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How to choose a meeting venue

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When choosing a venue for your next meeting or conference there is more to consider than just the budget and the agenda, which are of course both very important factors in themselves. There are a number of other important factors that you need to look out for when choosing the ideal venue for your next business meeting:

Location
Is the venue easily accessible to those attending?
Does the location offer the necessary road/rail/air links?
Is the venue location suitable for any extra events/shows/excursions that have been planned?
Is the location quiet, close enough to accommodation if required, in a safe area? You can choose a calm, secluded venue which is without any distractions or you can choose a venue in a buzzy part of town for more creative meetings

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Suitability
Does the venue fit the company’s corporate image?
Does it give the correct impression for this particular meeting?
Will it appeal to the target audience?
Will the venue’s staff add to the attendees’ experience in a positive way?

Availability
Is the venue available on the dates required?
Are any extras such as equipment, accommodation, etc. available on the dates required?
How flexible are they if you have to change the meeting date?

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Size
Is the seating capacity suitable for your event?
Are the meeting rooms large enough to provide a comfortable experience for those attending?
Are the meeting rooms well laid out? Do they allow for good views of the speaker without any obstructions?
Does the venue allow attendees to move around without bottlenecks and delays?

Facilities

Always look at the facilities in a venue before you book it. A lot of venues claim to have dedicated meeting facilities, but not all do. If they do claim they have, then make sure that they can offer the following:

Does the venue have a variety of rooms if required? An auditorium if necessary? Small rooms for break away meetings?
Can the venue offer a projector, electronic whiteboard, stationery, etc.
Does the venue offer wifi internet access? Do they have a photocopying/fax service? Can they make available laptops or PC if required?

All of the above should be included within “dedicated meeting facilities”, as should access and facilities or disabled delegates.

It is also a good idea to check whether the rooms are well ventilated and temperature controlled. There is nothing worse than having shivering delegates or those that are falling asleep because the room is too hot.

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Food and drink
This is always a very important factor for any event or meeting. Check the following with your venue:

Can they provide refreshments, tea/coffee/meals?
Are vegetarians, vegans and those with specific dietary requirements catered for?
Is there a restaurant or bar for post-meeting networking and entertainment?
Do they have sports and leisure facilities such as a pool or gym?
On-site parking
Does the venue have enough parking spaces? Check what the costs are, if any. Most country venues will offer free parking which makes things easier for everyone attending.

Cost
Tempting though it may be, don’t set your budget after you have seen some great expensive venues. Set the budget before you embark on venue finding and make sure you stick to it. Booking a venue which exceeds your budget will seriously dent your bank account and cause problems further down the line. Be realistic when looking at venues and choose one that appears to be able to offer everything that you need. Providing that the venue has a good team running it, has excellent facilities, and your delegates are kept fed and watered, you should have a successful event.
Bearing this in mind, look out for the following:

Does the venue fall within the budget for this meeting?
What type of rates do they offer i.e.: 24 hour per delegate rate, individual room hire rate, etc…
Can they offer any discounts?
Can the price be negotiated?
Does the overall cost, all extras included, compare favourably with other offers/options (i.e.: hotel accommodation at a separate location to the meeting or dining elsewhere)
Are there hidden costs?
When is payment required?
Is a deposit required and if so how much and how far in advance?
What is their cancellation policy? Will you receive a full or partial refund?

A lot of the above questions can be answered by visiting venues’ websites. Alternatively, you may choose to enlist the help of a venue finding company. These specialist companies offer a free service to clients looking for any type of venue and their response times are usually very quick. They also have extensive portfolios of venues to suggest to you, to save you the worry and hassle if you are short of time or simply don’t know where to start.

If it is a venue you have never used before you may want to ask the opinion of colleagues or friends who have held meetings and conferences there, to find out what their experience was like. If the meeting or conference is an important one it is advisable to visit the venue personally to get a first hand impression of the layout, suitability and, very importantly, the attitude of the management and staff.

At the end of the day you want to get the most out of your meeting and the venue you choose should add rather than detract from the experience of those attending. Weigh up all of the options available to you and take the time to choose carefully.

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