One of the most common things I hear from people who don’t work in events is “Wow – it must be so cool getting to travel so much for work”! My usual reaction is to shatter their delusion……but they are right, we do travel to some beautiful places and get paid for the privilege! Conference destinations need to tick a lot of boxes – client objectives, delegate enjoyment, not to mention the right capacity for your event – and it doesn’t hurt to add “a destination your event manager wants to go to” to the list! Here are my top tips for choosing a conference destination:
- Objectives – this should be at the forefront of every decision you make as an event planner, but especially when it comes to choosing where to take your event! Wanting your delegates to feel relaxed and inspired and then putting them in the middle of a city where they have to battle the daily commuters to get around is not ideal. However, if your delegates are commuting home from your event themselves, a CBD location with good access to transport is an obvious choice!
- Climate – consider the average temperature and rainfall at the time of year for your event – but don’t always just go for warm weather! If your conference objective is to bring people together and facilitate networking, perhaps choosing a snow filled climate and creating a warm environment indoors will encourage people to stay at the venue and mingle!
- Delegate wellness – Wellness is no longer a buzz word – it is an essential part of every event and particularly conferences. It is important that conference delegates remain sharp and alert in order to focus on the content and achieve your overarching event objective. As event planners it is our responsibility to ensure that we create an environment that enables delegates both professional and personal opportunities for space and wellness. Don’t forget that not everyone just wants exercise for their wellness – open space and fresh air and an encouragement to be outdoors could be all they need.
- Delegate movement – conferences generally have many moving parts including welcome receptions, plenary and breakout sessions, dinners and activities. Consider the movement between these elements when choosing a destination – sitting on a coach can be an energy killer so try and make sure that transfers are short and kept to a minimum. Where transfers cannot be avoided, try and make them part of the experience by considering traditional options, such as trams in Melbourne or ferries in Sydney, or put catering or entertainment on the journey where possible.
- Access – Consider where your delegates are travelling from. Often multiple flights are unavoidable, particularly if your delegates are from all around Australia. Giving consideration to flight times and durations will mean that your delegates arrive not too fatigued and ready to be engaged. If lengthy travel is unavoidable, consider this in your agenda and ensure that the arrival day is light on content or is your welcome reception only.
- Venue teams – this is a big one for me – event management is said to be the 5th most stressful occupation and our industry is all about relationships and the people in it. Therefore, it is important that you surround yourself with people who are capable at their jobs and, importantly, whose company you enjoy. Consider this when meeting potential venues……. your venues are going to be pivotal to the success of your event. Ensuring that you are going to be able to work well with the teams onsite is crucial when choosing a destination and venue.
- Support –whilst it should never be a determining factor, it is always worth looking into what support is available from local government agencies. There could be funding available from Business Event agencies, or support in the way of site visits, venue discounts and negotiation support. It is well worth your time investigating these avenues and can add a lot of value to your budget!
Picking a destination for your event should be a fun part of the planning process, but it is a crucial one. It will set the tone for the entire conference and can make or break your delegate objectives! Another question I get asked a lot is what my favourite conference destination is – resorts!! Hunter Valley, Sunshine Coast, Port Douglas – I have held really successful conferences in all of these destinations and I believe it is because of the open space and fresh air – and no lifts!