Kelly Vickers, Director of Meet Cambridge, outlines key considerations when constructing your event regarding space, layout and format. With expert advice from Professional Conference Organiser Suzy Howes on industry trends and her personal experience, consider this your comprehensive guide.
Before you even think about the space, layout and format of your event, ask yourself: what is the purpose of the event? Having clearly defined objectives from the beginning will guide every decision you make, right down to the details. Alongside the business priorities of a meeting or event, what are the learning, networking and motivation goals?
A room is never just a room, with everything from the carpet pattern, to the light bulb wattage and even the scent having an impact on the experience for your delegates.
Is the décor modern or traditional? If your event is revealing the launch of cutting-edge technology, choose a venue or location that reflects this. If part of your event’s appeal is the world-famous heritage of Cambridge, beautifully preserved college rooms are ideal.
Is there a lot of natural light? Sunlight and air-flow have long been documented to provide more stimulation for delegates than darker spaces.
Is the room appropriate for the time of year? You might view a cosy room in the depths of winter, but also ensure that in the warmer months it has suitable air-conditioning and sufficient air flow.
Alternatively, could the event be held outside? If you’re feeling restricted or want to free your delegates from the confines of bricks and mortar, consider taking them outdoors. Events can be held in marquees with or without walls, or right outside amongst the elements.
The environment of an outdoor session alongside exercise can make learning more stimulating and memorable, and you could even consider “walk and talk” meetings. They work really well if a session involves brainstorming or team activities as they can be recorded and transcribed later. If you aren’t able to hold an entire event outside, encourage walks during breaks. Delegates will benefit from fresh air, exploring the area and having some down-time. This also allows them to consolidate what they have learned and can help them to re-focus when they’re back inside.
Another factor to consider is the room layouts that are available to you. While options will vary between venues, common styles are cabaret, theatre, classroom, boardroom and u-shape, all of which are available in Cambridge and its surrounds.
Considerations affecting your choice – beyond venue-specific options and availability – are your audience size, type of activities and length of event.
Professional Conference Organiser Suzy Howes understands how important it is to provide the best experience for delegates.
“In my experience, people learn best if they are physically comfortable, and cabaret allows guests to sit forward and take notes, sit back and relax or help themselves to refreshments.
“Unless you absolutely must have rows of seating for a large audience, round tables tend to be better for delegates. However, few venues offer this layout, and raked seating or flat floor, theatre-style options tend to be more popular. Depending on the length of presentations, this style of seating can be less comfortable and visibility should always be taken into consideration if there is a flat floor.”
When putting together a timeline for your event, consider the natural ebb and flow of people’s energy throughout the day, including the notorious post-lunch slump. Drowsiness is common after a morning of conferences followed by food, so having activities or room layouts that allow movement will keep people alert, making it more difficult for them to get bored. Big ideas should be scheduled for the beginning of the day, and the length of sessions should be shortened as the day progresses, when people are able to digest less.
While event organisers cannot re-invent the wheel when it comes to room layout, Suzy thinks that delegate experiences can always be improved by what happens on stage.
“I’ve noticed that particularly during academic conferences, there is a trend toward getting rid of the on-stage table which can act as a barrier between academics and the audience. By opting for easy chairs and a coffee table instead, academics can be interviewed about their presentation topic. This can be a much more engaging way to deliver a keynote,” she says.
Other future trends that have been highlighted in the events industry include supplying healthy food and drinks to ensure delegates get the right mix of dopamine for motivation and serotonin for well-being. Some planners are even looking at smell-o-vision with peppermint scented aromas to create maximum alertness.
The main point to remember is not to shoehorn your event into a space you have fallen in love with – and don’t compromise on the details.
There are countless considerations to make when organising an event. Taking the time to really think about space, layout and format will ensure your event goes above and beyond in delivering the ultimate experience to your delegates. Meet Cambridge can help you find a venue and host the perfect event in and around Cambridge. You can make an enquiry by using our online enquiry form, emailing or by calling us on +44 (0)1223 768740.