Conference space ranges from the small office best suited for a private discussion to large conference halls where a hundred vendors can set up booths and interact with thousands of visitors. This makes finding the right space for your event critical to its success. Here are 5 tips for choosing a great conference room. We’ll also explain why these issues matter more than the other factors that may be used to decide where to host an event.
It is always a mistake to get the cheapest room you can find and assume everyone will fit in. You guarantee a disaster if you rent a room with standing room for 100 and then try to add seating for them. It is possible to have too much space. Imagine a large dining room rented for a small panel and discussion group. They feel devalued by the large, empty space. People scattered around a large group of chairs limits engagement; it also makes the event feel under-attended and less important. Right sizing large conference venues is therefore critical to its success. And don’t forget to provide enough space for vendors, sponsors and the press if they are attending.
Accessibility is critical for several reasons. First, if you aren’t readily accessible off public transit or major roads, you aren’t going to get full attendance. Don’t try to pick a beautiful location that almost no one can find on the map or reach via twisting local roads.
If you’re planning an event with people flying in to attend, arrange transportation from the airport. And if you pick a location where people need to take more than one flight to reach it, such as going from the London airport to a regional one, know that you’re going to lose some attendees. This is why centrally located large conference venues in London like 8 Northumberland Avenue are popular compared to equally large ones much farther out of the way.
Select a venue that has enough parking for all of your attendees. If the venue fails to provide enough parking, you’re going to have attendees be angry that they had to walk several streets from the parking they did find or their inability to get in despite having tickets. Another variation of this is accessibility to the venue itself. An old-fashioned movie theatre may have decent seats for a general audience, but it creates problems if your older or handicapped guests cannot navigate to a seat they can use.
Don’t forget the importance of having easy access to the building for vendors. Can they arrive with their trade show booths or product demos and easily get into to set up in advance of the event?
The right amenities
Your venue needs to have the right amenities for the event that you’re hosting. If you’re going to hold an all-day seminar, arrange catering, have planned trips to local restaurants or host the event at a venue that sells food. Ensure that the facility has enough bathrooms to hold everyone comfortably; this is especially critical for events that plan on simultaneous breaks between events, so you’ll have everyone at the event competing to use restrooms at the same time.
The right layout
We already discussed the need to have the right amount of space so that everyone is comfortable but doesn’t feel like atoms bouncing around in a void. Another issue is having the right layout for the event. Trying to hold a formal presentation with a speaker up front is difficult if you’re trying to seat everyone around a large table best suited for business meetings.
If you’re going to hold a seminar where people take notes and fill out workbooks, putting them in movie theatre style seating isn’t really good enough. Formal awards ceremonies where dinner is served could be set up in a room with many dinner tables, but you’d still need to take care that everyone can see without having to shift their chairs around.
Suitability is too often overlooked when selecting a conference space. One issue is the other events that may be going on around you. Your business to business sales reps may not want to attend an event when there is a lively reception going on in another space in the building. A low cost, spacious conference hall or business meeting centre in a dangerous part of town may scare off the general public as well as sponsors.
When choosing a conference room, your first priority is ensuring there is enough space for everyone. Accessibility both for those with limited mobility and everyone arriving at the event is essential. Your conference rooms need to have the right amenities, such as enough bathrooms and provisions for dining. The space needs to be suitable for the event and have the right layout for the activity you have planned.