Ten tips for selecting the ideal meeting venue

Chartridge Conference Company’s MD Peter Darnell offers a short guide to venue selection based on feedback from customers.

When arranging meetings, there are many options, from an inhouse meeting room to a generic business centre; from a hotel to a dedicated conference venue. Even in difficult economic times, daily rate is not the most important consideration, especially if you have to pay for additional services you believed were included in the original price.

Choosing the right environment for your meeting can be as important as the content.

1. Staff
It’s the quality of the people that separates the acceptable from the exceptional, so do visit your chosen venue, and experience the greeting first-hand. This is a good benchmark as to how your delegates will be treated. Speak to staff, find out whether they are happy. If there is a high turnover, then standards can slip, which could have a negative effect on your event.
Do the staff know what business clients need and expect? Do they provide a dedicated conference organiser, who will be a single point of contact?

2. Location and environment
A bustling town centre hotel may be fine for holidays or business trips, but is it right for your event? Maybe a country house would give that image of peace, style and quality that will set the scene for your meeting?

3. Facilities
Make sure the venue can provide all the facilities you need with experienced technical support. Advise them of any special equipment needs, such as data projectors, high-speed internet, and check it’s provided as part of your package. Even new equipment fails, so ask if there is a proficient IT person based on site.

4. Number of delegates
Can the venue provide a room to suit your meeting? If the rooms are too small, your delegates will feel cramped and uncomfortable. Conversely a small group of people in a huge ballroom will look lost.
5. Breakout areas
Check for breakout areas, where delegates can relax. A good venue will provide a selection of teas and fresh coffees, with cookies available whenever you want them; much better than your meeting being interrupted by an attendant delivering coffee because you ordered it for 10.30am.

6. Catering
Delegates don’t want to spend their lunch breaks queuing up in a restaurant and competing with the general public, so check there are flexible catering facilities that just don’t offer glorified school dinners. Flexible restaurant hours to cater for meetings that overrun are also desirable.

7. Adaptability
No matter how meticulous your planning, there are always last-minute changes. Can your venue cope? Before booking, ask them to give examples of challenges they have overcome. If you had to change the number of delegates on the day, or the time of the gala dinner, how would they deal with it?

8. Parking
Good parking facilities, or the lack of them, can make a huge difference to your event’s success. Many town centre hotels have limited parking which has to be paid for.

9. Third party endorsements
A good venue will be proud to provide testimonials and customer references. This will help you assess how successful the venue has been in delivering the standards you expect.

10. The final bill
Check that your package includes all the resources you need. Does it include a video projector, are refreshments such as tea, coffee and even bottled water included?
You don’t want nasty surprises when settling your bill, so insist that the venue confirms in writing that the final invoice will not include any additional costs not previously agreed.

Choosing the right venue is critical in ensuring it all runs smoothly and you’re not tearing your hair out sorting problems before or even on the day. 

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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