Written by Karen Sweeney, Sales and Event Management
2020 has been (and continues to be) a strange and uncertain time for all of us and has changed the way we organise corporate meetings and networking events – possibly forever for some of us!
It’s the norm now to organise a Zoom meeting – schedule a time, send the link to the attendees and then just join in on the day – the only things you need to worry about are what your hair looks like and do you have a good background!?! Seriously, it’s not that simple but there is far less to do than when you are responsible for a “live” event, be it for 30 delegates or 300 (or more!).
Virtual events are being planned up and down the country to try to keep events and meetings going in one form or another, but in the hope that one day soon we will be able to return to meetings in person with lots of delegates. In preparation for this, here are a few hints and tips that I have picked up along the way!
The easiest way to make sure you get everything perfect would be to employ an events planner – they would work with you to make sure all your requirements were met and would also do all the “heavy lifting” of finding the right venue, checking out local transport links, organising the room layout, local hotels, liaising with the venue’s event manager...the list goes on!
But, for those of you not able to get a professional in to help, this may be of use...
Choosing your venue
Is the venue easily accessible from local motorway networks and public transport links?
If the venue does not offer accommodation, is there some close by?
Does the venue have sufficient car parking? Is it free? If there is a charge, how much is it and can you negotiate a rate for your delegates?
Is the venue fully accessible?
Does the venue have enough space for you? A room for your meeting and separate room for refreshments – being crammed into one room for the whole day is not good for your delegates – offering a separate room for refreshments is a must
Breakout rooms – does the venue have adequate breakout spaces? Ideally, these should be individual rooms and not open spaces – the last place you want to have a breakout group is the venue foyer!
Is the main meeting room suitable? Check for any obstructions that may obscure the line of sight to your speakers – ie – pillars in the room. Does it have natural daylight, can you get fresh air in the room, or is there air conditioning – without these, things could get uncomfortable on a hot summer’s day and you will totally lose your delegates’ attention!
External noise – where is the room located? If it’s next to the venue reception or kitchens, things could get a little noisy and distracting! If you have any doubts about external noise being a distraction, be clear about this with the event manager at the venue, give them a chance to make sure everything is right for you on the day.
What room layout is available for your number of delegates? Ensure that you totally understand what the venue is offering you and how the room will look. Popular room layouts that the venue will offer, include:
U Shape Boardroom
What technical/AV/PA equipment does the venue offer? What are the costs related to using their equipment, if any? Does the venue offer an in-house technical support person if you use their equipment? If so, do they charge for this service?
Does the venue have recommended suppliers?
Can you bring in your own supplier? If so, remember to ask about set up and breakdown times at this point.
Check the venue has good, reliable wifi and that there is no charge for this – it is mostly taken for granted these days that wifi is available and free of charge, but best to check.
If you need them, do they have staging and lecterns for your speakers?
Ask to see sample menus, ensure that all dietary requirements can be catered for – vegetarians, vegans, gluten free, allergies and any other specific dietary requirements. Ensure you provide the venue with a full list of dietary requirements prior to the day – it is not fair on the chef to spring it on him on the day!
Be very clear about what is included in the price per delegate – how many servings of tea/coffee, lunch and water (if it’s bottled, there is very likely to be an extra charge).
If you are expecting lunch in a separate room, ask to see the room before the day of the meeting.
If you are on a tight timetable, be sure to choose a lunch that can be served and cleared within the allocated time.
Be very clear about your timings for the day and if you need set up and breakdown time, discuss this and agree with the venue in advance. Venues may sell rooms more than once a day, so if you haven’t agreed your times, you may find them rushing you to leave!
Does the venue fall within the budget for this meeting?
Do they offer delegate rates, or is it room hire plus catering?
If the venue offers accommodation and all delegates are staying ask about a 24-hour delegate rate, does this include dinner?
What other extras/hidden costs might there be – breakout room hire, technical equipment, etc?
Is the price negotiable?
Is a deposit required?
When is full payment due?
What is the venue’s cancellation policy (this is particularly relevant at the moment!)?
These pointers are in no way exhaustive and a lot of the above can be answered by a visit to the venue's website and by asking for a quote. If you’re considering using a venue you haven’t used before, be sure to visit before confirming your booking – websites are great, so are testimonials, but you can’t beat seeing it for yourself to get a first-hand impression of the venue and meet the staff who you would be liaising with throughout the planning and the day itself.
Hope this is helpful, but remember, there are lots of event planners out there ready and willing to work with you – I am one of them!