Location, location, location

The right venue can really help set the mood of your event and London has a wealth of varied and unusual locations. Tim Weissberg explores the capital’s churches, museums and breweries

St%20PaulsThe opportunities for finding the right venue in London for your marketing event are many. There are hundreds of galleries, parks, halls, cinemas, exhibition centres, pubs, breweries, concert halls, churches, conference centres, hotels, shopping centres and even a beach dotted around the city. But with all this choice it can easily make the job of seeking out your ideal venue as endless as the possibilities you face.

Even if you do wade through enough places to find the perfect space, how do you know it will work? Will it reflect your brand’s values and identity and will it appeal to the consumers you want to attract? Can you be sure there isn’t anywhere better? And now, with all this searching, the proposed date isn’t as far away as it first seemed.

But all this does not need to be that much of a worry because there are various directories and online sources that list key information, ranging from Marketing Week‘s Live Events Directory to the British Association of Conference Destinations’ More Than A Venue website. There is also the option of going to a show such as Venues and Events, which will run in London next September.

Susan%20SextonSusan Sexton, sales director of the Travel and Events division of performance improvement company P&MM, believes that although the internet holds a great deal of valuable information, the scope of what is on offer means that event organisers should not settle with an obvious choice. “Basic research on what’s available in London is accessible to all on the internet if you know where to look. However, to meet and drive your objectives you need to be ‘creative’ for optimum impact,” she says.

“London presents one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences for events of all types. It grieves me when it’s not utilised for maximum potential – basic hotel function space does little to inspire. If you can’t afford the location then at least provide a theme that suits the audience and adds colour to the message. But if you do have the opportunity to look outside the box then you should be in the know when it comes to the Royal Albert Hall, the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, the museums and galleries you can take over, the unique locations, the opportunities the river provides, the famous shops you can brand for yourself. The list is as endless as your imagination.”

Securing an obscure setting for your event is not as difficult as some might first assume. Jonathan Emmins, agency development director at Purity, says owners of diverse spaces are recognising the opportunities for self-publicity that come with hosting a successful and unusual event. “An ever-growing number of locations are opening themselves up to marketing events.”

“Building owners are waking up to the revenue they can generate when opening their doors to marketers. With this in mind, marketers should think carefully about what location would fit well with the event they are planning, and then choose something that fits.

Prestige location
“Not only can they end up with a location that really helps the activity come to life, but they’re more likely to find somewhere that’s different, or that has prestige because nobody else has used it before.”

However, just because no one has used a certain venue before does not necessarily mean that they have not considered it. “There are a number of key points to bear in mind during your search,” says Pamela Berners-Price, head of logistics at experiential marketing agency Jack Morton Worldwide. “It’s important that the venue is easily accessible for the audience and can gear up to whatever level of service you require. Unusual venues can be breathtaking, but it should be remembered that there does tend to be less flexibility with venues like museums and access is only likely in the evenings when the public have left. In this way, there is less time to personalise the venue should you wish.

“It’s also important to consider the requirements of clients in terms of what they are hoping to achieve for their delegates. If you are conducting the conference in London and your delegates are travelling from far, it may be important to allow time in the schedule for them to visit the sites.

Blank canvas
“Although unusual venues have distinct advantages,the best venue choice for the client may be a hall that can be used as a blank canvas and easily adapted for your means,” continues Berners-Price. “We used such a venue for a major snack food manufacturer and created an exotic beach location, even using audio of waves and seagulls, where delegates could relax among the palm trees.

“Overall, it’s crucial to understand the balance of business and leisure in the brief and the intensity of the business to be conducted. Once this is ascertained, it’s down to geography and availability. The right venue can really help set the mood of your event and London has a wealth of varied and unusual locations.

“We used City Hall (home to © the Mayor of London, London Assembly and the GLA) for a General Motors UK event. This striking venue provided delegates with a stimulating environment to aid debate, provoke ideas and network. The rounded glass building on the South Bank of the Thames is one of London’s most spectacular new buildings. It offers a modern minimalist style coupled with spectacular views.”

Rural retreat
She goes on to explain that just because London is a city, you don’t have to be restricted to an urban-based event. “We used the Hurlingham Club, which borders the Thames in Fulham, west London, to stage a global marketing meeting for a consumer goods company. The initial location of the venue has its challenges in terms of getting through the traffic, but once into the club’s grounds, you quickly leave behind the hustle and bustle of London. The venue space is good, modern, crisp and versatile, allowing us to create a theatre-style conference as well as a dinner space centred around a glass covered atrium with the use of surrounding gardens.”

It may be the capital and the options are apparently endless, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that London is the only place to hold an event. Just because your agency or company might be based there, the people you are trying to appeal to may not be. Thorough research into the consumer sector you are aiming to appeal to, to find out where they live, how easily they can travel and, probably more importantly, if they don’t mind travelling or even where they would like an event to be held, could prove vital to your success. It’s no good having the best venue and the best exhibitions if no one can or wants to get to it.

Gothic church
Research is also important when looking at the cost of putting on an event. You might have found the perfect gothic church in London, but the fee could be higher than the cost of moving the whole operation to a similar venue outside the city. There’s also more of a chance then that you will be the first to use the place and thus have the advantage of originality over your competitors.

Securing an original venue may not always be possible, but there are pros to be gained from this apparent con. If an event has been held before in a space you have shortlisted you will be able to find out if it was successful. Understandably you may be hesitant to approach the company that held the event. But if it is a competitor, you should have access to its target consumers who you are also marketing to, they may be willing to talk about their experience at the event. The relevant trade press may also hold clues as to whether the venue was right and, essentially, in which areas the event succeeded or failed.

Despite the variety of options in London, simple but thorough research into what the consumers want will help you focus your search. The venue you select might not be the most original, the most awe-inspiring space or even strictly within London, but if people can attend and become effectively engaged by the brand being exhibited it has every chance of turning into a success.

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