The right choice

It’s not as easy as it sounds. To begin with, there is an exceptional number of venues to choose from, each one with separate characteristics and qualities. Visit London claim that there are 1,000 in London alone. These vary from purpose built conference centres, major exhibition venues, exclusive private member’s clubs, historic and sumptuous banqueting facilities, bijou meeting places to converted, or adapted properties that started life as one thing, and changed to become another to maximise revenue creation. And then there are hotels that offer meeting and banqueting spaces, but always need to concentrate on their bed night occupancies first and foremost.
Because of this huge diversity of product that does not allow for uniform benchmarks to be relied upon, or as importantly the services that comes with it, it is vital that the person tasked with organising the event, and choosing the venue for it, understands from the very outset the questions needed to be asked.

Fundamental factors
The key to choosing the right venue depends on many factors, but there are four that are fundamental. The first is to understand exactly what the event objectives are. This may sound like stating the obvious, but there are some organisers who do not always have these clearly defined from the outset, and this makes it considerably harder for them to select the appropriate venue, and for the venue to advise them on doing so. The second is to compile a full and detailed brief of the event requirements from design specifications to cloakroom arrangements. The third is to ensure that the selection and final decision-making process is clear. Venue selection and event organising by committee can be achieved but, the management of this is crucial. The fourth, but my no means the last, is the budget. Is this clear from the outset and fixed, or is it flexible? Who makes the final decision?
Deciding the location is normally the first decision, and if this is definitive, should immediately present a choice of venues. If the location can be flexible then a different dilemma will exist, but armed with above, this process will be much easier. There are multiple options available to searching for venues in given locations from a straight search on Google to online venue finding agencies, directories and marketing collectives like my own.
The clearer the objectives and event requirements, the easier it will be to select a short list of venues in the desired location. The next step is to speak to the venue (rather than e-mail) and check that they have availability for the time/s you need. If they do, then using a detailed checklist that corresponds to your detailed brief, go through this with them, once again on the phone. Only once you have satisfied yourself that the brief can be met at the times you want, and at the price you have set, should you commit to e-mail correspondence. E-mail is a blunt instrument, and is often open to misinterpretation and misunderstanding, depending on the user of it. As the event organiser it should always be your personal objective to satisfy yourself at this early stage that the venue can meet your requirements, and a verbal conversation is the only way to do this, especially prior to a site visit that is the next essential step.

Terms & conditions
Apart from the obvious requirements you will have in terms of capacity and configuration, catering and AV, you should always ensure that you read properly the contract that you will be asked to sign. Very few, if any, have the same contract terms so you can’t rely on any standard. What are the cancellation charges in the event that you need to? What are the issues surrounding public liability and other insurance cover required? Are the catering and other contractors you are dealing with in-house or external? It is always contractually preferable to be dealing with the venue and all your catering and other requirements under one single contract, however, this will not always be possible. Are there restrictions on music and dancing? Check their Licenses and any conditions attached. Are the responsibility and negligence clauses fair and reasonable? And are extras and add-ons not covered in the cost of your hire and contract clearly understood by you so that, if these are added to your final bill, they don’t come as a shock.
Being prepared
You should also allow for ‘what if’ situations where your event requirements may change midway or, at the last minute. If these do, you need to be aware that extra costs could be incurred that cannot be expected to be borne by the venue, or worse still, AV equipment or changed room configurations are unable to be carried out in time.
In short, be well prepared, well briefed, and methodical, and check thoroughly against your fail-safe checklist before you book.

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Event Diary

The Security Event is set to be the first major exhibition to take place in the sector when it opens its doors on 7-9 September 2021 at the NEC in Birmingham and for the first time it will also encompass the National Cyber Security Show.

digitech21 will seek to demystify the increasingly complex technology landscape and will showcase a host of public sector best practice case studies and the very best solution providers, each of whom are helping organisations to transform and improve the way in which the public sector delivers services to the citizen.