Whatever event that youʼre planning, whether itʼs a sales conference for 2,000 people, a seminar for 100 people, or an intimate dinner for 10 – securing the right venue is a make or break decision for event organizers.
Itʼs often tempting to use tried and trusted venues – if itʼs an event youʼve run before, there is a lot of peace of mind in having confidence in a venue that youʼve worked with before, where you can visualize the spaces, and that you know will work with you to deliver the best event possible.
The challenge with that however is that youʼre always looking to try and create a fresh experience for delegates, to find new places that they might not have been to before, to give your event a bit of a wow factor – very hard to do that when the guests are as familiar with the venue as you are.
For me, the classic example of that is the Hilton Metropole hotel in Birmingham at the National Exhibition Centre. If youʼve ever worked for a largish UK organization, itʼs highly likely that at some stage you will have been to this hotel for an event – Birmingham has great transport links to everywhere in the UK, the hotel is easily accessible by train, car, or plane, and the hotel has a range of event spaces from ballrooms to small meeting rooms.
Iʼve run more events there than I care to remember. Itʼs a good hotel, the staff are professional, and everything works. But all the events tend to blur into one another – not just for event organizers but for the delegates as well, you tend to find everyone is a bit flat and depressed before you even begin the event:
Here we are, back at the Birmingham Hilton, hearing the same old presentations…
There are of course a multitude of factors that influence the choice of venue for your event
– everything from budget, delegate travel, event format, and personal idiosyncrasies of your client.
I always think that starting with practical or logistical considerations can limit your imagination (and result in you ending up back in the Birmingham Hilton because it ticks all the logistical boxes).
Try starting instead with a few more emotional questions:
How do we want our delegates to feel?
What sort of experience do we want to deliver for the delegates?
What do we want our delegates to say to each other about the venue?
It can be a slightly tougher brief to hand to your venue search team, and you may need to push them so they donʼt come back with the easy and obvious options, but as an event organizer you have to take some risks.
As you begin to overlay some of the more practical considerations such as cost and feasibility, you will start to get a balance between delivering a hassle-free event, while impressing your client with something a bit new and a bit different that delivers them better results than they had expected.
Your client may resist some of your more innovative suggestions, but as event organizers there is a lot more satisfaction in delivering a successful event at a venue that challenges expectations as opposed to delivering an acceptable event that no one will remember at a venue that theyʼve all been to before.
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