Choosing a conference venue? Use these 10 questions to help you whittle down your options.
When you’re choosing a conference venue, a checklist can help you wade through the options out there. Ask the following 10 questions on your venue visits to make sure you haven’t missed anything important.
1. How accessible is the location?
Your delegates should be able to reach the location with as little fuss as possible – whether they’re coming by air, rail or car. If your delegate base is international, make sure the venue is located within easy reach of airports. And check there’s ample parking if many delegates are likely to drive. If you’re organizing a multi-day conference, it’s also a good idea to check if there are restaurants, cafes and bars nearby where your delegates can network pre- or post-conference.
2. How accessible is the venue?
Don’t be won over by looks alone. For example, a historic building may have atmosphere aplenty, but if it hasn’t been adapted for disabled access, you’ll be leaving some delegates high and dry. Make sure the venue is fully accessible and has induction loop facilities for delegates with hearing impairments.
3. What’s the venue setup like?
Rooms must be suitable for your numbers and needs – and have a bit of flex to boot. Check how much flexibility there is on numbers, and what the maximum capacity of each room is. And ask whether you can use breakout spaces and if there’s a quiet space where delegates can have some downtime.
4. What accommodation is available?
If the conference venue offers accommodation for your delegates, check what’s available and at what rates. If the venue doesn’t provide accommodation onsite, see if there’s a suitable hotel nearby.
5. What’s the cost? (And what are the hidden costs?)
OK, 2 questions here. When it comes to choosing a conference venue, cost is going to be one of the deciding factors. When it comes to the overall cost, talk through what is and isn’t open to discussion – and be prepared to negotiate. But as well as the cost of venue hire, look for hidden costs like charges for using outside suppliers, parking fees or wi-fi costs. And remember: read the fine print.
6. How are the lighting and acoustics?
Lighting and acoustics are often overlooked when it comes to choosing a conference venue, but they’ll have a huge impact on delegates’ experience. See if you can schedule your venue visit when an event with a similar setup to yours is taking place. You’ll get to see the rooms in action, and you may get some ideas for setup too.
7. What incentives will the venue throw in?
Discounted rates on delegate rooms? Complimentary accommodation for members of your organizing committee? Talk through what incentives the venue can offer to secure your business. And check if they’ll be willing to throw in an extra service if your costs reach a certain amount. Small perks like an airport shuttle or free coffee and tea can add up to big savings for your organizing committee.
8. What else is going on at the venue?
Ask about what else will be going on at the venue during the dates you’re looking to book. This will impact how busy the common areas are, and may have an effect on where you can display sponsor or conference branding.
9. What facilities do they offer?
Prepare a checklist of the facilities you need (like AV, stages, microphones etc), and see which the venue can offer. And check if they’ll have a technician on hand to support you throughout the event.
10. How does the conference catering work?
Can the onsite caterer accommodate food allergies or restricted diets? What about last-minute delegate requests? Talk through whether the venue has a minimum food and beverage spend, and whether they’ll charge by person or by what you order. It’s also worth discussing what happens if your delegate numbers change significantly closer to the date.