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Finding the Right Conference Venue

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 14 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
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With so many conference venues in the UK now vying for commercial business there's plenty of choice for people wanting to hold a conference. But that in itself brings its own problem: how do you choose the right venue for your conference?

Conference Venue Requirements

The best method is to try and break down your requirements before you even look at a conference venue. Find out from your company, or your customer if you are organising a conference for someone else, what they are looking for. Break these down into features that you will need and assign a priority to them.

Obviously you will need to know how many delegates to expect, but then, for example, is a cheap price more important than a prestige building or location? Where will the attendees be coming from and how long are they staying? How important is timing; can the conference be delayed for a month to get a slot at the perfect conference venue?

Put Together a Conference Venue Long List

Once you've got your brief it's time to get out and take a look at what's out there. Location and transport are big issues and they are covered in a separate article in this section so here we'll be assuming that location has been decided. Use the internet or perhaps the local Chamber of Commerce or similar organisation to get a list of all the conference venues in the right area.

Numbers will be the easiest factor to start off with as this will chop down your long-list very quickly. Venues that are too small can be discarded immediately and at the same time there's little point in paying for an 800 seat venue if you will only be half filling it. Looking at their websites or a quick phone call will determine whether or not any conference venue will remain in the list.

Take a Tour

It's now time to visit the short list to find the right conference venue for your needs. If possible try and get there when a conference is in progress, you'll find out more about how they cope. Many smaller conference venues are just large rooms at hotels or public buildings and you may suspect that even if the venue can cope with your numbers, they may not have the experience to cope with a professional conference.

Ideally you will be looking for somewhere that can handle the catering as well so that isn’t another thing that you have to deal with. Don’t be afraid to ask to sample the menu once you've got your long list down to two or three options.

Conference Venue Style Versus Price

Once you are satisfied that a conference venue can deal with your event in a professional manner and the food will be up to scratch, it's going to come down to style and price. If the company holding the conference wishes to impress people and are hoping that will lead to more business, then they might be more prepared to pay extra for somewhere with a little wow factor; a top country hotel or a brand new mega facility in a city, perhaps.

But if price is more of an issue, perhaps for an internal company function, then they may be more prepared to sacrifice prestige and style for a saving. Public buildings and university facilities are often available and won’t cost the same as somewhere more elegant.

Final Conference Venue Choice

In the end, if the decision is becoming difficult between a few top locations and you are organising the conference for a customer, then ask them to make the choice of conference venue. This will also make them feel that they've been involved and increase their buy-in to the event.

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