Magazine article Marketing

Venues: Rules of Selection

Magazine article Marketing

Venues: Rules of Selection

Article excerpt

Choosing the right event venue rests on more complex considerations than capacity and location alone.

The venue at which an event takes place undoubtedly has a significant bearing on the success of the occasion in question. It is surprising, then, to find that a recent poll posted on the London Venue Expo website suggests that 10% of event organisers do not visit venues before selecting which one to use for a function. But is this representative of the wider community of marketers organising events, and what are the benefits of visiting a venue before the event takes place?

Sallie Watson-Harris, director of Absolute Venues, cites another surprising statistic - 95% of corporate organisers do not attend site visits. 'Many of our clients book events across the UK and internationally, and few view the venues,' she says. 'Instead, they rely on images, websites and recommendations.'

None of the 19 venues she has sourced for a roadshow for property website Rightmove.co.uk has been seen by the client. And that, she points out, is not unusual, flagging up time and budgetary constraints as the chief obstacles.

The failure to properly assess a venue puts marketers in danger of underestimating the role it plays in ensuring their event is a success, according to Nic Cooper, co-founder of brand experience agency Sledge. 'A venue has to reflect the brand and the event's messages,' he says. 'Unless it is extremely well-known, you need to see it, feel it and smell it, and be sure it will add to the experience of the event. If marketers get one thing wrong, the event can become a negative experience.'

Problems can also arise if marketers do not put in the necessary organisational groundwork for the event. Before beginning the search for a venue, organisers must shape a brief, assess the purpose of the event, and decide on the feel, location, dates, budget and any flexibility required. Only then can they establish the right choice of venue and ensure that it fits with the experience they want to provide.

'It is important to find out the geography of the location and the type of venue; whether it is standalone, part of a conference centre or a hotel, or whether the style is formal or more relaxed and modern,' says Cooper. 'But if the experience you want to create is more than just a conference, you also need to know if the golf course is challenging and what the spa is like.'

Event services agency Zibrant's sales and marketing director, Faye Sharpe, adds that many organisers fail to factor in the nature of the audience; are attendees cutting-edge or staid, for example, or does the event need a feel-good factor or a motivational message. 'Even as you send the invitations and teasers, there has to be a fit,' she says. 'The process needs to be cohesive or it can have a detrimental effect.'

The next area to focus on is the detailed requirements of the day. On the wish list may be suppliers, production and speakers, as well as food and beverages. This part of the process needs a thorough approach. One event organiser recently sourced a venue seating 500 for a presentation, which also had a second 500-capacity area for a reception. But the client later changed its audio-visual specifications, and the technical capabilities of the venue were no longer right. As a result, the client has had to start the whole process again.

'Clients get hung up on the big things, such as the size of the main space and the number of bedrooms, and there is too little thought about the smaller elements,' adds Chris Zachar, senior operations manager at event organiser Grass Roots Group. 'They need to ask themselves whether the initial requirements are likely to change. Are the number of breakout groups likely to increase, or is the catering space already at its absolute capacity, leaving no room for additional guests?'

The general area for the location must also be narrowed down. …

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