It’s a dream scenario. Your event has been steadily growing for a few years adding a few score new delegates or visitors every 12 months. You’ve upsized your hotel space a few times and this year is the big move to the conference centre or the exhibition hall. You are ready to mix it with the big boys!
Mixing it with the big boys
Moving from the relatively comfortable and intimate small to medium sized hotel to the purpose built conference and exhibition venue is a much bigger change than you may think. It’s not just the size of the venue that changes; the attitude and approach of the event planner must change too. Gallus Events recently moved their event Tech Fest to ExCeL in London and we learned a thing or two (well ten) in the process.
Here’s our 5 things to take advantage of when upscaling your event:
1. Take advantage of the venue size. With large purpose built venues you just never know what they have lying around. They have so much space that they just might have in house what you are looking for. We found Giant iTab on site and of course found a home for it at Tech Fest! The venue will are of course still charge for things that you use but there is a good bet they will have more than your normal hotel.
2. Take advantage of the other shows. These massive venues have to turn over loads of shows to make money so it is likely that while you are running your show there will be another show or two, or three taking place. You will know who is there months before your show. So take advantage of this. See who is doing their build or providing their AV and jump on the back of that to ensure some savings.
3. Take advantage of the templates. Venues this size and been through the mill hundreds of times and owing to this they will have templates for everything. Don’t reinvent the wheel trying to give your exhibitors instructions to get there. Don’t start from scratch with the risk assessment. Ask your venue what they have before spending your valuable time re-creating things.
4. Big venues have muscle. It’s very likely that someone at your venue sits on an important industry panel or two. You can guarantee that the venue will be well known in the local area. Don’t be too shy to ask the venue to support your event. Maybe it’s a favour for a reduced rate in a trade magazine or a reduced rate for the drinks reception at the hotel opposite.
5. Use the venue connections to improve your event. Take advantage of the kudos. Your industry will have been watching your event grow so don’t miss out on the opportunity to tell everyone that you are now mixing it with the big boys. Put that venue on all of your promotional material and shout “we are getting bigger AND BETTER”
The thing is that you have probably been forced into the move owing to the growth of the event. You may have been very happy at the hotel so this can be seen as a necessary move rather than a desired one. So……
Here are five things to look out for and to consider when upscaling your event:
1. Expect a lower than anticipated profit in the first year. That put a dampener on things! Unless you really are already a massive show be prepared not to be able to take advantage of the economy of scale that come with these large venues. Expect your fixed costs to be high in the first year of the move and expect that to counteract the increase in attendance. Hopefully the move will push you a bit more into the black but don’t expect your show to suddenly drastically increase in profit. That hopefully comes NEXT YEAR!
2. Things cost more. These purpose built venues tend to focus on the massive shows and therefore their pricing structure is higher end. These higher prices can be trivial on some things but impactful on others. For example security is likely to be billed in shifts rather than hours. So even if you require a two hour night before set up you may be paying for an 8 hour shift. So make sure you fully price the move before you move.
3. Be prepared to do everything by the book. Expect an increase in the amount of administrative time you the planner will need to work with the venue. From filling in the 20 page risk assessment to the detailed check sheets you are likely to be doing a bit more form filling. And make sure all your own insurance is in order. The bigger the venue the less they like to deal with “risk”. This is without doubt the right approach from the venue but something that smaller venues might not be so hot on and therefore less of the planners time will be dedicated to this at a smaller venue.
4. A little less flexible. It’s that bit harder to use the suppliers you want when you take your show to a bigger venue. They tend to have exclusive deals in place with caters and AV. Again make sure you price all of these aspects before you move and make sure you are happy with the in house suppliers you are likely to be using.
5. Bigger must also be better. There can be a tendency for the planner to think that because the show is bigger attendees will think it is better. But even thought you are bigger don’t lose the things that helped your show get to this size. It’s likely that growth has been from tailoring your event experience and dealing personally and quickly with your delegates and exhibitors so don’t lose the essence of your event!
We were treated exceptionally well at ExCeL and I had to struggle to think of five things to “look out” for when upscaling your event. ExCeL certainly focusses on the massive shows but our little 25 stand 200 attendee conference fit snuggly into the Platinum Suite.
In general a move upwards tends to be onwards but keeping that essence of what you did to get to this position is the key to sustained growth. Make sure no matter the size of the venue that they know where your heart lies.
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