but selecting an appropriate and fair location for all guests isn’t the real issue.
If the event has a big draw to it, other businesses and personnel won’t be hindered by the distance or logistics, and as long as it is reachable, they will come. Instead, location can be difficult to decide when working with your budget.
For obvious reasons, venues in London may be idealistic, but can cost a fair bit. If knowing that putting the conference in London is certainly going to ramp up the number of attendees, then that’s a decision you will want to take. Therefore, you have a dilemma on your hands, and you should research relentlessly on all possible and ideal locations, weigh them up, and decide from there. Which cities/towns have a connection to your industry? Which cities/towns are within your budget? Does the city/town have flexible and adaptable venues for your needs?
Checking the capacity and layout of the venue for your conference
Find out a rough figure of people attending the conference, then select a venue that can accommodate for an even bigger demand. ‘Why?’ Well, you’ll want to avoid the worst case scenario of picking a place where space is somewhat limited, consequently having a cramped and overcrowded event on your hands. That’ll displease everyone. Guests need to be comfortable, and not just in terms of having enough seats, but also the physical size of the venue is also critical. You may not just need extra chairs, but instead, extra space, height, width, for an all-round satisfying experience for visitors. This is where the layout comes into play.
The venue may have the same capacity, but the layout can be adjusted to make the most of the space. Each layout will have a different amount of rooms, booths, halls, seating arrangements and more. You’ll need to ask yourself what type of venue do you need. A large and spacious one? Ability to roam freely? Or Cosy? Paint a picture in your mind on how you envisage the conference, and then try to match it with the perfect venue that would best accommodate you.
What facilities and services does your conference venue need?
All venues make it clear what services/facilities they can provide for you, so be sure to check what your ideal location does offer you, and note down what they can’t. For example, some venues will have kitchen services and/or food catering partners and therefore offer their additional services at a lowered price. While others will demand that you ONLY use their catering services – which may not be quintessential, if you had your eyes set on another company to deal with that.
I also alluded to marketing services last month in the ‘budget’ section, but other facilities/services include a high-quality acoustics and sound system, up-to-date technology, indoor and outdoor seating, accessible bathrooms, cleaning crew, setting up crew and don’t forget, making sure the Wi-Fi is up to scratch.
Planning the parking situation for conference venue
It’s rare parking can make or break your final decision on the venue, but it’s another important aspect to contemplate. In fact, the parking situation could be a real snag for the guests on the day, so I urge you to raise your own concerns about this just a tad. At or around the venue, there needs to be a large amount of parking spaces available, and they also shouldn’t be at extortionate prices.
The venue may have some on-site at an extra fee which will bode well for most visitors, or the option of parking somewhere within close proximity at a reasonable cost. Does the venue have valuable, accessible parking close to the venue? If so, that’s a criterion you can no longer worry about.
Consider the transport links to your conference venue
Earlier I mentioned that as long as the conference has a huge enticement, then people will flock in their droves to it. However, I did state that it needs to be ‘reachable’, which is a ridiculously easy task for anyone trying to get to London, Birmingham or Manchester, for example. Train stations, airports and prominent motorways are quite literally on the doorstep for some of the biggest venues in the UK. However, if you are opting for a venue which doesn’t have those transport links in abundance, then carry out further research on where your guests will be coming from, and how they can reach the venue. You want to make sure you minimise the chance of people not turning up to the conference due to it being a logistical mishap.
Accessibility at your conference venue
Regardless of whether you are expecting guests with special needs or not, you must make sure the venue has the right facilities to make it accessible for everyone. The long list of things you need to check may include; wheelchair access, disabled parking, platform lift, accessible toilets, appropriate seating, dietary requirements, emergency evacuation procedures, guide dogs and more.
All venues should clearly state their accessibility facilities, or their customer service team can answer any concerns you may have regarding this.
Does your conference venue need a certain aura?
An extension from the layout is the mood and ambience of the venue. Size is important, layout even more so, but let’s not forget the style. The environment of your venue needs to be in tone with what your conference encompasses. Are you looking for a glitzy and glamorous backdrop? Or a more conventional and historical setting?
Admittedly, not a crucial decision, but still an important facet for you to take time to ponder on.