Thursday, 7 June 2012

Finding A Conference Venue

"We need to have a conference, maybe on a Wednesday next month, can you find a venue for us ?" and with that, the boss heads off to lunch leaving you thinking, huh, what, umm, geez......maybe I should have a glass of wine, why is that guy wearing a scarf in summer, those dumplings were amazing, ummm, huh, shit, did he say conference? When, where... Shit .... What now?!

Well, there are a few things that might help, and we will start with the big ones....

Where do you want to be? Do you want something that is close to your workplace, or would you rather have your delegates well away from the distractions of home and office. Are your delegates arriving by car, bus, train or plane - will you need to be near an airport or train station? 

Don't discount suburban destinations, a majority of your delegates may live in these areas. Avoiding peak hour commute, city centre traffic and parking may be a bonus, delegates will arrive on time and unstressed.

Don't discount regional destinations as being 'hard to access', you may be surprised at the frequency of flights into some of these locations. for example, Conference venues on the NSW North Coast in Port Macquarie, Ballina and Coffs Harbour are all serviced by several flights every day from Sydney.

If the delegates are all locals, or if you really want them to get to know each other you may want a resort style venue where they never have to leave the property. If the delegates are from overseas or interstate maybe you'd prefer a city venue where they can get out and experience the local attractions. In the city centre scenario you may lose some delegates, shopping, sightseeing or drinking may entice some delegates away from your presentations.

For example; The Gold Coast is a popular destination with a variety of great conference venues to choose from, it has an International Airport and gets regular flights from most domestic centres. There are venues in the centre of Surfers Paradise like the brand new QT Gold Coast which will give your delegates the opportunity to walk out of the hotel and hit the beaches, the boutiques and the bars. Or, a similar distance from the airport, you have venues like Radisson Resort Gold Coast which is a little bit inland and away from the action, the resort has extensive grounds for team building and relaxing, neighbouring golf courses, pools and restaurants, which means delegates will never need to leave the property. 

How much do you want to spend and what quality do you expect? This of course is the bottom line in all our planning. I would love to conference in beautiful, secluded, quiet beachside locations with golf courses, day spas and fresh seafood on the buffet, where I can gaze out the window and relax. The shareholders or voters would love me to conference next door to the office in a 3 star hotel with no frills and no distractions. So its always a bit of a balancing act. You will need to consider who is at the conference, 3 star food and accommodation might leave senior managers dissatisfied and disengaged, frontline staff might be suitably impressed with a 4 star venue. 

Don't be deterred by out-of-town venues, the conference savings that can be found in regional destinations can frequently offset the extra expense of transfers or airfares. 

For example (we will use the Gold Coast again as our example); Mantra Legends in the centre of Surfers Paradise will probably cost less than A$200 per delegate per day for conference and accommodation, return flights from Sydney will cost around A$200 per delegate (there are heaps of flights and it takes less than an hour). A Conference Hotel in Sydney of a similar standard might cost around A$290 per delegate per day for conference and accommodation (and dont forget the commute, traffic and maybe A$50 per day for parking). So over a 3 day conference it might even be less expensive to conference on the Gold Coast - and an out-of-town destination has the added bonus of feeling a bit special for your delegates.

Here are some other points to consider.....
  • "We must have natural light" - a common request. When I was at school, gazing out a window always seemed more interesting than listening to the teacher, so remember that big windows with views of the world passing by can be a distraction and if you are doing powerpoint presentations you will have the blinds closed most of the time anyway. Delegates will rarely spend more than 2 hours at a time sitting in the room, the day is broken up with coffee breaks and lunch breaks, so it may be better to ensure the areas where you have your breaks feature natural light, fresh air and views. Quay Grand Suites in Sydney is a good example, a couple of good professional conference rooms with no natural light, but coffee breaks held in a  space that has views of Harbour Bridge, The Rocks and Circular Quay.
  • If you are trying to sell an idea or product to a group of clients you may need to consider a venue that is easy to get too. There is nothing worse than having delegates walk into your meeting frustrated because they got lost or couldn't find a parking space.
  • Think about the time of year your conference is being held - cheap or discounted rates might mean that its not a great time of year at that destination. March is a great time of year in Sydney, but probably the worst time of year in North Queensland so you will find highly discounted rates, but there may be some cyclones to contend with. November is perfect in NSW, almost summer and not quite into high season prices, but it is Schoolies time so probably avoid the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. There are always special events on that can affect prices, especially for accommodation. For example, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis during the last 2 weeks of January and at this time accommodation is in high demand and therefore much more expensive than the first week of February. On the other hand big cruise ships visit in Sydney everyday in February which, again, means accommodation is in high demand, hard to find and expensive.
And of course if you haven't got the time to take all this into consideration just visit my web site at and phone or send me an e-mail.


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