It is true that other issues, such as the theme, speakers, activities, and promotion, are of utmost importance as well. However, underestimating the impact of the venue can jeopardize the project and weeks of your hard work will be in vain. Let alone the budget…
Then how to pick the right space to house, let’s say a conference? What should you check? How to speak to the venue owner or manager?
The choice of the venue is largely dependent on the budget you have at your disposal. When you know the range you’re dealing with, you can start hunting for the venue. Whether you’re looking for a workshop room for 12 people for $100 top, or conference space for 400 people and a budget of $1600, you should know that these places are not that different in the organizational sense.
Questions to start with:
- Do I need a traditional conference room I can find in a hotel or a conference venue?
- Am I looking for a place that is not so obvious but exclusive, theme-related, or thrilling just because of its location? Then you aim for unorthodox locations, such as a mine, industrial building, palace, museum, zoo, or stadium.
- How many attendees do you expect at your event? The correct ratio of area to the amount of attendees is key to avoiding one of two negative effects: overcrowded space or empty rooms.
Once you have the concept and it’s in line with the budget, you can proceed with the field inspection.
The Field Inspection
You wouldn’t buy an apartment based on 5 pictures from the listing, would you? Then why some event organizers decide to book a conference room based on criteria like: price, downtown location, and 100 people capacity? Can you see how absurd it is? And when you arrive on the show day, it turns out that the stage is missing after all as it has been moved to another room, booked for another event, and at the same time your room looks a little cramped (it didn’t look that way in the pictures...).
The field inspection, carried out as a ‘trust and control’ precaution, is meant to prevent such shake ups, disappointments, and stress.
Things to look at on the field inspection:
- Size of the venue - not too small so it’s not cramped and not too big so it’s not empty.
- The seating pattern - your event may require a certain seating pattern because of its type. You have a wide selection here: theatre, classroom, banquet, horseshoe, or board room. So give it a thought and decide which pattern is best suited to your event. Don’t forget to check if the venue allows you to apply this pattern.
- The mood of the room – a commonly overlooked issue but the space, its design, decorations, or even its story, create a mood. The question is - does that mood fit the theme of your event or maybe it contradicts the theme? Imagine that you organize a conference about modern technology. The venue? A conference room in an ancient castle, while it could have been organized in modern skyscraper packed with technology - your core topic. And you miss out on the opportunity to make a study tour that could improve the attendee’s perception of your event by giving them valuable experiences. A lost opportunity because of going the easy way.
- Temperature – perhaps it sounds trivial but life itself has shown me countless times that the temperature at the venue can be a nuisance to the attendees, causing dissatisfaction with the event as a whole. Make sure the room is filled with fresh air and the conditioning is set to a comfortable level. Mind the comfort of your guests and don’t give them reasons to complain.
- Sound system, lighting, acoustics – all these technical aspects can be verified during the field inspection. This way, you won’t face unpleasant surprises in the form of a dark and gloomy room in the basement, only lit by artificial light, or noises from the other room, which could bring tidings of the lack of comfort and privacy to your event.
Details that matter
What’s next? Imagine that your perfect conference room is located in the very center of the city. Your guests arrive at 9 but the hotel parking lot is tiny and filled to the brim. The guests start searching for other parking lots close by (which are also full at that time). And they have to pay for most of them and the wallet's angrily short of change for the parking meter... Women in high heels are forced to go 50 meters over uneven pavement to get to the hotel. Half of people are late, a good part of them having elevated cortisol levels before even reaching the venue. The entire situation caused chaos and you have nine missed calls from attendees who just wanted to park their cars. Neat, isn’t it? It’s one of trivial, but at the same time quite common situations that can happen. It can happen but not to an event manager that looks ahead and is empathetic to their guests.
This is why the field inspection of the conference room is only a half of the venue selection process. What else should you check to make sure that details don’t make anyone’s day worse but instead provide pleasant experiences and meet your guests’ expectations?
- Check the parking lot so the nightmare from the previous paragraph doesn’t become your reality.
- Explore getting there by public transportation (bus, tram).
- Check utilities: the cloakroom, toilets, proper reception area and catering, a spacious foyer, spaces for partners. Got everything planned? Do you know what, where, and which way? If you haven’t checked that, then your guests are sure to experience trouble as well. Speaking of utilities, I also mean not that obvious matters, like wi-fi (every other person will ask you about it), trash cans (if there are none, you will find trash everywhere; and if you don’t, it’s quite possible that an attendee will find it and say there was a mess at the conference), or umbrella drying racks if the forecasts point at rain on the conference day. Simply, be extremely prepared.
- Tell your guests about any actions you have taken for their convenience. This way, you will answer their questions before they’re asked and show them that you care about their comfort.
The field inspection isn’t about pointing out details the owner overlooked. It’s about making sure your guests don’t point them out at the event. It’s going to be much too late and you won’t be able to fix these details, fetch more coat hangers, build a parking lot, or reorganize the conference check-in area to make a more efficient one. And you will be held responsible for that because choosing the right conference venue was your decision. Thus, you should really consider all these points and hone your process so that your professional approach and engagement bear fruit in the form of positive and unforgettable experience for your attendees. And I wish you so!