The location and venue are critical to the success of your event. You can enlist a venue finding service to help you with this. A venue finding agency can help you to choose the right venue.
These operate independently but can also be part of the package offered by a conference organising company. Most offer their services free of charge to you and take commission from the venue instead.
The agency will keep up to date information on all aspects of the venue including the quality and service offered, facilities, proximity to public transport. They will negotiate rates for room bookings, delegates, overnight accommodation and then provisionally hold the accommodation. They can also arrange for you to visit the venues to undertake your own check. If you decide to confirm the booking, the agencies will raise the paperwork with the venue.
Things to consider
Size of the event
Plan early to ensure you get the venue of your choice – some of the premier conference venues hosting 200+ people get booked up a year in advance. The larger the event, the fewer venues will be available to accommodate you.
Type of event
If your event is informal, for a small group, or will take just a couple of hours, consider organising a breakfast briefing or a short seminar, with opportunities for networking.
If your event is formal and for a large group a conference or seminar may be more suitable. For a large conference, you will need to book:
- one main conference room
- one room for catering
- one area adjacent to the main room for registration (this could be the same space as the catering area)
- breakout rooms.
If your event will last longer than a day, choose a venue close to hotel accommodation.
You will need to decide on the layout of the rooms. Consider the following:
- Do you want people seated around tables (cabaret style)? Bear in mind that this will halve the number you can accommodate.
- Do you prefer people to be seated in rows (theatre style)?
- How many breakout rooms for workshops will you need?
- What layout should the breakout rooms have?
- If there is a question and answer session, will you need a roving microphone?
- Will you need a podium for speakers?
- Will you need a top table with name plates?
- Choose a venue within easy reach of public transport links (particularly train or tube links) – in general, the harder it is for delegates to travel to a location, the less likely they are to come.
- If the speakers or delegates will require overnight accommodation, choose a venue that is close to a hotel. Delegates don't like to travel far between the two.
- Consider whether delegates will need business desks providing email, fax and a telephone service for urgent enquiries.
- Other facilities that could be useful include photocopying and message taking.
- Plan the food and drink that you will provide on the day.
Ensure your venue is fully accessible to people with disabilities. As well as offering lifts and ramps for wheelchair users, a hearing loop should be provided for delegates with a hearing impairment.
Meals and break times offer an important opportunity for participants at your event to network. It is important to consider how the catering you provide will best meet their needs.
Key points to consider include:
- The menu
This will depend in part on whether the delegates will be standing or sitting while they eat. Standing is often preferred as it facilitates networking.
Delegates will need at least 45 minutes, preferably an hour, to eat. The length of time you have available will determine whether you provide a hot or cold buffet.
- Dietary requirements
Find out if delegates have any special dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, gluten-free). Clearly mark all food to ensure they do not get confused about what the products contain. You may need to set aside a plate of food for delegates with very specific needs.
You should not need to provide alcoholic drinks for a one-day event, but you may need to provide them with dinner if the event runs over two days.
- Setting up
Caterers will need time to set up and to serve the food. They should be given their own room close to the main auditorium, but not so close that setting up will disturb the delegates.