By Beth Buehler
It’s time to look for just the right venue for an upcoming conference. Perhaps it’s for an association annual meeting or a sales conference for your company. Or maybe it’s a gathering of the nation’s craft beer producers or outdoor retailers. Regardless of the type of conference, there are some key things to consider when searching for and booking a location like the following 10 suggestions.
Select a few destinations of interest – Narrow it down to perhaps three communities to consider that fit your group’s needs in terms of where attendees are traveling in from, transportation available, vibe of the place and expectations of those you report to. If these first three don’t have the the right conference facilities, available dates, etc. move on from there.
What type of conference and group – Do you need an exhibition hall or a unique space to launch a new product in style? Will attendees expect higher end or are they OK with mid-range to save money on room rates and conference registration? Do they prefer cities, mountains or mid-sized communities that are close to airports?
Number of attendees – Having a fairly good idea about the number of people that will likely attend is helpful to narrow down the choices. Look at past years or similar events to get a feel for what to expect.
Largest meeting space needed – This also can drive the search. Will your group all be together at once for a general session, awards ceremony or gala? If so, you need a space that holds everyone at once. It also is important to know how many breakout rooms are needed for educational sessions, board meetings, roundtables, etc.
Stand-alone or part of a hotel – Some groups prefer having lodging rooms and meeting space all in one location, while others need the larger size of a convention center and utilize a variety of hotels nearby. The Colorado communities that have a stand-alone convention/conference center typically have a nice selection of hotels just steps or a few blocks away. Denver, Keystone and Telluride are examples of destinations with stand-alone convention/conference centers, while The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora are expansive properties that can host large conferences and have everything, including a variety of activities and restaurant choices on-site.
State of the space – Will your group enjoy meeting at the conference venue being considered? Has it been recently refreshed, is it well cared for and is it a nice backdrop for a stage, décor and more? Are there windows and places to step out for fresh air on breaks?
Cost – A huge consideration is if a venue fits well into your conference budget and how it will impact attendees’ wallets. Don’t write off destinations and venues you might think will be too expensive as there are usually off-season times, especially in the mountains.
Conference staff – Are there specific people on a venue’s staff who work directly with conference planners? Will they assign one person to be the main communication contact or will you have to interface directly with various departments like audiovisual, catering and more? Make sure key staff members are experienced in handling conferences or have a direct supervisor who can add the needed level of know-how.
Available A/V, furniture and more – One-stop shops for all your needs can be helpful when there are a lot of moving pieces and you don’t live in the town where the conference you are planning is being held. Or does the venue at least have preferred or recommended vendors for A/V, rentals, catering, décor, etc.?
Food and beverage – The days of fairly predictable banquet food at conferences are pretty much over or they should be. Look for creative food and beverage teams that provide excellent quality as well as interesting presentations and formats. Can various dietary needs be accommodated well? Make sure to taste the food!
I hope these 10 tips will help in choosing a conference venue that is just the right fit for your group’s needs, tastes and budget!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.