Complex Made Simple

Choosing the right venue for your company event

The global events industry is huge, a fact confirmed by the Global Event Industry Benchmarks Study 2015. The study surveyed over 2,200 business professionals involved with planning or managing events and found that nearly half of them allocate as much as a quarter of their annual marketing budget on meetings and events. In terms of overall spend, 25 per cent reported an annual budget of between USD 50,000-249,000, while, at the very top end, 5 per cent boasted a budget over USD 5m.

That’s a lot of money – and that means a lot of pressure to get it right. Businesses are spending big money on events for a number of reasons: to build brand awareness and strengthen client relations; to launch new products; to reinforce company values; to improve employee morale and embed company culture; to strengthen employee engagement and improve productivity.

Whatever the purpose of your event, the venue you choose is an essential ingredient in your recipe for success. Dubai has hundreds, if not thousands, of fantastic venues offering a comprehensive range of event settings, from the refined elegance of the Pyramids Rooftop Gardens at Wafi to the luxurious expanse of Burj Park, to the quirky, casual feel at Claw BBQ. Choosing the right venue for the event you’re planning can be the difference between roaring success and dismal failure.

Here are the key points to consider as you set about making that choice.

Six venue considerations that ensure your event hits the spot  

Unlike trade shows or exhibitions, events are a special occasion all about you. They might be completely internal – an end-of-year party or training day – or you could invite stakeholders and favoured clients – a gala dinner or fundraiser, say – or even open it up to the public. This is your chance to shine, to show what makes your company tick, and it all starts with choosing the right venue.

1. Match your venue to your goal: What do you want your event to achieve? Whether it’s launching a new product to the press, building closer relations with your customers, or inspiring and incentivising your staff, begin by establishing the key objective of your event. Every other decision should be rooted to this aim. Your goal dictates the type of event and the type of event dictates the venue.

Say you want to encourage staff bonding following a merger, you probably don’t want a sit-down formal meal, as mingling opportunities might be limited. Maybe an activity day leading into a casual dinner would be more appropriate. Those two events demand very different venues.

Also consider tone. Maybe you’re looking to make a strong statement of success, to reassure stakeholders, in which case you’ll want an impressive venue to reflect the confident message of your event.

 2. Align budget and event venue: Every successful event begins with a proper financial plan. Of course, not all events are designed to eat up your marketing budget. Some set out to make money. Successful Event Management: A Practical Handbook says the first concern should always be your financial objective. ‘Is the event intended to make money, or simply to cover its costs?’ Only from this point, the handbook recommends, should you look to identify costs like your event venue.

Budget is the obvious limiting factor when it comes to choosing your venue but the cost of the venue has to be considered within the overall financial plan. Events can easily go wrong financially when the venue eats up too much budget, but also when insufficient budget has been allocated in the first place.

Your event venue is a major cost but it can also be a major source of revenue. Be realistic about the number of people you expect to attend and, if you’re selling tickets, how much they’ll be prepared to pay. As the handbook notes, a major mistake here is ‘being over-optimistic about demand for the event, or failing to find a venue with enough capacity’.

3. Consider your brand: Branding runs deeper than décor. Your event venue says much about your organisation because it’s about first impressions. Are you ostentatious? Successful? Caring? Friendly? Ambitious? Imaginative? Quirky? Your venue needs to reflect these characteristics.

The Gulf Lawn at The Ritz Carlton, for example, will lend an extravagant, luxury vibe to your event, and thus your brand. If you’re looking to project a more functional, serious, economical image, the World Trade Centre Dubai might be a better choice.

A well chosen event venue acts to reinforce your brand reputation and solidify your positioning. It feels consistent, both to attendees and the myriad people who’ll hear about your event via PR, word of mouth and social media. Consistency is an essential ingredient for powerhouse brands and your event venue helps to cement your brand values. That’s no small thing.

 4. Location, location, location: The success of any event is dependent on invitees actually turning up, so make it easy for them. Large corporate events generally involve guests travelling from far-flung places, so think about how they’ll get to the venue. Consider the distance and transport links from the nearest airport, station and other transport hubs and also think about the time of day your guests will be arriving. Nobody will thank you for a journey up Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road at 5.30pm.

Research the nearby accommodation facilities. You could hold an incredible event in an amazing venue, but send your guests away on an hour-long taxi ride to their hotel and they won’t remember you fondly. The last impression can be the most lasting, after all.

Consider the options available within the venue itself. In her book Event Planning, Judy Allen gives an example of an event with mostly seniors as guests. The chosen venue had two wings, the older north wing and a newer, more impressive south wing. The organisers chose the south wing, without regard for the additional 20 minute walk from the parking area. For seniors, though, the older but closer north wing would have been a more considerate choice.

5. Check the facilities: Your choice of event venue should be intrinsically linked to the type of event you want to create. This is true for mood and just as true for facilities. Your event venue should be able to comfortably accommodate your planned activities, be that a seven-course meal or a virtual reality experience booth.

Event venues have to be booked many months in advance, but avoid the trap of thinking that makes it the first thing you should do. Your choice of venue should be the culmination of many other decisions. Book the venue before fleshing out your event programme and you risk discovering that your chosen venue can’t support your planned activities. Not every venue will have food and beverage facilities, for instance, or they might have prohibitive minimum spends.

Check the acoustics too. Acoustics are easy to overlook because you tend not to notice them unless there’s something wrong. But if you don’t take the trouble to check them out when first inspecting the venue you might notice it for all the wrong reasons on the night, when nobody can hear one another, the band, or your keynote speakers.

Wi-Fi is also important. Social media can play a massive role in amplifying your event reach beyond immediate guests, maximising brand visibility and driving engagement. An Event Marketing Institute study found that organisations with 100 per cent confidence in their viral impact can secure 7.8 million touches, communications, connections and impressions per event. You can’t capitalise on that without strong Wi-Fi. 

6. Expect the unexpected: As Shannon Kilkenny observes in The Complete Guide to Successful Event Planning, ‘No event, no matter how well planned and well run, is immune from occasional calamity or crisis.’ She stresses the importance of assessing the venue’s own contingency plan, as well as ensuring you have a plan for all eventualities.

What if you’ve planned an outdoor event at Kempinski Palm Jumeirah and a sudden sand storm hits? Those terraces and stunning beaches aren’t quite so stunning if your guests have nowhere to take shelter. Or what if a major incident causes road closures. Can your guests arrive/leave by another route? Before booking your venue, consider every potential worst case and ensure that both you and your venue have a cohesive contingency plan.

A sense of place

From fundraisers to galas, training events to annual celebrations, corporate events have huge potential to create a positive impact for your business. They can reinforce your brand, engage your people, drive productivity, show gratitude to stakeholders, encourage investment and much more.

The possibilities for creating that wow factor are endless. Cutting-edge technology, luxurious venues, world class food, memorable entertainment… beyond budgetary constraints, you are limited only by your own imagination. But corporate events are by no means easy. The difference between success and failure can be as small as the distance between two wings of the same event venue.

Plan thoroughly with all these considerations in mind and your events will always hit the right spot.