Questions to ask before booking a conference venue
When you are tasked with booking a big event, it may seem like a daunting prospect. Even if you are used to planning conferences regularly, you may be looking at a new venue. Before entering a contract with the conference venue, here are some questions to ask.
There are so many things to consider when booking an event and conference venue. It needs to fit within your budget. You need to think about accessibility, food, drink, audio-visual, WiFi, and even how guests get there. Do they need a hotel?
How do you want your guests to be seated? Theatre, banquet, boardroom, cabaret, classroom, u-shape? Depending on your preferred set-up, the venue will let you know how many people the room will comfortably hold.
This is the first question that needs to be asked. The conference venue needs to be available on the date you need. If there is a large set-up, is it open the day before? Or, do you need the rooms a few hours before the event starts? What do the conference team set up, tables, décor, audio-visual, etc?
It’s important to know when venue staff will be available to you. There may be other conferences on that day, so how will they split their time? Generally, they will be on hand during set-up to show you how equipment is used, then will be behind the scenes replenishing the tea and coffee station or setting up lunch.
All events are different; this is why you need to know what the venue will do to accommodate your meeting needs. A wedding is very different from a training or a seminar. Weddings usually need one room, a function suite large enough to accommodate the whole party. Conferences have additional requirements. Are there smaller breakout rooms that can be used? Is there somewhere when registration can be done or other sessions or networking breaks?
These days audio-visual equipment and other technology are vital in a meeting. What do you need to enhance the attendee’s experience? You may need screens, microphones, speakers, projectors or a laptop. Renting them can add to your cost, so ask what is available to you? If the venue does not have the equipment you need, do they work with a 3rd party, or will you need to source it yourself?
It would help if you also asked about internet capabilities. If you are live streaming your event on Zoom or social media, is there an internet wire you can use to put in your laptop, or will you have to rely on the WiFi?
The features of a conference venue are essential. Are there enough restrooms, and are they nearby? Is there free or on-site parking, or is the venue easy to get to via public transport? Can guests who have to travel get preferential hotel rates? How will guests who have accessibility needs be catered for?
How many servings of tea and coffee do you require? It’s a given that attendees will want a drink when they arrive, and it’s an excellent way to get them networking before the conference kicks off. A mid-morning and afternoon tea break is advised, as well as at lunch.
Do you want your guests to have breakfast when they arrive? It could be something grab and go like breakfast rolls or pastries, or do you want something more fulfilling? What do you want them to have for lunch; a traditional buffet, or would you prefer hot food? Ask what catering packages the conference venue have, and see what fits with your requirements and budget.
Before you sign on the dotted line, you need to know how much it will cost. Ask about the deposit and payment schedule too. You may be required to pay the deposit to secure the booking and pay the remaining balance a few weeks before the event. Ask about insurance requirements too. It is advised that you have public liability insurance when hosting an external event.
Your contract may be based on a minimum number of attendees. Low attendance or slippage can happen. It is important to remember that regardless of how many attendees show up, you may have to pay in full.
Cancellation terms vary from venue to venue. In most cases, venues will require a non-refundable deposit which operates on a sliding scale as you get closer to the date. It is vital to know, if the unexpected happens, you can be fully prepared.
Now that you know what you can expect of your venue, it’s time to arrange the other bits - organising a keynote speaker, inviting the attendees and printing your marketing material. With so many details you need to cover, it’s a relief to know that the venue has been ticked off your list.
Future Inns are superbly equipped to host your next meeting or conference and have various event suites depending on your delegate specifications. Our Event Planners can advise on maximum delegate numbers, room configurations, explain food and drink set-ups.
Our meeting rooms feature free WiFi, data projection, flipchart and pens, temperature control and blackout facilities. There is ample free car parking* available on-site along with three large coach bays*.
Contact a member of our Events Team today to discuss facilitating a professional and worry-free experience for you as an organiser and all of your delegates.
* Not available at Future Inn Bristol