Finding the right conference venue can make or break your event.
The space sets the entire vibe for your event. Each year, MediaRadar attends over 20 events, hosted by different organizers, targeting many different industries, and utilizing many different event styles.
As an attendee, we wanted to share with you some best practices that are (surprisingly) often overlooked when selecting a venue.
Since media companies host events on a regular basis, you will most likely visit the conference venue multiple times prior to your event to ensure everything is up to par.
You will also speak to the venue's staff and associated vendors to get a sense of what the experience will be like for your attendees.
But don't stop there.
Even with taking these precautions, there are still many details that may be overlooked during your conference planning process.
Below are 6 often overlooked venue pitfalls that can alter the attendee's perception of your event.
1. Poor Lighting
Large spaces can often be challenging to light up.
When you first visit your conference venue, envision the furniture and amenities that will be needed for the event, and try to imagine what your attendees will be doing (networking, attending presentations, etc.) while they are there.
Some things to consider:
Check both the artificial and natural light flowing into the room.
You should also think about how inclement weather conditions could affect lighting. How does the lighting reflect the paint color?
Does the space feel modern and inviting or dated and stuffy? Ambiance creates subconsious ques that your attendees might inadvertently relate to your content.
As obvious as it may sound, dimly lit spaces don't encourage creativity, conversation and learning - learning and networking are the two most important reasons people attend business events in the first place.
During evening networking events and happy hours, we encourage you to create a more relaxed vibe with your lighting.
2. Food Selection and Availability
Whether you’ve got a few hundred attendees or a few dozen, bad meals are going to leave a lingering taste in their mouths. You obviously want to avoid that.
Your venue's food should be freshly prepared and relatively light.
Always have a vegetarian option and keep risky foods off the menu, such as those prepared with mayonnaise, shellfish or peanuts. Seems kind of obvious again, but you would be surprised how often this is overlooked.
Make sure that there will be enough food for attendees, and know when the food will be set out and removed.
Recently, we attended a conference that had great food options, but taking a quick call before lunch would lead to slim pickings at the buffet line.
This same conference was also skimpy on the snacks and coffee between sessions. For us, hunger pains and the perception of cost cutting will always be associated with this event.
3. Location, Location, Location
Understanding how accessible your conference venue is for your attendees is critical to ensure your attendees' positive experience.
As an event organizer, you should be aware of the traffic patterns around your event.
Should rush hour traffic concerns influence your start time? Is there major construction around the venue? Are there sporting events or concerts going on near the venue that could affect traffic or lodging options? Will people be driving or taking mass transit to get to the event?
It is very much appreciated if transportation options are communicated prior to an event.
If attendees are subject to unexpected transportation or parking issues, it can start your event off on a sour note.
Just imagine how shocked New Yorkers are when they go to a city without taxis or ubers?! Its always safer to assume that your attendees aren't regular travelers, and that they may require more guidance navigating a new city.
4. Not Enough Bathrooms
This should go without saying, but if your conference venue doesn’t have enough bathrooms for your expected numbers, you’re going to have a problem. Everyone hates a bathroom line.
Make sure there are plenty of near by clean facilities for both men and women, and that there is an accessible bathroom for wheelchairs.
Also, as a side note, bathroom stalls and mirrors can be used to communicate fun events or key takeaways associated with your event. Be creative with that space!
5. Uninformed Staff
If your conference venue provides their own staff, ensure that they are well-trained and briefed in advance of the event.
Venue staff should be familiar with your event, the conference rooms, networking areas, timing and food service areas and be generally knowledgeable and friendly since they may be the face of your event.
The same rules apply for any staff from your company who are working the event. Your staff should be fully briefed on the guests, your clients, the layout as well as know the conference schedule and session locations.
6. Choosing the Wrong Sized Venue for Your Audience
Possibly the worst thing you can do when planning your event (yes, even worse than bad food!), is choosing a conference venue that is too large or too small for the crowd you are expecting.
If the venue is too large it suggests that the event wasn't well received by the target audience, so they didn't attend. If the space is too small, attendees will be uncomfortable.
Ultimately, you want people to be talking about your event after it's over. Give them something to rave about: do your homework up front, give yourself plenty of time to nail down an ideal date and conference venue and nobody will be disappointed.