With so many things to consider when choosing the venue for your conference it is no surprise that sometimes we forget to ensure that it ticks the most important box: that the conference environment supports the learning of the attendees. 

How do you make your conference environment a learning one?

We all know why this is the case; making the venue decision is complicated. There you are trying to find the best possible place within budget. The venue needs to be of course conveniently located and appropriate for your attendees. You are probably looking for somewhere flexible incase your numbers shoot up or annoying drop off. Access times have to match your event build up. Of course the venue has to be able to offer the services you need. And now there is the new headache of WiFi!

When there is so much (and of course there are more things than my little list above) it is not uncommon for the erstwhile event organiser to forget one thing: to make sure that the environment is conducive to learning. There we go again thinking like logistics people and not educators!

Learning to support learning

The environment of the room has an impact on the attendees and the speakers. It can suck the life from both or it can act as a shot in the arm for all. I’ve seen great speakers droop like a bull dog’s jowls when they’ve taken to stage in a dark, boring room. I’ve seen enlivened delegates (oh, yes, I have!) enter a room full of beans only to have their creative juices disappear as if instantly mopped up by a  bit of soggy bread.

Event organisers have to really thoughtfully consider the impact of the room in which the attendees spend time during their event. Attendees have to consider it as well. Conference attendees should put the venue into the mix and seriously consider give a conference a wide berth if it takes place in one of those boring, blank canvas cavernous hotels or conference or exhibition centres. As well as the organiser and the attendee there is one other perspective and it is perhaps the most important: the venues themselves.

The role of the enlightened venue 

Things are changing but slowly. Venues are becoming lighter and more enlightened. I remember when a days venue searching would mean you spent more time underground that a Chilean Miner. Thankfully those days seem to be over with many new venues creating meeting space which includes – pretty fundamental things like – a view, a feeling of space and some natural light. These simple things really do help support learning and it is great to see that venues and organisers are beginning to take this seriously into account when they choose their venues. The choice of venue was a major consideration when I chose to take the British Dietetic Association Congress “BDA Live and Online” to the fantastic Vinopolis.

Over the last few years I have seen new venues and venue chains enter the market who seem to “get it” when it comes to the meeting environment. ETC Venues in London clearly understand that the venue has an important part to play in creating an environment that supports learning and I am yet to hear a bad work spoken about that chain.

A duty of care

The Events Industry as a whole has a duty of care to provide attendees with an environment that supports their learning. Organisers have a duty to look for space that positively affects the meeting and venues have a duty to provide it. Everyone has to learn to support learning.