With its Midlands location, Birmingham is often dubbed as the epicenter for business in the UK.
Ideally placed for conferencing and events which bridge together members of the corporate world from across the country, it’s no wonder there is a real appetite for event venues in Birmingham.
We’re excited to announce that joining the choice of conferencing venues in Birmingham will be a major new venue, the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre (BCEC), officially launching 3rd November.
With 26 hotels across the UK, the team here at Cairn Group like to think we know a thing or two about planning business conferences and events! So, in celebration of our new centre, we’ve consulted our experienced team to bring you our top tips on everything you need to know about planning your conference or business event…
1. Plan early
To ensure a conference works well, you should plan ahead at least four months in advance or even 12 months for larger scale conferences. Remember, the best conference bookers will be reserving their venue up to a year in advance, so bear that in mind when you’re doing your initial research.
2. When to send out your invite
Busy people have very busy calendars, so make sure your conference event goes into their diaries quick! A lot of companies like plenty of notice, so sending out invites up to six weeks in advance is ideal.
3. Selecting a theme
A theme can help you stand out from the crowd – just make sure you know what you’re talking about – have an idea and stick to it! It’s best to establish any intricate detail early on and clarify exactly what you want to get out of the day or night, so there is less chance of disappointment.
4. The ‘B’ word!
Budgets! Be sure to get sign off from all the key decision makers at the start of your project, keep copies of all financial agreements and keep tabs on how your conferencing or event budget is looking at frequent points of the planning process so there are no nasty surprises on the day.
5. Food and drink
Keeping your delegates fed and watered is key – regardless of the time of day. Does your chosen venue provide refreshments, or do you need to hire an external catering company? For example Holiday Inn, Birmingham City Centre, can provide deli lunches, teas and coffee to keep your guests refreshed throughout the day.
6. Goody bags/freebies for guests?
Freebies serve as a good ‘added extra’ or reminder of an event for guests. Try and step away from the generic free pen or USB stick. Think about pulling together a goody bag that’ll really WOW your guests – you may want to consider joining up with a partner or supplier who complements your event theme, or who can simply provide guests with something that’s just a bit different. At a recent conference venue we attended in Birmingham, the organisers were handing out portable phone chargers – something a little different but one which almost everyone will use!
7. When’s the best time to host?
Starting a conference in the morning will always work better than later on in the afternoon. In the morning, you could provide a meet and greet breakfast and guests will generally be more engaged and focused than towards the end of the day. An early start is less likely to see attendees cry off due to deadlines or constraints back at the office.
8. What about the location?
Being within close proximity to a big city centre or to popular travel links is best – particularly if it’s an event venue in busy old Birmingham.
Consider how your guests will get there; is there enough parking at your chosen venue? Is there nearby parking if not? Do you have disabled parking available, and should you consider providing a map? Birmingham city centre has great transport links, including frequent train, bus and metro services. Steering attendees on such information in your pre-event communication will also be appreciated and hopefully limit any late and flustered arrivals.
10. Reading materials and printing
If you have print outs for your guests, make sure you provide extra just in case some get lost or some are taken away from the event. Do you need name labels? Do you need to provide any leaflets or promotional literature? Consider how long items will take to be designed, signed off and printed, and schedule it into the run up to the day.
11. Taking a break
Hold regular breaks and think about having an alternative room for guests to stretch their legs or even just to offer some additional networking space or a change of scenery. Is there somewhere they can go to grab a coffee? Will they all be queuing for one toilet? How long will each break be and when will they know when the break is over? Put someone in charge who will coordinate the timings from your end on the day.
12. Creating an atmosphere
Fill the space up but think about the comfort and surroundings of your guests. Are there comfy sofas to lounge on during a break? Is there air conditioning? Access to Wi-Fi is also important and is one of the many features at Holiday Inn, Birmingham City Centre. Free internet usage will be ever more important if you have a dedicated Twitter handle or hashtag for your event, which is pretty much the norm these days.
13. Keep it interesting
Don’t talk at people too much or for long periods of time. Great if you can consider alternative forms of content to ensure your delegates are engaged, such as incorporating video, powerful or even humorous images, or encourage group activities.
14. Tickets/ RSVP
How do you want your guests to confirm their attendance? It’s often a good idea to encourage RSVP via email or telephone, as there is less chance of the message getting lost. Tickets (whether or not they are free or at a price) are a good way for guests to have a reminder of the event, and it’s also a nice gesture if you can personalise the invite to each attendee.
15. Guest speakers or event comperes
The best guest speakers get snapped up early on, so contact your chosen few as soon as possible, at the start of the planning stages will be best – your theme and budget will most likely dictate who you bring on board.
16. Keep the agenda tight!
No one enjoys a meeting or event which goes over on time, so create a tight schedule and stick to it. You don’t want people to start leaving your conference because you have overrun, so employ a time keeper if necessary – your busy guests will thank you for it!
17. Size of venue
A full conference room looks better than an empty one, but similarly you don’t want to pack people in so they’re short of space. Considering the number of guests before you book your venue may sounds obvious, but it’s frequently one we see overlooked.
18. The venue
How big or small do you want your venue to be? There are ample conference venues in Birmingham – for instance Holiday Inn, Birmingham City Centre has 11 conference rooms, with the biggest having the ability to host up to 600 guests. There are thousands of great venues across the country so do your research and pick wisely.
19. Documenting the event
If your event is going to be particularly visual, why not consider hiring a videographer to document the event? There’s so much you can do with this type of content to keep the buzz going post-event, from sharing highlights across your social media channels to hosting on your website or intranet. The same goes for photography and any press activity to support the event. Both will need a thorough briefing to understand what you want out of the day so factor this into your planning time also, or engage a great PR agency to manage this on your behalf.
20. After the event…
Dropping guests a simple ‘thank you’ email to show you appreciated them attending is a nice touch, as is offering them the opportunity to feedback on their experience.
21. Team debrief
The work doesn’t stop when your last guest leaves. We’d recommend an event team debrief – a chance to regroup and assess what worked and what didn’t work to see how you can ensure that the next one’s even better than the last!
So there you have it – our guide to getting the very most out of your business event or conference. Whether you’re looking for a conference or event in Birmingham or further afield, you can rest assured you are in the safest of hands with Cairn Group.