It may be an obvious statement, however the very first question to ask yourself is “where are my attendees travelling from?”. For a local event, a location near their place of work or homes is the norm, however if you have attendees travelling for far afield it is important to consider how they are travelling. Train and air transport means additional travel upon arrival to the destination, unless a venue is convenient walking distance. Consider the total travel time. When traveling from across the UK concentrate on locations with good train links – Birmingham and Manchester are good examples.
Important to consider, and often overlooked, is the size of the room(s) you are looking at using. First off, look at your expected numbers – is it likely they will increase or even decrease? A room needs to have flexibility for change. The last thing you want is to be in a room that holds 300 pax for a meeting of 75, unless your presentation requires the additional space. Venues will also note their internal H&S restrictions, so conversely a room too small for the number of people might just be breaking their safety guides.
3. Layout / floor plan
It’s always recommended looking into the floor plan beforehand or preferably visiting the venue. From arrival your delegates gather in a communal area ready to head into the meeting room(s). Is this area shared with other events? How will the venue control the separation? When breakout rooms are required, the ideal would be to have them conveniently located close to your main plenary space; no one wants lost delegates. Consider also the flow of delegates and how the layout of your tea/coffee and registration areas may affect this.
4. Offsite options
If you’re looking at conducting off site activities or dinners then it’s important to note nearby locations and venues which can provide this. Speak with the hotel sales department for suggestions if you haven’t had any success in your own research, often they’re a source of local knowledge. For off-site activities (or dinners), we wouldn’t suggest much more than a 30 – 40 minute transfer.
5. Service from the off
Here at Hippo we prioritise customer service levels, and therefore expect the same from our venues. The initial contact with the venue is a good indication of their standard of service. If struggling early on to receive clarity on questions or you find yourself constantly chasing the venue you can only image what the service levels will be like on the day. Strong communication and a proactive positive nature gives confidence to the client that everything will be seamless on the event day itself.
6. Desire for your business
Linked with the above point, during the sales stage if a venue shows flexibility and a ‘can do’ attitude, it brings a positive mentality to the customer. Finding solutions, offering suggestions and negotiating on rates shows a venue is willing to go the extra mile to win your business, rather than making you feel like you are another cog in the wheel. It’s a good indication of how the venue see your event from within.
A venues décor can have a large impact of the atmosphere and ambience inside. Matching a venue to the identity of your event is crucial. A traditional venue wouldn’t reflect a forward thinking innovative IT company, for example. The atmosphere within a venue is dictated by the staff, surroundings and other guests within the hotel. This highlights the importance of a site visit; you get a ‘feeling’ about the place, something which pictures cannot convey.
8. Delegate Welcome area
First impressions mean everything. Is there clear signage? Can you place signage in the lobby and will there be staff on hand to direct? Is your registration desk hidden around a corner? If you get lost on your site visit, chances are your attendees will do too – not the upmost first impressions upon arrival.
9. AV capabilities
AV requirements vary dramatically depending on what is needed. Most events tend to require a Projector / Screen and Flipchart. Usually included in a Day Delegate Rate, it is important to check with the venue, and to see if they can offer any additional elements such as Lectern, Microphone, PA systems and Stage Blocks to name a few. The more they can include in their hire, the more it keeps costs down. For any set builds, don’t forget about ceiling heights.
Negotiating on costs can be tricky at times, however at Hippo we believe that if ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Using an agency for your venue find can prove extremely beneficial, given the experience and relationships we uphold, often with key personnel and final decision makers. Always ask a venue for a list of any additional costs – they are often hidden in rates such as Security, Cloakroom, Fire Marshals, Furniture hire etc.
These are just some of the areas we consider when creating your venue proposal here at Hippo.