Even though conferences and other face-to-face events were given the death knell as we ushered in the digital age, but there still is a need for live human interaction. Live meetings are very much alive and doing well. Given the many options now to meet, share information and network, a live event needs to be a great experience, not just a good one, for your attendees. The venue is the place where we are handing our attendees over to someone else to care for them and provide a good experience. We are no longer in control but by asking the right questions, we can control what our attendee’s experience.
Asking the right questions and vetting your venue in advance will help you to provide as much control as possible over the attendee experience. There are six areas to begin reviewing and asking questions that will help you make the most informed decision to make your attendee’s next experience as good as it can be.
Booking and Check-in– Your attendees will have either a good or bad experience with the venue you select based upon how easily they can register and when they get there, how quickly they can get to their room and relax. So ask the venue, how easy is the online registration process? How many terminals or stations are at the registration desk to handle a large number of people? If there is a line building, how will the venue handle the overflow? Booking and check-in is one of the first impressions your attendees will have of the event.
Transportation and Parking– Before your attendees even get into the venue, they have to be able to park their cars or understand what transportation options there are to the venue. It is so frustrating after a long drive to have a line of cars being valeted or parking in a lot that is a half-mile from the venue.
Always ask if there is valet parking and self-parking options along with the charges. If there is self-parking, how far is it from the venue? How many staff will be on duty during peak arrivals (i.e. bellmen, parking attendants, etc.)? If most of your attendees will be using either taxis, Uber or hotel shuttles, let them know the options and the availability. I was at one city and there were limited to no taxi, Uber or other options other than the shuttle to the hotel and then back to the airport. I was shocked to find out that a taxi would be about an hour wait as there were only a handful of taxis serving the city. Knowing this in advance, a car rental option would have been much better. In addition, booking bus transportation to events is highly critical.
Audio Visual / Business Services– It is important to know if the venue has a business center, the hours of operation and the charge to use it.
Meeting Rooms– Ask for a meeting room and ballroom layout diagram in advance so you understand how much space you are working with including the dimensions of the rooms (i.e. ceiling room height for exhibition booths, etc.). Also, what are some of the additional charges for flip charts, easels, Wi-Fi, etc. Finally ask the hotel to provide, in advance, a link or brochure to send out to registrants to send in conjunction with your registration materials or your online link. Giving them the “lay of the land” will be greatly appreciated.
Catering– The food at a venue always makes its way into an evaluation. A meeting with great content turns into an average meeting if it has average food. So, why not put effort into ensuring that the food meets all expectations? One of the questions to ask is if you can conduct a food tasting during a site visit to sample the quality, portionsand options of the food that will be available. Also, how do we also satisfy healthy eating options for attendees that don’t prefer the heavy lunch or dinner? Ensuring that they are available provides options for when menus are created.
Miscellaneous – Since we are concentrating on the attendee experience, we need to also ask questions around the status of the venue. For example, will there be any type of construction occurring during your event? How close is the nearest hospital or dentist? Are all of the elevators functional? Are there any anticipated strikes at the hotel? Will there be any road constructions that will divert your driving attendees?
As we all know, a great attendee experience no only comes from great speakers, great content but also from a great experience at your venue. We have listed six areas of focus to help make the attendee experience a great one. Communicating what you find out in advance with your attendees will make their lives much easier and allow them to focus on the science, the trade or practice area they serve rather than dealing with venue issues. What other areas of focus will you concentrate on for your next event to make your attendees’ experience even that much better?