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Choosing the right venue for your next meeting, conference or exhibition

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However large or small the meeting or conference that you are planning, location is key. The environment whether it be formal or informal, helps to set the necessary mood and ambiance for the meeting to take place. The venue needs to provide a comfortable yet stimulating environment that will encourage the attendees to concentrate, but not be too cosy so that they fall asleep!

When thinking about the right location, consider the purpose of your meeting and the meeting objectives, the length of the meeting and, of course, your budget. Is it appropriate to hold the meeting on-site or would it be better off-site? Decide how appropriate/necessary/important it is to hold the meeting on or off-site. For example, sometimes a neutral, off-site location is necessary for confidential, top secret discussions.

Different types of locations to consider:
1. Meeting and conference space local to your office
2. Off-site meeting space which is out of town

1. Local meeting space
When it comes to selecting an off-site location, be it a local hotel conference room, a restaurant or purpose built meeting space, your budget will rule and determine the outcome. To be on the safe side, always inspect the space first-hand before finalising any decisions. Make sure the space is the right size for the meeting. You want to avoid “maxi-sizing,” that is having a space big enough to seat 200 for a 20-person meeting. You only want to consider venues that are large enough to handle the event you’re planning. Much will depend on the number of participants and the complexity and/or variety of the program. Will it be formal, informal or both? Do you want a rural or an urban location? Chances are that every event you plan will possibly meet different criteria, and thus have different space requirements.

2. Out-of-town off-site meeting space
This option is usually used for extra special meetings, such as sales meetings, as costs will inevitably be much higher. These kinds of meetings could last for several days so you want to make sure that all necessary details are well taken care of. If you want to make it high on your colleagues’ popularity poll, consider using a hotel resort facility, as they usually offer various enjoyable relaxation options, golf, swimming, fitness centre, etc. A site visit is essential so as to avoid any unexpected surprises.

Once you have decided what type of event you are planning, there are various venue options available to you:

Hotels, Conference centres, Resort Hotels, Unique venues

Hotels 

These fall into three main categories:

Well-known and established chains, such as Marriott, Hilton, Accor, Hyatt, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, that offer a certain level of service that you can expect worldwide. They offer a wide range of amenities especially if you need room for large banquets, trade show or exhibit areas.
Independently owned properties, such as those belonging to Charles Forte, Morgans Hotel Group, The Ritz whose luxury hotels and resorts offer a unique character, one-of-a kind ambience, and provide the highest standards of quality and extraordinary service.
Boutique hotels such as Firmdale, ACE, Hotel du Vin etc, which individual personalities – eclectic, quaint hotels housed in historic urban buildings. They tend to offer smaller meeting facilities, but of the highest quality.

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Conference centres

Conference centres encompass a broad range of venues which are often purpose-built specifically for meetings and events and offer state-of-the-art facilities. They comprise corporate training centres, universities, resorts, and large airport hotels.

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Convention and exhibition centres

When you need a large amount of space, an exhibiton or convention centre is the best bet. These are usually situated in towns or cities and are easily accessible by public transport. The only drawback with this type of venue is that you would need to use a nearby hotel for accommodation as they do not have on-site facilities.

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Resorts

You’ll probably only consider a resort property if relaxation and leisure activities rank high on your priority list. This environment works well for both formal and informal meetings as well as teambuilding.

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Unique and unusual venues

Many unique venues offer really good meeting space with excellent facilities and they can certainly add that WOW factor to your event. Some options to consider include museums, stately homes, Scottish castles, sporting venues, and theatres. By choosing a unique venue, you will show your delegates that this is no ordinary conference or meeting. It will undoubtedly encourage attendance and keep your delegates talking!

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