Alternative Meeting Venues
If you or your clients are looking for something a little different for a conference, then it's time to start looking for alternative venues. You'd be surprised at the unusual, odd and sometimes frankly bizarre places that have decided to try and crack the conference market but probably not surprised that sometimes it doesn't quite work out.
Academic Conference VenuesFor a long time now larger schools and universities have hired out their facilities during holiday periods. For them it's a way to make money out of facilities that would otherwise be dormant. Universities and colleges are no strangers to running conferences these days but schools lend themselves perhaps less well to this change of use. The best advice is to go and look around the place before you book.
Take Your Conference Out to SeaCastles, big country houses and hotels are quite often selected for conferences to get a group of people together somewhere where there aren’t too many distractions. But if you really want isolation, and to keep people all in one place to focus on the real issues, why not put them all on a ship?
One IT conference is often held on a three day cruise every year, sailing barges on the Thames can cater for up to 500 guests and there are many opportunities for team building events based around tall ship sailing or mini regattas. Cruise ships can host day-long meetings in docks or take you away on a trip if your event is longer.
Sporting VenuesTaking the sporting theme a step further, many sports venues double as conference locations. Almost every football stadium built or refurbished in the last twenty years will have put conference facilities in, again as a way of generating cash from assets only used once or twice a week. In fact new stadiums generally have hotels and conference centres, if not shopping malls and entertainment complexes as well, built into them at the start as a way of making them pay their way.
Other sports are well represented on the conference circuit. All major horse and dog racing tracks offer their facilities for events and conferences as do most rugby and cricket grounds and many other sporting venues. For adrenalin junkies booking a suite at one of the many iconic motor racing tracks around the UK can provide an irresistible lure, and in fact most of the Formula One factories, mostly based in southern central England, host business conferences too. Even indoor artificial ski-slopes offer conference facilities.
Impressive Classical VenuesFor a more sublime atmosphere, consider museums or art galleries. These might sound a little dull, but many museums and galleries are superb classical buildings that are positively breathtaking and will definitely impress delegates. If that's not the feel that you are after, look at some of the museums that specialise in non-mainstream subjects.
There's a museum of wine in London that is very highly rated as a conference venue and motoring and industrial revolution museums in the Midlands. Further north there is a media museum in Bradford and a flight museum in Scotland, all of which offer conference facilities. This is just the tip of the iceberg; if you can find a museum or gallery that fits the bill and links into the theme of your conference then it will be an event that is remembered.
Look for Dedication to ConferencesThere is a need to tread with caution however. It's crucial to find out how much effort these alternative venues are putting into their conference departments, because all too often venues think they just have to have a room of the right size and a caterer on tap.
It's not long before they find out that customers demand professional service in all areas, so try and find out as much as possible about their capabilities before you place a booking.