Julian Britton, Conference & Banqueting Sales Manager

1. Plan well in advance
Things happen last minute, that’s inevitable! But where possible plan your events with as much lead time as possible and make sure you leave yourself time to deliver everything you want to. Your vision to personally invite 500 delegates, brand the venue to within in an inch of its life and hand prepare 500 thoughtful goody bags might sound good on paper but can you spare the time – or do you have the team and resources – to deliver to deadline?

Leaving yourself enough time will also help you to have the pick of the best venues and the most suitable dates, as well as give your delegates enough time to plan and ensure a high attendance. Draft yourself a calendar or critical workflow to ensure tasks are completed so the next stage of the planning process can continue unhindered!


2. Decide on your budget
It’s an obvious one, you can only spend the money you have and you can probably allocate it to the penny – but contingency is critical! Ensure your budget allows yourself some freedom to prepare for the unexpected. Should you make it to event-day and have some cash left over you can either get brownie points from the boss for coming in under budget or put some money behind the bar and treat your delegates to some extra refreshments.2. 


3. Think carefully about the date and time!
Don’t just consider what date works for you or what deadline you are working to. Consider bank holidays and school holidays as this could have a significant impact on your delegate turnout!

Also consider business restraints that your delegates could face. For example, end of the financial year sees many buried in reports and budget planning and while they would no doubt welcome a day out of the office, it may not be practical! Also consider which day of the week and time of day is likely to be most beneficial for your delegates. Over a third of sick leave is taken on a Monday and Fridays are the most common days for an early-finish or annual leave day. Are early mornings more suitable so your delegates can get to the office and not miss out on much of the working day? Or would a lunch event best suit your objectives and their needs?


4. Finding the right venue
Type in ‘Venue Hire’ in Google and you’ll be presented with 51,600,000 search results in 0.38 seconds, talk about a needle in a haystack! Before you being your search construct a checklist of what the venue has to have and what you would like it to have and begin your search there. Critical factors such as location and capacity will instantly wipe off the majority of those 51 and a half million results and narrow your search right down.

When you’ve shortlisted visit the venues and speak with their in-house team and seek their advice. This is their area of expertise and they know what their venue is capable of. A good events team won’t be focused on drawing every last £ out of you but ensuring they understand what you want and what your vision is, and then providing you with the solutions they can offer. If they can’t offer an appropriate solution make sure they don’t try to change your event to suit their venue rather than your objectives. A good events team that you trust and get on well with should be a big tick in the ‘For’ column for any venue.


5. Plan out the day
Make sure your delegates have an itinerary for the day so they know what to expect and can plan their attendance accordingly. Leave some wiggle room though in case of traffic or late arrivals. Scheduling an early arrival time with an allowance for ‘welcome refreshments’ gives you a buffer you may need to ensure as many of your guests are there for the start as possible. A few days before your event it’s worth checking for any scheduled roadworks or public transport delays that may affect your guests and tip them off. It’s a nice gesture,(that shows you as a great host!) and will help ensure late arrivals are kept to a minimum


6. Prepare for the unexpected
When scoping out your venue options, hopefully you’ll have met with the in-house events team and have confidence in them to manage your event. It’s worth asking questions for different scenarios to understand how the team will adapt to some eventualities. With your excellent organisation skills and an experienced events team I’m sure it’ll go without a hitch, but are you – and they – prepared in case the unexpected should occur?


7. Make sure your delegates have all the info
Give your delegates every reason to attend and remove any obstacles that might be in their way. Provide detailed public transport, bus numbers, train stations and arrival times, or route information such as sat nav codes, timings from major landmarks etc. Consider parking too, how convenient is it for your delegates to park and what is the cost, if any? Include directions to car parks (if not located at the venue) to make their arrival as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Running late in a city you don’t know and arriving at a venue to find there is no car parking isn’t going to be the best start to their day!


8. Content is king!
No doubt you’ll have worked hard for months on preparing your presentations, key note speeches, handout materials and have produced some top-notch content. But will it maintain your audience’s attention? Break up your powerpoints with some video clips, or liven up your Prezis with animation. You can go as big or small as you like but make sure your venue is prepared with suitable audio-visual equipment that you can just plug into and go, and that staff are on hand in case there are any minor technical issues. If you’re planning on streaming content has your venue got wi-fi? If internet connection is crucial to your content check the strength to make sure you don’t spend half the presentation buffering! And check it doesn’t automatically kick you out after a set amount of time.


9. To feed or not to feed….
Even if you’re only planning a short breakfast meeting (actually especially then!) Factor in appropriate refreshments for your delegates, believe me they will remember this and it can make or break an event. A good flexible venue should offer a number of food options and ensure they are tailored to your event, offering appropriate dishes for the time of day and the nature of your event. If it’s a stand up networking affair a hot fork buffet may not be the best option. If it’s a high-intensity meeting with a lot to cover provide an on table buffet and work through lunch.


10. Follow up with feedback
There’s always room for improvement, so make sure you find out from your guests what you can do better next time. By thanking them for their attendance and asking for their views not only might you get some pointers to improve your next event, your guests will feel loved and important – and hopefully join you next time!

Schedule in a de-brief with your venue too. As their guest they’ll be keen (or should be keen!) to hear what you thought of the day and their services. Even if the day went perfectly, if you have any constructive feedback make sure you supply it, venues are no different to you – they’ll want to improve too and will hope to welcome you back in the future. Remember to pass on any feedback from your guests too. If the room was too hot, the tea too strong or the food too cold they need to be told! It reflects badly on them too so they’ll want to hear exactly how your event went.


If you’re looking for a venue, or have any questions about planning your next event, give us a call on 0371 222 1877.


Julian Britton
Conference & Banqueting Sales Manager