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Even highly experienced #eventprofs sometimes struggle when asked to suggest “something different”, “out of the box” and “not the usual meeting location”. Fact is you cannot know everything and if you’re in a mega-city like London or New York even a lifetime in events won’t bring you to every available space for meetings or events. Here are 7 ways you can hunt out the perfect venue.
As a professional #eventprof in a relatively small city – Dublin – I was constantly amazed by the plethora of new venues that seemed to pop up out of nowhere just when I thought I had everything covered. So how do you ensure you’re always up-to-date? How do you earn and justify the “professional” appellation that’s part and parcel of being an #eventprof? Here are 7 things you’ve got to do.
Accept You Don’t Know Everything
The first step to perfect venue knowledge is, paradoxically, to admit to yourself, your competitors and your clients that you don’t have it, i.e., you don’t know everything. An attitude of humility has a strange but devastatingly positive effect: it makes it much more likely that people will share things with you. If you’re an arrogant know-it-all then why would anybody ever share something new with you? You’d already know it and would probably belittle them for thinking their venue discovery was new? Instead be open and humble. Share your knowledge liberally and ask plenty of questions.
Make Friends with the Hotel Concierges
If you want to know what’s going on in any hotel or, indeed, what’s happening with in-house groups then talk to the concierges. These guys (but sometimes they’re girls too) actually do know everything (unlike you – see 1 above). They can be an immense source of information and knowledge providing you treat them as the professionals they truly are, with the utmost respect. They’ll know precisely what outside venues are being used for Gala dinners or parties and, most importantly, they’ll be able to report on how well the attendees liked the venue.
Talk to the Techies
Another great source of leads for new venues in any location is the tech community. Production guys doing staging, rigging, lighting and sound move from venue to venue on a daily basis and probably have the best grasp of what’s new. Also these guys will tell you what works – they’ll know all about get in/get out times, flying points, acoustics, floor levels etc. For warehouse style venues they’ll also be able to advise you about that stiff breeze that can turn the venue into a refrigerator and help you to spec it properly so that you get your budget right.
Check Out the Online Platforms
Over the past 5 years there’s been a huge proliferation of sites showcasing venues for meetings and events. From meetingsbooker.com to liquidspace.com to spacebase.com these sites, in slightly different ways, bring the world of venues to your smartphone (or desktop). Some now even allow you to make a booking online in real time. In many cases reviews of the venues are provided along with full venue specifications so, technically, you could go right ahead and book it, sight unseen. Some of these sites focus more on conventional venues in hotels and public buildings (meetingsbooker.com and meetingrooms.com) but some offer truly unusual, different spaces such as photo studios or spare capacity in other people’s offices (spacebase.com). Either way they’re a great source of information and can help enormously when you’re looking for space in an overseas destination.
Use Your Network of #Eventprofs
If knowing all the cool locations in your home location is hard, then it’s obviously impossible to know them in overseas destinations where you only work occasionally. That’s why your universal network of #eventprofs is SO important. To be a successful global #eventprof you must assemble and cultivate your own tribe of like-minded professionals on all 5 continents. These are the people that’ll make working in Sydney or Sao Paolo or Shanghai as easy and straightforward as if it were Dublin or Dundee. These are the people that have the inside track on what’s hot and what’s not all over the world so finding the right venue will be as easy as sending a Whatsapp. Mind these people and don’t “use” them!
Track Cool Festivals and Events
A great way to identify and source new venues for meetings and events is to track all types of festivals – music, food, theatre, culture etc. Festivals bring groups of people together around common themes but, unless they’re using temporary structures, they need physical locations to gather and cluster their audiences. Folks from outside the meetings and events industry think differently from us and often identify venue opportunities that we would never dream of. I recall years ago attending a theatrical production by an avant garde Polish director (whose name featured several consecutive consonants). He staged the play in the auditorium, seating the audience on the stage and totally redefined the notion of a venue. This is the type of thinking we need to be able to tap into.
Talk to the CVB
Finally, when going overseas, be sure to call the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CVB) or Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) of the destination you’re travelling to. Increasingly DMOs are breaking free from the “civil service” mentality that would never colour outside the lines. Many are made up of highly creative marketers, deeply connected to their destination with uncommonly good destination knowledge. When you tell them you’re looking for something cool and edgy the won’t direct you to the local Hilton but provide you with a list of achingly cool venues certain to blow your client away.
Finding the perfect venue is definitely a “long game” and it involves painstaking detective work. It starts with relationship and network building, locally, nationally and internationally. It includes advanced search-meister capabilities that enable you to expertly fish out relevant data from the web and then validate this data again your web of local contacts who, ultimately, won’t let you go wrong.