Quirky venues: A Help or Hindrance?

We all love a change of environment – Let’s face it, who wants to be cooped up in an office – (or hotel room for that matter) day in, day out. But how effective is a quirky venue vs a simple change of environment, in terms of assisting you in effectively delivering your content?

One of my favourite quotations is; “If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got”. The origin of the quote is uncertain and has been attributed to many people including Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and even Mark Twain. Regardless of the origin, what matters, is the point it makes and its relevance to learning & development; We all need that extra stimulation to make changes in order to achieve something new.

In the same way, if a delegate is in a familiar environment, their mind-set is likely to stay with what is familiar to them, resulting in the content not being taken on as effectively, despite identical delivery. So for this reason, taking delegates out of their familiar environment should make them more receptive to taking the information on board, and making your content more effective.

So; A new environment could be beneficial to the delivery of your event, but would a hotel or function room unfamiliar to the group be appropriate, or is an unconventional quirky venue going to be memorable for all the right reasons? Of course this very much differs depending on the group you have and what needs to be achieved, but there are some other important factors to consider;

Practicalities: Starting with equipment - Conference centres and (more often than not) hotels, all have in-house AV departments or partner suppliers that can get equipment to them at short notice, but for the more quickly venues, these need to be hired in well in advance, so know what you need, take it with you and/or be prepared. Heating and air-condition ing are important factors also often overlooked.

Supplies: Pads, pens, a clock in the room: The stuff you take for granted at most venues, are unlikely to be supplied at these venues, so check in advance and make arrangements to take any of these with you if required. They are unlikely to have a business office to quickly nip to, to print an extra copy of a hand-out.

Catering: Everyone remembers the food – If this is outsourced to an external caterer, you are likely to have a separate quotation/contract to turn-around. The venue may also not have a kitchen for the caterers to use onsite, which means you may either need cold food, or to pay to have kitchen facilities brought in, which can be costly. If you don't want to have catering in the training room you may also have to pay to hire a dedicate catering space.

Timings: Unlike residential venues, the hire period for quirky venues is a lot more restrictive as they are not manned ‘after hours’ so be prepared to fork out extra for additional room hire fees for them to staff the venue if you need early access for set-up.

Overnight hold: If you have a multi-day event, bear in mind that quirky venues are often also utilised for private dining in the evenings, so do check at the time of enquiry if you need to ‘hold’ your equipment/the layout and materials in the room overnight. Popular venues (mainly in the cities) will charge for this, to recover loss of revenue from not having an evening dinner.

In a recent conversation with a facilitators, he said “To learn, the mind has to be ready to receive information so your physical and mental comfort is paramount, the more informal the environment, the easier it is to process the Information. Equally it is far easier for the trainer to train when the atmosphere in the training room is less commercial”.

So, for certain groups, the pull of a unique venue, and the benefits of an environment which takes the group away from a ‘commercial’ mindset, far outweigh the inconvenience of the extra planning. The UK has an incredible variety of unique, unusual and amazing venues to offer, matching the diversity of landscapes, pursuits, culture and history. A suitable venue can invariably be found as long as you know what your priorities are.

More recently, there have emerged some creative hotels and innovative conference centres which have embraced the need for a more informal environment for training session, and can provide you with the perfect balance of convenience vs creative environment. The trick is to identify and be specific & realistic from the outset, about what is most appropriate for your group. This will help pre-empt and overcome any problems, early-on, making your journey a lot less stressful, and allowing you to concentrate on successful and enjoyable content delivery.

Wendy has been organising corporate events for 18 years, and is the founder of meetings matter, a corporate venue finding service. She loves entertaining at home, and at work gets a kick when she is able to secure a venue she knows is going to be perfect for that event brief.

 

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