08 Dec 2013 Successfully Selecting a Conference Venue
Conferences, like associations, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. To have the most successful conference, you should be careful to choose a venue that is optimal for your organization’s event. There are many different considerations your association can make when it comes to planning their conference:
1) What type of organization are you? If you are a national organization, you have a wide range of places to choose from. If your association is located in a single city, you want to choose a location that is easily accessible for the majority of your members.
2) How accessible is your location? Choose a city or venue that is accessible by public transportation or is a major city where a lot of airlines will fly. That will increase your attendance.
3) How interesting is your location? Many attendees will plan travel or sightseeing around the conference. Choose a city that people will find exciting to visit, and your membership will have an increased interest in attending.
4) Do your members travel a lot already. For those associations whose members rarely travel, often the annual conference is an opportunity to see a new place and they will be more interested in spending time and perhaps bring family members. For associations who have members with busy travel schedules, these members often are on the road so much that practicality is key. They want to arrive one one flight if possible, get to their meeting, maybe have a good dinner, and get home. Think about who your members are.
Once you have chosen a city, the real fun begins: choosing your venue. You don’t automatically have to choose the biggest, most expensive venue in order to have a successful conference; in fact, many events thrive in smaller venues that are more suited to their event. A few things to consider here:
What size budget does your organization have available for this event? Speak with potential venues about any associated costs at the venue- A/V equipment, food and beverage, rooms, special equipment. You should budget your venue so that the conference is still profitable- and keep in mind that your venue is just one cost of the many costs associated with running your event.
How many attendees can you expect this year? You can figure this out using past conferences as an example. You want the size of your venue to match the size of your conference- if the venue is too small, you won’t have enough space for your attendees and it may feel crowded or chaotic; if the venue is too large, your attendees may spread out more on breaks and may not network or mingle as much as they should.
If your dates are flexible, you can work with the venues to find dates that have the best prices for your budget (both room rates and cost of the event for your organization). If your event is at the same time each year, say, the second week of February, you will have to be a little more flexible with the cost of your event.
4) Price Range for Attendees
This is an important factor to consider. If your venue is going to charge attendees $250/night for a room, will your organization’s members be able to afford it? Be realistic in order to maximize attendance.
5) Floor Plan
Are meeting rooms at this hotel on the same floor? Is there a nice flow to the space? Will people naturally exit into a breakout area where they can mingle and network with one another? Look at the floor plan for your venue to ensure that it won’t be too complicated an event to set up, and that there are places for your membership to gather on breaks.
Is your venue in the heart of downtown, or in the middle of a parking lot? Often its best to hold your event in an area where members can leave the hotel to grab a meal or explore the city, as long as it fits in your budget.
You want your members to receive a high level of customer service and leave with a great experience to make them excited for the next year’s conference. Here at Jaffe Management we are great fans of Trip Advisor, which rates hotels according to Sleep Quality, Location, Rooms, Service, Value and Cleanliness, all of which are important elements to keep in mind. The site also ranks hotels in certain cities, so if your board has chosen New Orleans as its city, you can look up hotels in New Orleans by ranking. Read what others have to say about their stays there so that you can ensure your members the best experience possible. Keep in mind the savvy member will do that same google search when you announce the venue. And if they read a lot of negative reviews of the location that was chosen, that could make them less excited about attending.
Whether you are planning your event in another state, or in a conference center or hotel in your own city, you want to keep these guidelines in mind. In order to have the most successful event for your organization, it is best to ensure that the venue is easily accessible, is the right shape and size for your event, and will best serve your needs as an organization as well as the needs of your attendees.