Venue-finding software has considerably accelerated the process of researching and identifying the physical spaces where we can bring the client vision to life through events and experiences. But in the pursuit of efficiency, we don’t believe full automation of the sourcing process is desirable or in the best interests of our clients. Forging stronger in-person as well as online relationships with venues can be a crucial differentiator in our ability to meet and exceed clients’ expectations.
Close collaboration with our venue partners typically delivers better outcomes and value for our clients than evaluating potential venues against a checklist of criteria. A fully-formed brief and clear objectives can provide the starting point for a more creative, joint exploration of how a space can accommodate an event’s purpose and theme, beyond satisfying ourselves that the venue has a sufficient number of bedrooms or a big enough congress hall.
It’s also important to avoid the disconnect that sometimes occurs between what a venue’s sales team promises, and what the operations team can feasibly deliver. That’s why we prefer to get operations involved early in the process, potentially even at the pitch stage, to avoid the potential for misunderstanding or frustration, and provide end-to-end accountability from concept to reconciliation. So while venue-finding solutions certainly save much of the initial legwork, there’s no substitute for a relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.
Configurable spaces vs meeting rooms
One of the most significant gains from a true partnership is flexibility and a willingness to think outside the box. Clients are increasingly asking us to find alternatives to the standard model of a plenary room plus breakout rooms, for example to accommodate one-to-ones. It’s not cost-effective to hire a dedicated meeting room for an hour, and commercially sensitive discussions can’t be held in a public space, so modular acoustic meeting pods are a great solution to create privacy within an open-plan environment.
Venues are also starting to look at how they can adapt and reconfigure their current spaces for a wider variety of purposes. These include making clever use of the restaurant to incorporate outdoor spaces, partitioning large areas into more useful segments, and even using inflatable temporary event structures to create pop-up meeting rooms.
The growing role of technology
As we’re all glued to our mobile devices, Wi-Fi is becoming integral to events. The trouble is, the infrastructure needed to provide sufficient bandwidth to support multiple connections is eye-wateringly expensive. Destinations outside the UK have a much stronger emphasis on providing high-speed connectivity, thanks to faster national average internet speeds. Certainly, it is unreasonable to expect venues to swallow the cost of supporting high-bandwidth applications like live streaming, but free standard Wi-Fi has now become table stakes.
However, venues do have some cost-effective options to increase guests’ convenience. We all know how panic can start to set in when our phone battery drops below 10%, so venues could score a quick win by providing free charging points. This doesn’t have to mean fancy wireless charging stations – it could be something as simple to implement as replacing standard electrical plates with ones that include USB sockets.
While delegate-facing mobile apps are becoming increasingly commonplace to accelerate check-in or manage the participant experience, a number of venues are investing in apps to make life easier for agency and corporate organisers, which is a welcome development (no pun intended). For example, if a session is running late, the organiser connects to the internal congress personnel through the app to push back the coffee break by 15 minutes and the programme is updated seamlessly.
It’s our job to look beyond the obvious and we deliver many events in unusual and cultural venues as well as more traditional conference environments. That’s why we put a strong emphasis on cultivating relationships with venue partners that are meaningful rather than purely transactional. These lasting relationships enable us to secure better value for our clients and give us full confidence in the venue’s ability to execute our brief, however far-flung the destination.