Meet Cambridge's Deputy Manager Judith Sloane provides 10 pointers for event organisers to bear in mind before booking a venue.
It’s vital to consider how your delegates will get to the venue – is it close to public transport, main routes and so on? Don’t be afraid to ask the venue if they are aware of any planned closures around your dates, they may not know but they can keep you updated. It’s also worth considering what else is happening in and around that venue on your chosen date – a big event close by might mean that delegates need to plan for longer journey times.
Can the venue offer added value – if you’re considering an academic venue for example, could a tour of the venue be possible for delegates, or could the venue provide a speaker? Could the history of the venue or its purpose add an extra dimension to your event? Scientific and sporting venues could offer added interest to delegates or opportunities for additional activities.
AV and tech issues
Ask about technical support – will there be anyone dedicated to help you during your event and if so, how can you contact them on the day to avoid any hiccups? How delegates can connect to the WiFi and what bandwidth is available are important questions to ask. Do you want to do any live streaming or video-conferencing at your event and can the venue offer facilities for that?
Past experience matters
Make sure that you request references or ask for case studies of past events. Ask to see photos or video of other events to get an idea of how others have used the space. The layout that you choose can make a huge difference to the event, so check how many delegates the room will hold for different set ups such as theatre, cabaret or boardroom, and how these have worked out in the past. You can read more here about meeting architecture in another of our blogs.
Make time for a site visit
Always, always do a site visit – you can only really get the feel for a venue by visiting in person and meeting the staff that will be handling your event on the day. Walk through the venue as though you were a delegate arriving at your event and note any areas that might cause confusion to someone trying to find their way. Finally, make sure you check the facilities and find out how your event will be signposted.
The small print
Check and check again all terms and conditions. Ask how cancellation charges might affect you. Don’t forget payment schedules; for example how much is the deposit and when does the account have to be paid? Ensure these timings work with your event timeline so that you have the necessary funds available at the right times. Policies on cancellations, final numbers, additional room bookings and so on can vary between venues so don’t get caught out.
Ask if the venue has any accreditations or awards – is the venue a member of the Meetings Industry Association or another official body? Find out about suppliers and their provenance – this is especially important if you need to demonstrate that you have considered the environmental impact of your event.
Purpose of the event
Can the venue help you achieve the objectives of the event? If one of the objectives is to encourage collaboration, are the networking areas conducive to that? If the purpose is to get delegates involved in an activity at some point during the day, does the venue offer outside space and what would happen in the case of wet weather? If you’re hosting an exhibition as part of your event can you add catering points to the exhibition space to encourage delegates to mingle – it will keep your exhibitors happy!
Ask about additional costs for using the spaces for set-up and take down, AV support, car parking and extra WiFi hubs. Does the venue charge cloakroom fees and do you have to pay for the use of a room for storing any luggage? What does the venue charge for the use of an office, photocopying, paper etc.
First impressions count
Ask the venue to tell you how delegates will be greeted on arrival at the venue, who will they meet and what will they see. Consider the décor, lighting and the overall first impression that will be made upon guests. Creating an atmosphere that ties in perfectly with the event format and – most importantly – with its objectives is the key to success.