Does the venue for my event really matter that much?
Apart from the date and the cost of your conference/meeting, where you´re going to have it is probably the most important consideration.
And before you decide on this (and we’ll help by listing a number of considerations below) you have to know who your attendees are. For instance, how far will they be coming from? What´s the most central location for the greatest number (or at least the people you really want there? And roughly how many guests are you expecting to accept your invitation?
Get the answers to the above and you´re half way there.
Next, there´s other matters to consider such as how the event fits in with your organisation´s ethos and image (if you´re a charity or local authority for instance, you won´t want to be seen booking a plush five star hotel). On the other hand, you don´t want something too down market where there´s a risk the staff may treat your guests in an offhand manner. This is a chance to show off your company´s private face so it´s crucial to get the ´feel´of this event right.
Once you´ve established a good location in terms of distance (and we´re assuming you´ve checked out transport links here – both road and rail, and if it´s an international conference, flights – find out if you can book rooms too for overnight accommodation if necessary. If this isn´t possible, are there any hotels nearby who will offer you a bulk booking discount? Meanwhile, for those who´re driving, is there plenty of parking provision?
If the conference is going to last more than one day check there is decent night time entertainment for your guests, at least a good restaurant nearby.
Have you checked it´s actually big enough (bearing in mind around 10 per cent of those you´ve invited probably won´t turn up for various reasons)? Next, does it have all the facilities you require (audio visual, decent internet connection etc) and if not, is there provision for you to bring your own?
Think of your guests too – they´re going to be in that room for at least a day (during big conferences) so check if the seating is comfortable. Is it well laid-out so that no-one is going to be sitting craning their neck for hours trying to focus on the main stage? Will guests have the option to mingle easily during break times?
What´s the air conditioning and heating like? A lack in either can lead to you guests feeling uncomfortable and wanting to leave.
A crucial point in these days of Blackberrys, smart phones and social marketing is wi-fi connection. All conferences and meeting venues should have this. For some of your attendees it will be important and for others, essential.
Other things to consider include whether the hotel has a gym or sports facilities for overnight guests and if there´s a fax and photocopier guests can use. Seemingly small thngs like these can make all the difference as to whether or not attendees enjoyed their stay at your conference and crucially, whether they´d come to your next event.
Is the hotel prepared to work with you on contingency plans for extra guests at the last minute? Are they happy to cope with special dietary requirements (ie vegan, vegetarian guests)? What if, horror of horrors, you have to change the date a month or two prior to the event – would they help they reschedule or just pocket your discount?
So how do you get the answers to most of the above? You could ask the hotel of course, but to double check it´s a good idea to speak to someone who´s used the venue before for a conference and what their experience was. This might take some research and checking but it´s well worth it. After all, it´s not just the cost of the venue that´s at stake. It´s also your organisation´s reputation, which is worth far more.