Behind the scenes – choosing the venue

We get asked about how we decide on UK Meet venues, so here’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

We start planning the next meet as soon as the previous one finishes, with everything fresh in our minds.Step one is a first sift through of potential venues, based on our two key non-negotiables:

  • Size – has to accommodate 150 cabaret style (that’s the round table arrangement for when we’re all together) with other event rooms and break-out areas
  • Location – has to have good public and private transport links, with other hotels, restaurants, etc close by

That takes out a large number of options!

Then we get dozens – literally – of quotes, both direct and through agents. These get a second sift, based on our next key considerations and on feedback from our attendees about previous events:

  • Rainbow dinner – for example choices at each course. (Amazing how many places can’t offer this.)
  • Value for money – we feel a duty towards our delegates in terms of not raising costs unnecessarily. So, while we’d love to hold the 2020 event at Twickenham we’re not putting £60+ on tickets just to do so.
  • Ease of access – we consider venues across the country, but the team need to make several visits to the hotel in the run-up to the event and we also have a pantechnicon of stuff for the weekend itself. Having a venue near to where team members live enables this to happen more easily. (Also there was one year where having one of us living close by avoided a major calamity. Don’t ask.)

From this we produce a short list.

Third step is visiting short-listed venues, applying our even longer checklist of requirements. Sometimes this is thrilling, when we find a real winner, and sometimes it’s heartbreaking. This year we visited four hotels we’d not used before, all in new locations, but we soon discovered that what looked great online didn’t match up in reality. Tatty decor and poor disabled access took out one, while lack of adequate socialising areas eliminated another. In each case we found ourselves standing and saying, “The event wouldn’t work in this space at this place.” In this case, back to step two.

Fourth step is choosing which hotel to ask for a contract and then reviewing what we’re sent in minute detail. We changed our minds on the 2018 venue at this point as they didn’t deliver what they’d promised to.

The fifth step is agreeing between us to sign a contract with our chosen venue and that’s the hardest step of all. Such a responsibility…