Venue selection is absolutely 1 or 1a when producing any event. No matter how great your idea, how fantastic your speakers or how popular you or those speakers are, if you don’t have a place that can accommodate your audience, you may as well schedule a webinar. No one wants that.
For events over 5k people, options are limited once location is set. You should consider room size, AV needs, parking, and accessibility options that best suit the event you are planning to throw.
An expo needs one large area, which makes old buildings like the Kingdome very suitable. There used to be plenty of multi-use facilities for these type of events, but as sport teams started to demand their own stadiums, conference organizers had to make do with weird sight lines and other issues (field maintenance, facility security) that hadn’t been much of an issue before.
Seminars, whether attached to an expo in a conference hall or stand alone, work well in facilities with one large room and 5-10 smaller rooms that can be used for smaller presentations and workrooms. Be ready to pay heavily for this kind of facility, as it’s easily the most popular of the bunch.
Workshops require one meeting space and lots of smaller spaces for breakout sessions. This might be accomplished in one hall of a conference center or in a smaller site specifically dedicated to smaller events.
Audio, Video, and Internet
Your WiFi should be spectacular. With many
traveling businesspeople relying heavily on their smartphone/tablet/laptop for every task, the inability to connect to the internet is a complaint many conference organizers fear. Most large venues will charge a hefty fee for access, but it’s almost always worth it to keep your attendees connected and inside the building.
This goes for speakers, as well. Large halls typically have a tough time coordinating sound, and everything ends up sounding like a sports announcer. Do your ears a favor and spend the money on audio engineers.
With the glut of power-hungry mobile devices, it’s tough to find enough outlets to satiate consumers. Many convention centers offer plenty of outlets just outside their main hall, but seldom seen is a mobile charging service that allows people to drop off their device, tour the vendors and come back later. The fewer reasons any conference gives an attendee to leave, the longer they’ll stay and (hopefully) more money they’ll spend.
If people can’t get to your event, they can’t participate. If they have to start hours ahead to make sure they arrive on time, they’ll be cranky the moment they walk in the door. Make sure your event has ample parking space and/or satellite lots with ready transportation to bring them to your door.
Parking garages are great, and so is being located close to a freeway or main bus/train line. While it may seem a bit impractical to expect everyone to rely on public transportation, making full use of any sort of mass transit available to the area will ease congestion.
Working with the city and police is a necessity. While the layout of the venue’s parking structure and adjoining streets might be great for normal traffic patterns, 10k people converging at the same time create a slew of backups that can not only frustrate your attendees, but also hamper locals, ensuring your event will be disliked by those that live there. In today’s always-connected world, it’s good to foresee possible problem areas and avoid them if necessary.
Venues are plentiful and available in Florida. The weather is usually nice, and if it isn’t, the warm rain is almost certainly an upgrade from most people’s homes. But we can’t hold every event there, as the costs just don’t add up.
When planning a regional or larger event, pay close attention to your venue’s proximity to major travel hubs, like freeways or airports. This allows for simple travel arrangements and greater chance that your attendees will remember your event for more than your speakers, goods or content.
If you’re willing to make your attendees deal with uncomfortable weather, remember that the hot places are often cheaper in the summer months. Perfect opportunity to get a little bit more than you expected for your budget.
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