Venue selection remains one of the most crucial elements of event planning. Selecting a venue for a meeting or event will impact food and beverage, audiovisual, room block and logistics choices. Since early 2018, the demand for experiences, as opposed to events, has exploded. Multiple reports, analyses and researches point at events as one of the most effective marketing communication tools
Event professionals seem to agree, venues are the second most important element of live experiences. 72% of event professionals said so in our recently published research. Choosing a venue that does not support a smooth execution with elements that wow or surprise attendees will, on the other hand, negatively affect the outcome of an event. We were left puzzled by such an overwhelming consensus. Our curiosity was stimulated. Some of the questions on our minds were:
- Are all venues offering the same features?
- Are all venues transparent with event professionals?
They went above and beyond to rethink the way we interact in a physical space during events, offering staggering features that make them stand out in the following categories:
Planners expect room block rates to be competitive if not favourable. Sadly, that’s not consistently the case. While some venues honor this expectation, others have gone above and beyond by eliminating their F&B minimums and cancellation fees, among other things.
- Experience Design Support
Some venues are stepping up their offerings to help planners cope with the pressure to deliver transformative experiences. Wrap-around, high-definition video walls and dynamic intelligent light systems allow you to create virtual environments and set the tone and atmosphere for your event.
- Accessibility and Inclusivity
It’s imperative that planners make all their guests feel welcome, and venues are in an important position to facilitate that with accessibility infrastructure. Ramps and elevator access should be standard, but some venues go beyond the status quo with braille text on everything from elevators to ATMs, hearing loop systems, and special staff training.
Green initiatives are important for us all to consider, and choosing venues that prioritize these is one way you can apply pressure throughout the industry to follow suit. From efficient water features and solar power to rooftop gardens and apiaries, some venues are building sustainability right into their physical infrastructure. Some even offer consultative services to help you offset your own event’s carbon footprint.
Why Should You Look for Smart Venues?
Smart venues should be the only type of venues planners look for when planning events. We can all agree that our event outcomes will inevitably be negatively impacted by having a venue that is:
- Not committed to sustainability
- Not accessible
- Not inclusive and diverse in its workforce
- Not architecturally versatile
- Not ethical in their policies
- Not tech-friendly
On the other hand, selecting a venue that excels or wows attendees in one or more of the above categories will positively affect how key stakeholders experience the event. In fact, you can secure the X factor required to elevate your event to an experience by selecting a venue with:
- A strong carbon offsetting program
- A diverse workforce
- Strong architectural flexibility
- Advanced technology infrastructure
- A transparent and ethical approach to doing business
It will make stakeholders feel understood in their needs, it will make them feel comfortable, catered to, and ready to transform – the ultimate objective of designing event experiences. By embracing the ‘smart venue’ way, you will have a much stronger feeling of what to look for when selecting a venue for your next event. You will also be more protected from unethical (to say the least) practices of some venues that consistently take advantage of room block allocation at the disadvantage of both the planner and attendees
HOW CAN SMART VENUES HELP?
Room block management is an industry-wide transparency issue. We expect smart venues to offer a guarantee that the rooms offered as part of the block will inevitably be 10% to 30% cheaper than publicly advertised rates. Our research of 400 venues uncovered how more efficiencies can be
achieved with a transparent approach to pricing and the traditional pain points of venue negotiations. Some highlights from our research include:
- No food and beverage minimums
- No gratuities or service charges
- Waived cancellation fees
- Group discounts for select periods
- Discounts for non-profit groups
- Budgetary guidance from the venue’s event manager
ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSIVITY
Inclusivity and accessibility are two further factors where smart venues can give a substantial contribution to event professionals willing to elevate events to experiences. Structural barriers spoil the party for many attendees. Lack of representation or of a plan to give back to the host community will make some attendees feel not comfortable. Smart venues are working to make their spaces more accessible or accommodating to people with disabilities and other previously excluded groups. Some of the most notable accessibility features we looked at are as follows:
- Wheelchair loan services
- Enhanced customer service for people with disabilities, including telephone hotline guidance and personalized support services
- Braille text and elevator signage
- Visual and auditory cues in elevators and for emergency alarms
- Hearing loop systems designed to send audio signals directly to hearing aids
- Assistive listening devices
- TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf) telephones for the hearing impaired
In terms of inclusivity, here are some of the most innovative initiatives we reviewed:
- Coworking spaces that proactively contribute to community projects
- Venues that host charitable drives
- Venues that donate unused food and other goods to charities
- Venues that organize support groups for minority workers and actively foster inclusivity within the workplace
VENUES THAT EMBRACE CSR IN THE COMMUNITY
A number of venues are adopting innovative approaches to community outreach and development. Hiring these venues not only demonstrates your commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR), but also helps to strengthen your ties with the local community. As a conduit for your good will, these venues can serve as a fantastic local networking opportunity.
Consider This: Hosting events at venues like these helps to fund their backing organizations and offers potentially valuable access to up and- coming local businesses. If you’re hosting an event that targets small business in a venue that offers programs like this, another way you could give back is to offer free limited access to sessions and networking opportunities to the program’s regular beneficiaries.
Corporate Venues That Are Collaborating with NGOs
When you hire an event venue of this kind, you gain access to an extended network of contacts and supports. By placing multiple organizations in close proximity, the venue is fostering a spirit of collaboration and integration.
VENUES THAT FOSTER INCLUSIVITY WITHIN THE WORKPLACE
While many venues publish information about their accessibility services and public outreach initiatives, few provide detailed information about their own workplace efforts to support diversity and inclusion. Of course, this doesn’t mean those policies are not in place, but that venues with diversity-oriented hiring policies don’t feel it’s a selling feature.
Consider This: Specifically asking your venues about their workforce diversity and using that as a criterion in your venue selection is one way to let venues know that it’s important to you and that there is a monetary reason for engaging in progressive hiring practices.
What makes a venue a smart venue?
A smart event venue helps create enhanced attendee experiences by ensuring fast, reliable Wi-Fi that’s easy to use. It offers device-friendly environments with easy access to chargers and outlets, and to 4G/5G. Working, modern audio visual equipment is also crucial, and smart venues will boast the latest in high-resolution screens and projectors, working with planners to create all-encompassing immersive experiences. This audio visual technology can also allow participants to attend the event remotely.