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Successful conferences inspire and motivate but also involve hours of planning, administration and co-ordination. Not having the experience or perhaps the extra resources means you need to enlist the help of colleagues within your organisation and free professional conference organisers.
To develop a successful conference, you require the talents, co-operation and co-ordination of a number of people within your organisation and it is advisable to establish a Conference Planning Committee early in the planning process and before any decision is made.
Set the objectives before you select a venue -
What is the purpose of the meeting? Can you create a clear written statement of why the event is to be conducted? Does it agree with the top priorities of your organisation?
Can you establish quantifiable goals for this event and clear thresholds of achievement by which you can determine its success? Ensure the objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and relevant.
Who are you trying to attract? Identify all the stakeholders in the meeting (attendees, organization leaders, guest speakers etc) and set priorities.
What do you want attendees to remember most about the event? Can you summarize the experiences your attendees should have?
Who else has conducted the same type of meeting and what can you learn from their experiences? Talking with meeting planning peers can be a big help in setting effective and realistic goals.
Do you have the resources necessary to achieve your goals? Can you successfully conduct the event with the staff you have or do you need to consider outsourcing part or all of the functions?
Have you sought input and commitment from your staff? Have you asked previous attendees for their comments and suggestions?
How will you reach your intended audience? What type of marketing and promotion will you do to spread the word about the event?
How will you monitor and determine the success of this effort? Develop measurement tools that address the pre meeting process, all on site elements and the various post-meeting outcomes.
Selecting a venue for your Off-site Meeting
A meeting for five to 100 people takes just as much time and effort as planning for thousands. But the little touches that might go unnoticed by a large group are readily appreciated by a smaller group. Since a minor mistake can become a major problem, it is important to be precise in all the planning.
Often the success of a meeting will relate directly to where it is held. Of course, we all have our own style and preferences, and we all want to satisfy the specific needs of our individual groups. Yet some things are basic to every meeting.
- When choosing a date for the meeting check school holidays and consider the geographical location that works best for your attendees.
- For two -to three - day events, look for a venue close to the airport, train station or the office, ideally no more than an hour or two away. No attendee appreciates spending much of the first day travelling, possibly arriving tired and hassled and then anticipating the same return trip on the last day of the meeting.
- For a one day meeting, don't choose a resort hotel, it is frustrating to see a wonderful golf course or spa and know that you will never get to enjoy them. On the other hand if you want your attendees to spend time together socialising, then a city centre hotel may not be the wisest choice. Decide how the time will be spent, then determine the type of facility that meets your needs.
- Seek the assistance of professional conference organisers who will be able to recommend the ideal choice of venue to meet your requirements and budget. A venue/conference planning company will also be able to check availability of dates, negotiate the best price and added extras and take short term options, to enable you to review the choices provided.
- The Conference organisers will have up to date knowledge of venues seasonal discounted rates and will make recommendation where applicable.
- They will also arrange site inspections of your preferred choices and if required accompany you on these visits. They will also ask about the little things that can so easily be overlooked, such as asking about upgrades for senior personal, restaurant times etc.
- First impressions count. During your pre - event visit, keep your eyes open. Does the property look the way it is portrayed in the brochure? Are the grounds neat? Do the front desk personnel, waiting staff, housekeepers etc smile and greet you? Are the public facilities clean? Are the sales and marketing people organised and ready to meet you? These things tell you how well the staffs are trained. Look at the meeting rooms/bedrooms that you will be using, not just an example of similar rooms!
- When you receive the contract from your chosen venue, make sure that all the arrangements match your requirements. Find out about check in and checkout times - are they flexible? If you are using a venue finding agent, they will assist you by checking the terms and conditions and advise you of any issues. Establish final dates for guarantees and cancellation policies. Double check for termination clauses often referred to as 'Acts of God' clauses that apply when a meeting is stopped because of forces beyond the control of the group of the facility.
- Finally, ask about the billing procedure. Can you pay by cheque or credit card? Will they bill you later? What goes onto the master account? Can they give you copies of the daily charges and ensure you provide the venue with a written list of those who are authorised to charge on the master account.
- Hold a post meeting follow up. Evaluate what worked and what did not, review the invoices and solicit feedback from the venue. Ask the attendees to provide feedback about the programme, content and format.
For expert venue finding advice and booking , please call Conferences UK on 0800 567 0050 or Click here to make a conference or meeting enquiry.
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