How to Find The Right Conference Venue
16th February 2011 by Rachel Willis
VirtualStudio.TV's sister company, YellowSpanner, is a production company and has been fortunate enough to work all over the world producing conferences and events for some of the world’s biggest companies.
A well thought out recce can make all the difference when it comes to your event running smoothly. I’ve listed my Top 10 Tips which will hopefully help you find the right venue for your conference or live event.
The delegate experience: Ask the venue to walk you through the delegates experience from the moment they arrive. This will cover off where the ‘delegate check-in’ takes place, the bag pull, issuing of room keys, swiping of cards for expenses etc…. It’s important that from the moment they arrive this process is organised. (If delegates are staying overnight a bag pull is a great idea, it means that delegate’s bags are taken on arrival and then placed in their rooms. I would also advise that room keys are issued after day one of the conference as it restricts people vacating to their rooms before the event is over.) Walking through the delegate experience will highlight where you might need to invest in some signage too.
Accommodation: Check that the venue can accommodate all your delegates. If not, what is the overspill accommodation like and how far is it from the main venue? It’s also a good idea to check where the crew accommodation is. Remember, you will be charged travel and expenses by crew members who have to travel to and from the main venue. Most venues have cheap single occupancy rooms available which they’ll sell at a good rate and these rooms are ideal for crew.
Health and Safety: Many venues will require you to submit a Method Statement and Risk Assessment. Your set and stage company will be able to provide these. However, if you’re producing a large scale event it might be worth hiring a dedicated Health and Safety officer who can liaise with the venue and the crew accordingly. This will make sure you have all Health and Safety issues covered.
Fire alarm procedure and important announcements: Ask the venue what the fire alarm procedure is and whether they have any fire drill scheduled for when you’re there. Tell the audience this information at the start of your event. You also need to inform the hotel if you’re using any equipment that might set off the fire alarm system, such as a smoke machine, for example.
(Check before using smoke machines & dry ice)
Check room sizes, emergency exits and hanging points: Ask the venue for CAD plans, truss plans and any floor plans they have. Also check what size tables they have stocked, or whether they charge to hire tables in. Ask where the main access point in the room is for catering as you’ll need to make sure that this isn’t blocked. In terms of the loading points for the ceiling, you need this information if you’re planning to hang a lighting truss. Most big venues have hanging points, if they don’t then you can always set up T-bar lighting along the sides of the room, but bear in mind, this will eat into your available floor space. Also check where the power points are and what type of power you have access to. Be aware that some venues have specific charges for power.
Your main contact on the day: Most venues have separate Sales and Banqueting departments. This generally means that the person you’ve been talking to about your event hands over all your information to a completely different person when you arrive on site. Check who your main point of contact will be on the day. Also, check what times they will be working and where their office is located.
The get in and get out times: This is a very important point. Confirm with the venue what the ‘occupancy envelope’ is. In other words, what time can you access the rooms you have booked, and what time do you need to vacate them. I would always recommend trying to negotiate getting a little extra time. All venues will charge for this extra time, but in my experience if you can’t broker a good price your best bet is to leave it until the last minute. As most corporate events happen during the working week, it’s very unlikely that a venue will sell space for a weekday evening. Also check at this point whose is in the room before and after you. If you have a tight get in / get out you might be able to broker a deal with the other occupants such as renting their lighting truss or set and stage and just leaving it in the room as it was for the previous event!
Set and stage: If your conference includes a set and stage, then you will need to check with the hotel where the main loading doors are. This can seriously affect your setup up time if crew have to go round the houses in order to access the main conference room. After a conference most of the set and stage will be trashed, so double check if the venue has any skips that can be used to discard this waste. If they don’t then you need to discuss getting rid of the waste with your set and stage company as a lot of venues will charge you if waste is left in the room after the get out.
In house equipment and crew: Check what in house technical equipment is available and if the venue has in-house crew who can work it. Many venues state that only their crew can work the in house equipment and for large events, generally this equipment isn’t good enough. Check if you can bring in external crew and equipment but make sure you utilise the in-house crew too as you’ll no doubt find that external crew aren’t allowed access unless in-house crew are present. Be aware though you will normally have to pay for their time as well!
(Try to get your equipment needs arranged before you get on site)
House lights: You’re very likely to use a screen to project slides and video during your event and you will need to turn the house lights off so the audience can see the screen properly. Double check that you can access the house lights and that they can be turned off manually.
Last Top Tip: Make friends with everyone at the venue. If you treat the staff well, they will generally do anything for you!
I hope you have found these tips helpful but if you need any advice or have any questions please do contact us today.
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