Location can make or break a show, so how do organisers go about choosing a venue?
Ed Tranter, managing director, MA Exhibitions
“Like any business the people make all the difference.“
When we choose a venue, there are the obvious elements depending on the specific exhibition brief: location for the relevant audience, hall space, appropriate meeting rooms, hotel rooms onsite, accessibility, parking, Wi-Fi, catering, availability (which can be a significant challenge with UK events) and, of course, cost. Outside of these elements that dictate the shortlist, it is then the people relationships that matter most to me when choosing a venue.
The most crucial thing – and it does sound cheesy – is feeling like the venue will be a partner in the enterprise. Partnership is a much overused word, but it can make or break an exhibition. As an organiser you want a venue, or indeed any other supplier, to want to work with you to deliver the best possible outcome for your show, to feel a sense of shared ownership and passion. They need to be flexible and provide good customer service, not see every challenge any show has as an opportunity to send an invoice, but understand that it’s in their best interests that the show succeeds. If we grow so does their business.
The venue delivers this ‘partner’ mentality through its people. Like any business the people make all the difference. The venues we have worked with best are the ones where their team takes the time to understand how we operate and understand what ‘good’ looks like to us. They are the ones that provide excellent customer service to us and our exhibitors/visitors, provide good, clear communication before, during and post-show and they keep their promises. It helps us in our ambition to always look to improve and means we are always happy to bring them more exhibitions.
Failing that, a nice lunch can persuade me too…
David Chapple, group event director, Centaur
“Will the support team make my life easier?”
When I was first asked this question, I immediately responded ‘one that is fit for purpose’. But, believe it or not, this isn’t always top of the list. When choosing an event venue, it’s critical to take into consideration your visitors’ needs – who are they, where are they travelling from and what facilities do they value most? Business Travel Show has a growing hosted buyer programme with senior executives flying in from all over Europe so ‘fit for purpose’ comes second to ‘ease of location’; it’s absolutely essential that our venue is well-located and well-connected.
When that’s ticked off, then second on your list will be the other big questions. Does it fall within budget, hold the right capacity, offer the AV, Wi-Fi and technology support we need? Is the style in keeping with the event, does the venue provide a support team that will make my life easier, rather than cause problems, and what are their sustainability credentials?
Thirdly, the little things – the hygiene factors. Make sure your venue offers catering outlets that provide good quality, good value food and beverage, that there is a cheap/free cloakroom with a short queue and plenty of (very clean) toilets. You can never underestimate the importance of getting the little things right. Get them wrong and your visitor experience could be seriously marred no matter how meticulously planned the rest of the event has been.
John Weir, COO, Evolve Media Group
“I am always looking out for the hidden costs”
Evolve Media Group runs conferences, expos and seminars in both the B2B and B2C markets.
A one-size-fits-all strategy isn’t going to work for us – particularly as our events take us across the UK.
Most importantly, it needs to have the right location – ample parking, road and rail links and ease of access are paramount for both visitors and exhibitors alike. For our consumer events, we look for venues that have free parking – keeping costs for visitors down is a high priority. And naturally our budget for running the event is a major consideration.
I am always looking out for the hidden costs that aren’t included in the original quotation, but which can come back to bite you during or after the show.
Facilities are also key; that means scouting the venue (once chosen) in advance to ensure that there are no nasty surprises on set-up day – such as goods lifts that are too small, or insufficient power supplies.
A number of the venues we use, we have worked with for many years and established a good rapport with their sales and organisational teams.
I cannot emphasise enough how crucial it is that you feel you are an important client to the venue and that they value your business.