Working with an unusual venue

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A unique meeting venue is hot on every organiser’s wish list – but there are several things that need to be considered to ensure it’s the perfect fit.

Words like ‘one-off’, ‘unique’, and ‘unusual’ in a venue description are bound to get the typical meeting planner’s heart racing, for they promise the memorability, individuality and motivational distinctiveness that are the organiser’s dream come true.

In pursuing ways to make their next meeting, more creative, more inspirational and better attended than that of their last or their competitors, ‘alternative’ venues are now a frequent request from clients, says Anthony Coyle-Dowling, Director of Sales at Zibrant. Consequently many of these types of property have latched on to the opportunity for corporate business and are working hard to market themselves to the private events sector.

There can, however, be more to think about when using a more quirky property, so here’s a checklist of considerations to take into account.
Availability
Some unique venues are open to the public (theatres or museums for example) and will only be available at certain times. The privilege of having exclusive use of such a venue may be enough of a pull to encourage an organiser to try to time their event to fit in, but equally, given sufficient notice and particularly with a smaller operation, it may be possible for the venue manager to offer some flexibility by advertising its unavailability to the public well in advance.

Accommodation
Many of the most characterful options may not have bedrooms, so you may need to seek out a suitable quantity of convenient and appropriate accommodation if the event is residential, and possibly make or co-ordinate bookings. Alternatively additional travel arrangements may be required.

Brand Match
Do the unique qualities of your potential venue match the brand messages of your company? It is easy to get carried away by a venue that presents a wonderful ‘wow factor’ through its history or ‘theme’, but think carefully as to whether it fits the corporate image.

Cost
Costs may be high as many unusual venues can require you to hire on an exclusive use basis, and many are sold as a ‘dry hire’, so allow for additional amounts in your budget. Also deposits and pre-payments are commonly required. Some may try to take advantage of their uniqueness and charge a premium for facilities that may not be warranted.

Disability Access
Although modern venues will most likely have disabled access covered, accessibility may be an issue with more historic properties. However, there may be a work-around so check beforehand if any of your delegates have mobility problems, present your potential venue with specifics and see what they can suggest.

Equipment
What equipment can the venue provide? Also, if your event requires audio-visual equipment for example, ensure that there is appropriate space and power for it to function effectively. Obtain detailed specifications from the equipment provider as to what they need and liaise with them to overcome any technical limitations. Ensure that your equipment works with any acoustic issues.

Extras
Hidden extras such as staffing, security and cleaning are compulsory items that are commonly billed for in addition to the venue hire fee. Check these out in advance so there are no surprises when you are invoiced!

Food and Beverage
Some ‘unusual’ venues don’t have in-house catering. Be sure that your food and beverage providers can be flexible (for example if you have to bring a coffee break forward or move it back), can allow for any special requirements, and are of sufficient quality to suit your event.

Layout
Options for event layout may be restricted and you may need to be creative with the space on offer. Consider, for example, seating set-up, cloakroom space, whether break out rooms are needed, and where refreshments and lunch are to be served.

Negotiation
A bargain can often be had – as unusual venues will often sell off space on a last minute basis at a much reduced cost as they may have no other form of revenue.

Professionalism
This is a critical consideration. Delegates will most likely expect a certain standard of dress, manner and knowledge from venue staff – is it up to scratch? You may find, for example, that a late-running participant contacts the venue direct to let you know of their delay – will the telephone be answered promptly and appropriately? Be aware that service can be inconsistent where venues are unaccustomed to corporate entertaining. Equally in terms of planning, you must ensure that contracts and terms and conditions are properly understood on both sides.

Privacy and Security
If privacy and security are important considerations for the event, it is vital that you ensure that the venue is geared up to your requirements. Check whether there will be staff at reception to greet and direct your guests or if you will have to provide someone yourself.

Sustainability
If your company meetings policy requires a ‘green’ dimension, be aware that some unique venues may not address sustainability issues, often due to limitations caused by their original build and set-up.

Travel and Transport
Is your venue easy to get to? If the property is ‘off the beaten track’, ask about public transport (train or bus stops, frequency of services) and parking arrangements. Check the satnav reference for accuracy, and take the time to research and publish travel options for your delegates. Private minibus hire may be appropriate for some locations.

Visit
As with any venue selection process, a familiarisation visit is the ideal, but when you are considering using an unusual venue it is even more important that you try to get first-hand experience of the offering. Time spent visiting will pay for itself over and over if you think about the implications of not spotting some inherent unsuitability for your event.

WiFi
Do you need WiFi, and if so is there access, will it work efficiently in terms of bandwidth and what are the costs?
Finally: check, double check, and check again. With any venue proper communication is vital, but even more so when there may be less familiar ‘systems’ in place. Put your requirements in writing and go through them with the venue line by line to avoid misunderstandings.
Words like ‘one-off’, ‘unique’, and ‘unusual’ in a venue description are bound to get the typical meeting planner’s heart racing, for they promise the memorability, individuality and motivational distinctiveness that are the organiser’s dream come true.

In pursuing ways to make their next meeting, more creative, more inspirational and better attended than that of their last or their competitors, ‘alternative’ venues are now a frequent request from clients, says Anthony Coyle-Dowling, Director of Sales at Zibrant. Consequently many of these types of property have latched on to the opportunity for corporate business and are working hard to market themselves to the private events sector.

There can, however, be more to think about when using a more quirky property, so here’s a checklist of considerations to take into account.
Availability
Some unique venues are open to the public (theatres or museums for example) and will only be available at certain times. The privilege of having exclusive use of such a venue may be enough of a pull to encourage an organiser to try to time their event to fit in, but equally, given sufficient notice and particularly with a smaller operation, it may be possible for the venue manager to offer some flexibility by advertising its unavailability to the public well in advance.

Accommodation
Many of the most characterful options may not have bedrooms, so you may need to seek out a suitable quantity of convenient and appropriate accommodation if the event is residential, and possibly make or co-ordinate bookings. Alternatively additional travel arrangements may be required.

Brand Match
Do the unique qualities of your potential venue match the brand messages of your company? It is easy to get carried away by a venue that presents a wonderful ‘wow factor’ through its history or ‘theme’, but think carefully as to whether it fits the corporate image.

Cost
Costs may be high as many unusual venues can require you to hire on an exclusive use basis, and many are sold as a ‘dry hire’, so allow for additional amounts in your budget. Also deposits and pre-payments are commonly required. Some may try to take advantage of their uniqueness and charge a premium for facilities that may not be warranted.

Disability Access
Although modern venues will most likely have disabled access covered, accessibility may be an issue with more historic properties. However, there may be a work-around so check beforehand if any of your delegates have mobility problems, present your potential venue with specifics and see what they can suggest.

Equipment
What equipment can the venue provide? Also, if your event requires audio-visual equipment for example, ensure that there is appropriate space and power for it to function effectively. Obtain detailed specifications from the equipment provider as to what they need and liaise with them to overcome any technical limitations. Ensure that your equipment works with any acoustic issues.

Extras
Hidden extras such as staffing, security and cleaning are compulsory items that are commonly billed for in addition to the venue hire fee. Check these out in advance so there are no surprises when you are invoiced!

Food and Beverage
Some ‘unusual’ venues don’t have in-house catering. Be sure that your food and beverage providers can be flexible (for example if you have to bring a coffee break forward or move it back), can allow for any special requirements, and are of sufficient quality to suit your event.

Layout
Options for event layout may be restricted and you may need to be creative with the space on offer. Consider, for example, seating set-up, cloakroom space, whether break out rooms are needed, and where refreshments and lunch are to be served.

Negotiation
A bargain can often be had – as unusual venues will often sell off space on a last minute basis at a much reduced cost as they may have no other form of revenue.

Professionalism
This is a critical consideration. Delegates will most likely expect a certain standard of dress, manner and knowledge from venue staff – is it up to scratch? You may find, for example, that a late-running participant contacts the venue direct to let you know of their delay – will the telephone be answered promptly and appropriately? Be aware that service can be inconsistent where venues are unaccustomed to corporate entertaining. Equally in terms of planning, you must ensure that contracts and terms and conditions are properly understood on both sides.

Privacy and Security
If privacy and security are important considerations for the event, it is vital that you ensure that the venue is geared up to your requirements. Check whether there will be staff at reception to greet and direct your guests or if you will have to provide someone yourself.

Sustainability
If your company meetings policy requires a ‘green’ dimension, be aware that some unique venues may not address sustainability issues, often due to limitations caused by their original build and set-up.

Travel and Transport
Is your venue easy to get to? If the property is ‘off the beaten track’, ask about public transport (train or bus stops, frequency of services) and parking arrangements. Check the satnav reference for accuracy, and take the time to research and publish travel options for your delegates. Private minibus hire may be appropriate for some locations.

Visit
As with any venue selection process, a familiarisation visit is the ideal, but when you are considering using an unusual venue it is even more important that you try to get first-hand experience of the offering. Time spent visiting will pay for itself over and over if you think about the implications of not spotting some inherent unsuitability for your event.

WiFi
Do you need WiFi, and if so is there access, will it work efficiently in terms of bandwidth and what are the costs?
Finally: check, double check, and check again. With any venue proper communication is vital, but even more so when there may be less familiar ‘systems’ in place. Put your requirements in writing and go through them with the venue line by line to avoid misunderstandings.
Words like ‘one-off’, ‘unique’, and ‘unusual’ in a venue description are bound to get the typical meeting planner’s heart racing, for they promise the memorability, individuality and motivational distinctiveness that are the organiser’s dream come true.

In pursuing ways to make their next meeting, more creative, more inspirational and better attended than that of their last or their competitors, ‘alternative’ venues are now a frequent request from clients, says Anthony Coyle-Dowling, Director of Sales at Zibrant. Consequently many of these types of property have latched on to the opportunity for corporate business and are working hard to market themselves to the private events sector.

There can, however, be more to think about when using a more quirky property, so here’s a checklist of considerations to take into account.
Availability
Some unique venues are open to the public (theatres or museums for example) and will only be available at certain times. The privilege of having exclusive use of such a venue may be enough of a pull to encourage an organiser to try to time their event to fit in, but equally, given sufficient notice and particularly with a smaller operation, it may be possible for the venue manager to offer some flexibility by advertising its unavailability to the public well in advance.

Accommodation
Many of the most characterful options may not have bedrooms, so you may need to seek out a suitable quantity of convenient and appropriate accommodation if the event is residential, and possibly make or co-ordinate bookings. Alternatively additional travel arrangements may be required.

Brand Match
Do the unique qualities of your potential venue match the brand messages of your company? It is easy to get carried away by a venue that presents a wonderful ‘wow factor’ through its history or ‘theme’, but think carefully as to whether it fits the corporate image.

Cost
Costs may be high as many unusual venues can require you to hire on an exclusive use basis, and many are sold as a ‘dry hire’, so allow for additional amounts in your budget. Also deposits and pre-payments are commonly required. Some may try to take advantage of their uniqueness and charge a premium for facilities that may not be warranted.

Disability Access
Although modern venues will most likely have disabled access covered, accessibility may be an issue with more historic properties. However, there may be a work-around so check beforehand if any of your delegates have mobility problems, present your potential venue with specifics and see what they can suggest.

Equipment
What equipment can the venue provide? Also, if your event requires audio-visual equipment for example, ensure that there is appropriate space and power for it to function effectively. Obtain detailed specifications from the equipment provider as to what they need and liaise with them to overcome any technical limitations. Ensure that your equipment works with any acoustic issues.

Extras
Hidden extras such as staffing, security and cleaning are compulsory items that are commonly billed for in addition to the venue hire fee. Check these out in advance so there are no surprises when you are invoiced!

Food and Beverage
Some ‘unusual’ venues don’t have in-house catering. Be sure that your food and beverage providers can be flexible (for example if you have to bring a coffee break forward or move it back), can allow for any special requirements, and are of sufficient quality to suit your event.

Layout
Options for event layout may be restricted and you may need to be creative with the space on offer. Consider, for example, seating set-up, cloakroom space, whether break out rooms are needed, and where refreshments and lunch are to be served.

Negotiation
A bargain can often be had – as unusual venues will often sell off space on a last minute basis at a much reduced cost as they may have no other form of revenue.

Professionalism
This is a critical consideration. Delegates will most likely expect a certain standard of dress, manner and knowledge from venue staff – is it up to scratch? You may find, for example, that a late-running participant contacts the venue direct to let you know of their delay – will the telephone be answered promptly and appropriately? Be aware that service can be inconsistent where venues are unaccustomed to corporate entertaining. Equally in terms of planning, you must ensure that contracts and terms and conditions are properly understood on both sides.

Privacy and Security
If privacy and security are important considerations for the event, it is vital that you ensure that the venue is geared up to your requirements. Check whether there will be staff at reception to greet and direct your guests or if you will have to provide someone yourself.

Sustainability
If your company meetings policy requires a ‘green’ dimension, be aware that some unique venues may not address sustainability issues, often due to limitations caused by their original build and set-up.

Travel and Transport
Is your venue easy to get to? If the property is ‘off the beaten track’, ask about public transport (train or bus stops, frequency of services) and parking arrangements. Check the satnav reference for accuracy, and take the time to research and publish travel options for your delegates. Private minibus hire may be appropriate for some locations.

Visit
As with any venue selection process, a familiarisation visit is the ideal, but when you are considering using an unusual venue it is even more important that you try to get first-hand experience of the offering. Time spent visiting will pay for itself over and over if you think about the implications of not spotting some inherent unsuitability for your event.

WiFi
Do you need WiFi, and if so is there access, will it work efficiently in terms of bandwidth and what are the costs?
Finally: check, double check, and check again. With any venue proper communication is vital, but even more so when there may be less familiar ‘systems’ in place. Put your requirements in writing and go through them with the venue line by line to avoid misunderstandings.

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About Author

Anthony Coyle Dowling

Anthony Coyle- Dowling is Director of Sales for Zibrant. Joining Zibrant in October 2010 he is responsible for delivering the UK and International Sales Strategy with the vision of becoming the No 1 Event Management and Venue Finding Agency. Zibrant handle everything from venue finding to delegate management, international travel, logistics, planning, creative design, technical production and video production.

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