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Friday, 18 September 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Getting the venue right

by Simon Thompson, Managing Director of free venue finding service, Conferences-UK

Even during the recession, external meetings and events are still very much in demand. Increasingly, bookers are hunting out the best rates and putting cost at the forefront of their decisions. It’s important to remember that selecting the most suitable venue is crucial in order to make the right impression on potential or existing clients, and indeed staff. The most important factors to consider are location, cost, facilities and that all-important wow factor.

Event organisers, PAs and decision makers need to carefully consider the accessibility and location of the venue. If it’s likely that people will be travelling from far afield, they may not know the area and are likely to be travelling on public transport, so a venue that is easily accessible, close to transport links and well signed is key.

In times of financial hardship we should all look to support our local community and remember that it’s a two way street. Conference organisers can support local venues by booking within the vicinity and in turn local venues are offering very competitive deals in mutual support – a clear advantage when booking conferences or external meetings. Many venues are offering discounts to businesses within a 10 mile radius and have launched reward schemes for returning businesses, so organisers should take this into consideration when looking for a good deal.

Another advantage of staying local is that travel costs and time away from the office are reduced. At nearby venues, delegates will be able to follow their usual commute home and can return to the office afterwards if time allows.

Organisers should also take into account how much impact is required depending on the nature of the event and weigh up the importance of spending money on a grand buffet lunch versus paying top rates for a stunning location, views and atmosphere. In the current financial climate compromises have to be made but that doesn’t mean missing out on the perfect venue. Venues with added ‘wow factor’, such as stunning views or exceptional heritage always add impact. Delegates are often more likely to attend meetings in desirable locations that they’re keen to visit so it’s important to bear this in mind to maximise attendance.

These days decent IT facilities usually come as standard, but always check with the venue co-ordinator to see what’s available before hand to avoid upset on the day.

To increase bookers’ options, many venues now provide Bronze, Silver and Gold packages, which enable customers to select the one that suits their budget. The Bronze package caters for simple requirements and is aimed at half-day events as lunch is not provided. Delegates are asked to buy their own tea and coffee and invited to bring their own light refreshments, such as water and mints. All of this cuts the cost of venue hire dramatically and considering much of it is often left to go to waste anyway, it shouldn’t go amiss. Remind attendees to bring their own note pad and pen to save incurring the cost for these too, as organisers are more likely to end up binning half used scribbled versions at the end of the day. This can be positioned as the ‘Green’ option as less waste is produced.

The Silver package includes refreshments, and provides a basic cold buffet lunch. When money is an issue, don’t spend £10-£15 per head on food when often all people want to eat during a work lunch is a sandwich anyway. Liaise with the venue to find a cost effective option.

The Gold package includes all the trimmings; refreshments on arrival as well as at mid-morning break, followed by a hot and cold buffet lunch. But again, this can be tailored to your specific needs and should you wish to eliminate certain aspects to reduce costs, specifically with food, the venue will be happy to work with you.

Conference organisers should also consider the full space required. Is a breakout room needed? If so, it can add to the cost of a conference. To reduce spend, look for venues with room separation options as the room layout can be changed to suit personal requirements, rather than having to hire expensive breakout rooms. In some cases, transformable meeting space is offered, whereby venue staff alter the room during breaks to create the desired areas.

To save money when booking a conference facility follow these credit crunching tips:
• Stay local
• Look out for Bronze, Silver and Gold conference packages
• Book venues with free parking
• Choose a venue with free breakout rooms or a versatile venue with removable walls

Finding a venue can be a stressful task, especially if it’s not necessarily part of your job description. Outsourcing the time consuming venue finding aspect of holding an off-site meeting can save you both time and money, and more importantly will ensure you find the perfect venue, thanks to in-depth knowledge of all the venues listed. Conferences-UK currently has over 5,500 venues on its site, which we carefully select from to meet individual needs.
Conferences-UK can be found at www.conferences-uk.org.uk

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