Getting away from it all?
If you are planning a conference or event of significant size, then an out-of-town conferencing facility should almost certainly be one of the options to consider.
And if you do choose such a venue in the end, you will find that, in some ways at least, you have simplified your conference management tasks considerably.
Because, perforce, there will be only one supplier you can use, in practical terms, for most of the things you need to deliver your conference. The up-side of this is that you have only one supplier to deal with!
Also your attendees will have much less to do with the ‘outside world’ for the duration of the conference, than they otherwise might. People are not so likely to be absent from meetings and talks: there is less sight–seeing, and perhaps also, night-life, to become involved with.
In addition, you don’t have to learn anything much about the local public transport system, once you’ve worked out (or negotiated with the venue management) how to get people to and from the venue efficiently.
So all this makes things as simple as they can possibly be – Yes?
Well, yes and no, of course. The relative isolation of an out-of-town facility does have advantages, but it also means that, if something goes wrong and the staff of the venue can’t help you, then you may have a severe logistical problem on hand – exacerbated by transport difficulties.
When you are expecting – quite rightly – that the conferencing facility itself will provide everything as promised, and also act as kind of safety net if something goes wrong, then the most critical issues all boil down to effective communication.
It is especially important that you make it clear to the management of the establishment what you want, and that they make it equally clear just what they are committing to deliver.
Often this can be achieved via a process involving a document known as the RFP (Request For Proposal). RFPs are worthy of being treated as a subject in their own right, but let us say here, in brief, that the RFP is a specification of what you require from the venue; their response will be in terms of how, and how much it will cost.
Whether you use an RFP or not be clear about your needs, and when considering a venue ‘miles from anywhere’ remember that there are a few extra things which will more than come in handy.
For instance a business centre in-house, or at least the use of the establishment’s photocopying facilities etc, and it may well be worth considering organising some entertainment: you want to attract people to the conference, and you don’t want them going stir crazy when they get there.
It’s really not sufficient just to pick a venue which (at least on paper) offers the right facilities at the right price.
A site visit is a must in order to verify that what is offered in the web-site/brochure, corresponds to reality in a meaningful way, and also, to get a feel for the organisation that you’ll be dealing with.
An ‘official’ visit, can achieve a great deal. You should expect to meet the staff who will be responsible for your event (in the case of senior staff at least, these should be the ones who will be ‘on shift’ when your event is scheduled). There should be adequate time allocated, by them, to discuss the issues, and give you the ‘grand tour’.
But before this formal meeting, it is a good idea, if possible, to go under-cover and make a surreptitious, unannounced visit; if the facility is also a hotel, then just go as an ordinary guest. This is the best way for you to get the feel of the place as a whole; how do the senior and junior staff interact? How does the organisation work from the point of view of an ordinary ‘punter’.
By going for a major, out-of-town conferencing facility, you are, it would seem, making things as simple as possible for yourself, putting the problem into one neat compartment.
But that doesn’t mean there are no particular issues involved in taking this route. Effective communication and management is still a priority, and whoever else might be involved, you will be the person at which the buck ultimately stops.