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Find the Right Venue – Practitioners’ Views

Bob Little 

July 1, 2016

Having explored the theory – and best practice – of finding the most appropriate venue for your L&D event last week, it’s now time to consider the views of those who’re involved in finding and supplying venues.

Kathryn Horton, the owner of Turning Factor, a training and business development company delivering services around the world, says, “We often use venues to run training programs – from the lower, level two programs through to senior/director leadership development programs.

“For us, getting the venue right is crucial. Not only does it add to the learning experience, but it also reflects our organization’s image and brand.”

Focusing on Turning Factor’s senior/director leadership development programs, Kathryn reveals, “We look for venues that are impressive and can offer an impeccable service. Just as we look after our clients, we expect our venue choice to look after us. This includes ensuring that we have everything we need.

“We look for venues that provide a complete service package – from the catering to table provisions, through to use of flipcharts, projectors and screens. We also expect a level of flexibility, not only with the booking of the venue but also with menu choices and the various needs we may have on the day – for example, the use of outside space.

“Unfortunately, we’ve just had to change one of our favorite venues due to inflexibility and a minimalist approach. Having confirmed 12 delegates on a program, when we entered the training room, we found 12 chairs, 12 cups, 12 pens, and so on. There were 12 of everything – no more, no less.

“Having a guest speaker arrive, or having a fresh cup for a second coffee, or even having some more chairs to facilitate other exercises, was impossible. This made the situation – and the venue – unacceptable.”

Kathryn believes that it’s important to vet a venue, but the key thing is to test it. She says, “Run a program there and try it out. We did this recently with a new venue that was recommended to us. We already knew the venue and trusted that it would be good.

“Sadly, it let us down with poor food, totally inadequate heating, and unhelpful staff. So we canceled the rest of the program days with them, because we couldn’t afford to experience these issues again – and we felt it was important to give the venue owners this feedback.”

In Kathryn’s view, it’s important that the venue works with customers and their needs. She says, “We’ve just found a new venue and, so far, we can’t fault it. That’s because it’s a welcoming, beautiful venue.

“It’s easy to access. There’s free parking on site. The staff are flexible, friendly and on-hand. The rooms are comfortable. There are carpets on the floors, which helps to keep the noise levels down. The delegate package includes adequate pens, paper, water, candy, and so on – and our tutors have access to all the facilities they need.

“Importantly, the food/drinks package that the venue offers is outstanding. It provides breakfast on arrival, mid-morning snacks, tea and coffee, a sit-down two-course lunch, afternoon tea and cakes. Actually, it’s a bit too much – but you can always say ‘no’ to that extra coffee and cake, can’t you?!”

That said, Kathryn adds, “Price is also important and, in our experience, can always be negotiated.”

Today’s Digital Requirements for Venues

Tim Drewitt, an experienced digital learning strategist who’s now Product Innovator at Kallidus, says, “In today’s digitally-connected world, training course venues need to be at the top of their game if they’re to support the needs of today’s trainers and provide learners with the ‘always-on’ connectivity they expect.”

Tim’s checklist for would-be L&D venue hirers in the digital age includes the consideration and provision of:

Audio-visual (AV)

  • Front- or rear-mounted projection.
  • Projection screen or digital monitor.
  • Appropriate projection ratios 4:3 or 16:9.
  • Adapters to enable projection from a PC, Surface™, Mac®, micro-USB. and iOS™ (including computers, tablets and smartphones).
  • The number and type of remote control available to presenters.
  • Side monitors for those unable to see the main screen clearly in larger rooms.
  • The number, strength and location of audio speakers (including cabling and common audio connectors).
  • The number and type of microphones available to presenters.
  • The availability of legacy video/DVD equipment and projection cabling.
  • Specification of locally-supplied computer equipment.
  • Facilities to stream presentations live or record them.
  • Local on-site AV support – shared or dedicated.

Internet/mobile connectivity

  • The strength of mobile phone network signals.
  • The strength and speed of the venue’s guest Wi-Fi and whether there is a charge for accessing it.
  • The maximum number of people allowed to use the venue’s guest Wi-Fi simultaneously.
  • Local on-site Wi-Fi support.
  • The availability of mobile phone charging points and loanable adapters and if they are free to guests.

Lighting

  • Easily controllable levels of natural light.
  • The ability to quickly close curtains or blinds and to adjust lighting levels.
  • A range of lighting to enable targeted illumination of presenter/speaker platforms.

Temperature

  • The ability to adjust the temperature in the training room(s) easily and quickly.
  • The type of heating/air conditioning system, including noise levels.

Trainee/delegate accommodation

  • Plenty of useable and conveniently located electrical sockets.
  • The availability of pre-wired regional electrical sockets for overseas visitors or a supply of loanable adapters.
  • The availability of pre-wired mobile device charging sockets, such as USB or support of loanable charging cables, for example micro-USB or iOS Lightning.
  • The strength and speed of the venue’s guest Wi-Fi and whether there is a charge for accessing it.
  • The strength of mobile phone network signals.

A Supplier’s Eye View of Finding the Right Venue

Offering a supplier’s viewpoint, Ratnesh Bakhai, regional sales manager for the Exclusive Hotels and Venues chain, says, “We aim to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in three areas – food, service and in providing a ‘wow experience.'”

When asked what a potential customer should quiz any venue about, Ratnesh says, “Look at the rate it wants to charge. Note how many ‘break out’ spaces and energy zones – for refreshments – there are. Find out if access to these spaces are included in the rate. Find out, too, what other services the venue provides. Check out the AV facilities available – especially their quality.”

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