Big Events for Small Towns
Many conferences and seminars etc are held in London, or in other major metropolitan centres. Many other such events are held in conferencing facilities out in the country, well away from any distractions. What about the alternatives though? Are there advantages to running an event at a venue in the centre of a small to medium-sized town?
Well, there can be.
For a start, though, you must have a reason to want to hold your event in a particular locality, eg:
- You live and/or work there.
- It is a regional centre which just happens to be convenient, so far is travel is concerned, for most of your prospective attendees.
- The region is closely associated with the activity your conference or meeting is about (eg ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent).
Given that you have such a reason for holding your event in the general area, why choose a town-centre venue rather than an out-of town one?
If you are local, and your offices are in town, then things for you as an organiser may turn out simpler than they would otherwise be. You have all the resources of your workplace close to hand, and this can mean that there is less stress involved with planning the event. If you don’t have something you need or something goes wrong, then there is back-up just around the corner.
Also, of course, you can rely on the local shops to supply things which are found to be missing on the day. When you’re stuck out somewhere in the middle of the country, this can be a lot more of a logistical problem.
In addition, you don’t have to provide activities/entertainment for ‘downtime’, a circumstance which is particularly useful when the event will be going on for some days. Of course, it is also a mixed blessing, since the local hostelries might offer too much in the way of entertainment for attendees on a ‘jaunt’, and thus affect their attention to the matter in hand. If one is planning around this, it is worth taking into consideration the fact that provincial towns are usually pretty quiet on weekday evenings.
There are now some very good conferencing facilities in town centres. Often, they are hungry for business and therefore good value for money.
When a new municipal facility, such as an art gallery, or even library, is planned, it will generally be built with an eye to multiple uses; In particular, in these straightened times for local authorities, it will be planned with an eye to uses which bring in revenue. Conferencing is, par-excellence, such a use, especially since the local authority themselves will be a major customer.
Finally, local travel is probably easiest of all in small to medium-sized towns, lacking the frenetic quality of travelling in London, and the dearth of options in the countryside.
That’s a lot of advantages, but naturally, there is a negative side as well.
Municipal facilities do not come with accommodation attached, and town-centre hotels are often not large enough to cater for a major conference.
This fact has not escaped the notice of those who run, at least some of the more important, town centre facilities; they usually have strong links with large out-of-town hotels, and reciprocal arrangements. Coaches can be laid on for participants, and can be included as part of the conferencing package.
This extra inconvenience though, will not infrequently offset all the advantages listed above; if your attendees are staying out of town then why not have the conference out of town as well?
Paradoxically, perhaps, most of the other disadvantages are part and parcel of the advantages already mooted. For instance, the ‘down-time’ problem, and the possibility that the convenience of using a local venue, could encourage sloppy pre-event planning.
As was stated at the beginning, a town-centre venue can be the right choice, if it is convenient, and matches your requirements. As ever, the issues involved have to be weighed in the balance, intelligently, and also dispassionately, in order to get the best venue for your event.