When planning an event, its location should be very high up on the list of things to get sorted. If you are planning a conference aimed at the corporate market, you really need to consider the whereabouts of your potential delegates; holding the event local to as many as possible will positively affect the ticket sales and your potential income and profit. You should then consider the required transport links for these delegates accordingly, as well as the journeys for those travelling from further afield.
If in central London, for example, will delegates be coming from within the city itself or mainly from north or south of London? If many of your potential delegates are based along the South Coast, then you should consider holding your event near Victoria or Waterloo stations (both easily reached from anywhere on the South Coast by a quick change at Clapham Junction.)
If many attendees are travelling from the north of England, you would be better to consider a venue in the Kings Cross/Euston area. If you have absolutely no idea where they will be coming from, then a central location with access to as many tube lines as possible will be key. If your event does not need to be held in a big town or city, then you will still need to consider your location carefully. Will guests need overnight accommodation? If so, then it is best to consider a venue with plenty of hotels around it or – even better – one that also offers accommodation.
So, location is key, but your choice of venue will also be determined by your date and the availability of the venue, as well as your budget and how many people will be attending. In our experience, for a brand-new event, it is worth visiting four or five different types of venues before committing. Forward planning is key here though; before site visits, you must consider the elements upon which you are not willing to compromise and those upon which you are – think of it like buying a house!
Once you have selected your venue (read our second blog on budgeting and planning for advice on the different pricing structures employed by venues), then you need to build a rapport with your main point of contact and contact them regularly by telephone and not just by email. Most venues deal with hundreds of bookings each year so you need to make sure that yours is important to them because of the relationship you have built up. You should hold another site visit once you have decided upon your venue and at this point you should really be thinking carefully about your guest experience, from the minute they enter the venue until the moment that they leave. Perhaps all delegates arrive at once (such as on a coach)? If this is the case, then how long are they going to have to queue for the cloakroom? This is also a consideration for the end of the event. You can always ask the venue to provide further staff at these ‘pinch points’ but, in our experience, this is something that you should remind them of again and again. Likewise, are there plenty of toilet facilities? Guests don’t like queuing at any event, so it is best to minimise queues wherever possible.
Whatever you do, you should do your best to try and think of everything. We are experienced event planners and managers and have seen a lot in our time – we have dealt with a guest unexpectedly wanting to arrive by helicopter (the venue was amazing on this occasion) and at a landmark conference, we had to improvise when the incorrect number of teas and coffees was provided for the afternoon break (that really was all hands on deck to make sure that the delegates didn’t notice the venue’s failure to deliver on the day).
It is important to consider the very finest details and ensure you have discussed them all with the venue. If you have agreed something with a venue, then make sure it is on the contract and the production schedule. Do not worry about asking as many times as you need to until you are satisfied that everything is covered. You need to be clear on costs, minimum and maximum numbers, timings, and who oversees the event on the day. If there are Audio Visual (AV) requirements, such as screens, staging, etc., then you will probably need to liaise with a separate contact before the event and on the day itself. The same is often true of the catering contact, as many venues outsource their entire catering division. Your master to do list should be extensive and cover every eventuality.
As covered in our previous blog, it is very important to note that whilst many venues offer a duty manager, that person is not generally there to help you with the management of your event on the day; they are just the liaison between your team and the venue staff for the duration of the event.
You must therefore make sure that you have enough team members, as there is so much running around to do, and many hands really do make light work. We will be covering how to effectively split your team’s responsibilities in a later blog.
One final word on venues – if you have a good event experience at a particular venue, then why not go back? Whilst sometimes a client might want to try something a bit different, if a venue has provided an exceptional service, then we would encourage returning to that venue at least once if it still meets the event criteria. If you have developed a great working relationship with the team at the venue, then maintain that rapport and you and your guests will all benefit.
If you are planning on arranging an event yourself and want to actually enjoy it – perhaps by entertaining your key clients or networking for new ones – then it is very important to seriously consider the appointment of your own event management team. We would be very happy to help by supporting your in-house team or managing the whole event on an outsourced basis.