Finding the right venue for your corporate meeting is a lot more nuanced than planning a user group or public-facing event. Here, it’s the more subtle details that matter most. You’re more concerned with adequate workspace and creating an atmosphere that will help attendees exceed the business goals of the meeting, not creating experiential moments. However, you don’t want to completely forget about the “wow” details that can make a corporate meeting enjoyable either. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of sourcing a meeting venue that is perfect for your attendees, budget, and organization.
Know the Meeting Goal to Better Assess Needs
Before creating a list of possible meeting venues it’s important to understand the purpose and business goals of the meeting. Meet with the stakeholders and higher management to find out what they’re trying to accomplish and how they view success. This will help you create a strategy for measuring goal attainment. Details are critical in this step. For instance, if the meeting goal is to train people on a new system, you’ll want to know what level of proficiency is considered to be successful training. The key performance indicators in this example may be all attendees achieving a predetermined score. It’s important for you to know as the meeting planner whether that score is 100% or 70%.
While many meeting stakeholders will understand the importance of goals, they may not be acclimated to providing the details that you need. For instance, “teaching everyone our new software” is not a goal from your meeting perspective. You need to know how they will define success and how many training attempts (if any) have preceded this one or are needed in the future. Get a clear view of their goals including time frames and performance indicators, and then communicate it back to them with how you propose to measure it.
Address Capacity and Comfort/Flow and Function
Again, get the details you need to be successful. Understand from the stakeholders how they want to work and the flow of the event (i.e., breakout sessions, leadership exercises, etc.) as this will dictate things like space requirements, seating, and AV needs. For example, a meeting intended to work as a brainstorming session may benefit from having a non-traditional set-up with bean bag chairs and personal whiteboards where attendees can jot down ideas as they hit. A traditional board meeting, on the other hand, may require a more formal setting.
Going over the details like the number of attendees and available dates are basic steps in meeting planning. Don’t forget to factor in large company functions that could make attendance for your entire list of invitees difficult. There are other details that are equally important like what departments are involved, who the attendees are, how they want to work, and the relationship dynamics of the attendees. Do they know each other or are many of them congenial strangers, where they know of one another but not much more? Understanding these details ahead of time will help you assess the needs of the group, and thus, the space.
Understand Expectations So You Can Anticipate Unspoken Needs
Every stakeholder who has given thought to the meeting has an expectation. If you’re fortunate, they’ve communicated them to you. If not, you need to figure out what they are. Some common, often unspoken, needs and expectations include:
- Travel expectations
- Using a preferred brand for a venue or travel
- Perks and luxuries they’ve been afforded in the past
- Building in time on the agenda to get to know one another
- Green M&Ms in a glass bowl. This is a bit of a joke but they may very well have expectations regarding food and beverage that you may be unaware of unless you ask. Speaking of which...
Seek Consensus on Must Haves and Niceties
Once you have uncovered all stakeholder expectations, compile them in a list and obtain consensus as to which expectations are mandatory and which are luxuries. If you are working with multiple stakeholders across various departments, they may not agree with conveniences versus luxury but it is essential to your success (and sanity) that you obtain direction from the decision maker as to the non-negotiables. Once you do, present them back again so that you are all aware of the decisions made prior to sourcing.
If you skip this crucial step, you will cost yourself more time in the long run and time spent later in the process will be more costly than time spent upfront.
Brainstorm with the Possible Venue(s) over Break Options
Breaks are critical to team productivity and continuing the conversations. When you have a short list of venues you’re considering, find out what each potential venue can arrange in terms of breaks.
Breaks must accomplish several things:
- providing time for a physical break
- checking in with the office, if needed
- recharging for introverts
- allowing for time to process information or review it
- consensus building, networking, or other forms of getting to know one another
With these in mind, talk to your venue shortlist and see what they are able to offer you in terms of sustenance, space, and flow.
Use Tools to Improve Meeting Efficiencies
When selecting the ideal space for your meeting, there are a lot of details to keep track of. While file folders and spreadsheets were the preferred means of doing so just a short time ago, there’s something much more efficient these days. Meeting planners need a system that will help track the details necessary for making a solid decision between multiple venue options.
Venue sourcing requires much more than a checklist that details room capacity.
Capturing the key data for each of your meetings and using it to assess possible matches isn’t something you need to do on your own anymore.
Strategic venue sourcing and selection software helps meeting planners sort through hundreds of thousands of possible venues (and rooms) at the click of a few buttons with a refined search. But what you may not know is that it does much more than find venues that meet the details of what you’re looking for. This technology often makes the administrative processes behind scouting venues and compiling bids much easier than handling it all on your own.
Key components in today’s meeting management software include:
- RFP building and management
- Bid tracking and compilation
- Sharing capabilities for customized reporting and visualized data to stakeholders
- Centralized communication management
- Concession tracking
- Data storage for future negotiations and meeting planning
Do’s and Don'ts of Meeting Venue Selection
Finally, keep these do’s and don'ts in mind:
- Always keep your budget in mind and up-to-date. If you must make cuts, skimp on things that don’t affect the meeting mission or goals.
- Negotiate favorable rates with offsite venues and vendors. A bit of negotiation is expected both on the venue’s side and your stakeholders’.
- Do inquire about your stakeholders’ technology expectations. One department’s “basic” tech is another’s “bleeding edge.”
- Select a venue that not only advances the mission of the meeting but reflects positively on your organization as well.
- Understand how attendees will be getting to the meeting venue. Will you need sufficient parking or are they flying in and taking a ridesharing service?
- Check security needs and protocol.
- Inquire about restrictions on vendors. Some venues require you use their approved list.
- Find out what other organizations will be using the venue at the same time. Competition and noisy “neighbors” are not ideal.
- Schedule a visit to your shortlisted venues, if possible.
- Forget to consider additional space needs outside of the meeting or pre-meeting space. For instance, an outdoor space for breaks might be a nice touch.
- Be tempted to choose a tight room to save money unless it’s a very short meeting.
- Forget to ask about adaptors and connectors for tech. While many hotel meeting rooms have this covered, a non-traditional meeting space may not. Be prepared so you know what to expect.
- Ignore venue staff availability on-site. Will you have meeting and technology contacts on-hand for the day of your meeting? How will you contact them if you need something?
- Get stuck without access after hours. If you need to start (or gain access) early in the day or there’s a possibility your group could finish after traditional business hours, understand what access you’ll have to the building and who you will contact if there’s an issue. Make notes of whether the venue can accommodate you or not, should this happen.
- Forget to share your meeting goals with the venue so they can suggest room flow, seating, and design ideas to you.
- Ignore the possibility of non-traditional spaces for meetings, especially brainstorming. An outdoor space or one with lots of natural light can liven your meeting up and help to ensure attendees are in good spirits.
- Forget to ask about customization for your meeting. Venues often present packages but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with seating, food, breaks and more. However, you don’t want to assume they’ll work with you either. Be specific about customization options and ideas and understand them before signing a contract.
Selecting the perfect meeting venue may often feel impossible as finding exactly what you want in one place and ticking all boxes can be a challenge. However, creating a process for gathering information from stakeholders and venues, aligning details with your budget, and using the tools necessary to do it quickly and efficiently will make your next meeting the most successful yet.
Need additional help in finding your ideal meeting spot? Download our free ebook, "The Art of Venue Negotiation."