1. It seems obvious, but my first consideration is always:
What are the event’s objectives? What is the purpose of it? Are you launching/promoting something new, are you celebrating a great success or are you hoping to inspire your team?
Your choice of destination and venue can mirror your objectives; you can choose somewhere dramatic, somewhere indulgent, somewhere motivating, or somewhere pared down, calm, distraction free. Do you want something historic or contemporary? Extravagant or modest? What kind of an atmosphere do you want? What impression do you want make?
Destinations and venues are a bit like brands – what does your choice say about you or your organisation?
2. Think about your audience
Who are you inviting and what will make them come in addition to great content?
People attend events to gain knowledge, network and be inspired – but it’s true that the choice of location can also influence turn out.
Pick somewhere different, unique or unusual to add interest to your event. There are some amazing spaces which can work flexibly for events. Be inventive and be extraordinary. Make your event memorable. Your guests will be talking about the ambience for longer than the content.
3. What facilities do you actually need?
How many rooms, in what layout? Do you need rooms? Do you need chairs? Could your event, or some of it, work outdoors? What technical competencies do you need? Why? Could you get across messages in a different way and bin the formal presentations?
We can’t all present like Steve Jobs, but we can always do better.
4. Should/could your event be hybrid?
Can you reach more people by offering live streaming? Could you extend the life of your event by making sessions available post-event online? Clearly this will to a certain extent depend on the content and the audience.
5. Location, access and sustainability
If your entire audience live and work in one place, it’s a no brainer; but if you have international delegates flying in from around the world – where would they like to visit? Are they bringing their families? Might they stay on for a holiday? How are they going to get there?
Acknowledge that some delegates don’t appreciate high humidity or heat, hurricanes or snow drifts.
Many destinations and venues are better suited to, or only available at, certain times of year, whether it’s for climate reasons, religious reasons, peaks of tourism or academic calendars.
Consider your audience and their travelling arrangements too; if you have guests travelling from more than 100 miles away – unless you’re putting them up the night before, don’t be surprised when they’re late for an 8.30 networking breakfast. And, if your audience is predominantly female and local – remember they’ll probably have to do a school run first.
What is going to make your event unmissable and unforgettable?
Can you add something to the agenda that will, without being gimmicky, add that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.
Most of us cringe at the ‘ice-breaking’ activities we have had to endure – but maybe you could have a relevant speaker from your industry or field, or another, to get you started; a psychology-meetology style – ‘how to get the most out of today’ session; a mindfulness session before you start; or you could have an art, garden, library or chapel tour of facilities that aren’t open to the general public after lunch. Do something special and unexpected.
If you need a social programme, consider your guests’ likes and dislikes – but also think about what makes a destination or venue unique and make that part of your programme. How many of us attend an event in a beautiful building set in amazing gardens and we don’t get to step outside? Or travel 2000 miles for a one day event and don’t even have an hour in the city? Enrich your programmes.
Most destinations now have great, imaginative activities and incentives – take the opportunity to include just a brief window of time in the itinerary for something like this. Your delegates will thank you.
8. Who are the people who will be supporting your event at the venue?
Meet the team! Meet the event manager, meet the front of house staff, meet the AV team, meet the chef – depending on your event. Is your event as important to them as it is to you?
9. We all know we’re supposed to do it – it’s good practice – but how many of us do it?
Take up references – find out about others’ experiences.
11. It’s not all about the money, money, money …
Of course there’s a budget. But, events don’t have to be expensive; with a little creativity and imagination you can host a great event that meets its objectives and more. On budget.
Kelly Vickers, Managing Director, Meet Cambridge