A suitable rendezvous

all know that employees can now be trained at their desks, but there is still a
strong argument for hosting events away from the office. Christina Golding
looks at the options  

managers have warmed to the emergence of e-learning and in-house training over
the past decade, then company ‘bean counters’ must be positively glowing.

of pounds have been subsequently cut from training budgets, and justifying
spending a huge wedge of corporate profits on a conference or meeting venue is
a tough call for any training manager.

is a trend recognised by the Woodland Grange training centre near Leamington
Spa, Warwickshire. For example, it has found that more companies are requesting
its health and safety and management training to be conducted on company
premises, rather than at its own centre. But Heather Edwards, Woodland Grange’s
sales and marketing co-ordinator, sees the downsides.

are not as focused. They are going off in their lunch breaks to do some work
and pick up telephone messages, and sometimes even get called off the course in
the afternoon."

also believes that delegates do not value in-house training very much. If they
are sent to a comfortable venue in beautiful surroundings, fed, and perhaps
given accommodation, they immediately feel more valued by the company and are
more receptive to training.

Rogers, executive director of the British Association of Conference
Destinations (BACD) agrees that there are added benefits to training away from
the office.

are now seeing the emergence of virtual conferences and more in-house training,
but this is no replacement for interacting with people, particularly during
coffee breaks and lunch times," he says. "It’s important to have some
human interaction to keep us sane."


you have won the case for spending some of the precious budget on a venue, it
is vital to ensure that the venue meets your expectations and those of the
delegate. The last thing a training manager needs is for staff to come back to
the office moaning about what a terrible time they had.

needs of the delegates and of the training manager mean that there are two sets
of values to fulfill, says Jane Littlewood, sales and operations director for
Hayley Conference Centres: "We bear both sets of values in mind," she
says."We know that the budget holder is looking for the right location,
with well-equipped rooms, natural daylight and a support network, while
delegates want to be able to park easily, and work in comfortable surroundings
that keep them in the right mindset for learning.

venues deliver the return on investment by ensuring the feelgood factor for
delegates and making training managers feel at ease," she says.

there are around 5,000 conference and meeting venues from different companies,
which means a huge choice, but facilities can vary and it pays to check

example, Jane Norford, operations co-ordinator for Chameleon Training, a
subsidiary of British Airways, has recently been looking at hotels in the
Heathrow area. She warns that although many hotels give a good impression of
themselves on their websites, the venues should always be viewed in person.

example, there was one hotel that looked lovely on its website, but when I went
to see it, the lounge reeked of smoke," she says.

are dedicated conference centres a better choice?  With meetings and conferences being the core business, the
dedicated training centre can offer a more work-orientated atmosphere.

Jones, marketing manager of Initial Style Conferences, which has 28 venues
throughout the UK, says: "Because all we do is training, we are just more
geared up for it than a hotel. There’s no coachload of tourists or children
running around."

feather in the cap for the dedicated centre is that most are well equipped with
the latest technology and can offer support if things go wrong. Technical
back-up should be included in the venue fee, as it is with the 33 venues under
the Conference Centres of Excellence (CCE) banner. You should check for the
inclusion of technical support when booking a venue, and it is advisable to
find out exactly what that support entails.

Elsmore, chairman of the CCE and director of the Cranfield Management
Development Centre, says: "What you don’t want is a hotel porter fiddling
with the equipment and deciding it can’t be fixed."

defence of hotels, there are certainly many groups that have been working hard
on their conference and meetings offerings.

consortium Best Western is offering a free service to find a venue for
customers from one of its 300 hotels offering meeting and conference
facilities. All hotels have to meet a set of criteria under its First Place
scheme, which includes basics such as comfortable chairs, rooms with natural
daylight, air-conditioning and refreshments.

Hilton Group has gone even further with its Hilton Meetings brand. It
guarantees a range of facilities that are consistent in each venue, from
technical equipment to the standard of meeting rooms.

Taylor, vice-president of marketing, UK & Ireland, believes that hotels
have a number of advantages – the biggest being a wider choice of location.

choice of location is crucial and Hilton, with 77 hotels in the UK and Ireland
offering meeting facilities, is very well positioned," he says.

also points out that many customers enjoy the ‘hotel experience’, such as the
restaurants, bars and lounge areas.


quality of accommodation for delegates shouldn’t be overlooked. Delegates are
likely to have high expectations, being used to the luxuries provided by four-
and five-star hotels. The Middle Aston House conference centre in Middle Aston,
Oxfordshire has just spent £1.5m on two new accommodation blocks.

Mullard, marketing manager says: "Residential facilities are extremely
important, particularly for senior management. Rooms must be comfortable but
have a good standard of business equipment, such as ISDN links. Today’s
delegates enjoy working away from distractions during the day but need to be
able to get back in touch with the office in the evening."

choice of venue is often dictated by the type of event. Many centres and hotels
are set in acres of grounds that lend themselves to activities associated with
team-building and motivation training.

same venues will often offer smaller rooms for more studious types of training,
so it may be wise to check before booking a venue what activities will be going
on at the same time.

Lawson, director of training for office supplies company Lyreco UK, warns:
"If other people are leaping around on a motivation event outside the
window, it could be distracting for your training session."

happy with your chosen venue, you will need to exercise some canny negotiation
skills to get the price down. Some training organisers leave bookings until the
last minute to secure a good deal.

trouble with this tactic is that you may not get your first choice of venue.
But those who can afford to be flexible get the best deals, and many
organisations, such as Initial Style Conferences, offer early-booking
initiatives or cheap deals during off-peak periods, such as December and around
Bank Holiday weeks.

is best to get a copy of the terms and conditions at this stage and carefully
check exactly what the price includes, such as the provision of technical
equipment and refreshments.

Lawson points out from bitter experience: "It can be embarrassing and
stressful to find that certain equipment is not provided on the day.

might sound mundane, but even something that small can spoil a good
event," he says.                   I

your venue provider…

Does the room have natural daylight?

What technical equipment will be provided?

Is there immediate help for technical problems?

What refreshments are included?

Is there adequate parking?

Is there a break-out area and will it be shared by other groups?

What facilities do the bedrooms provide?

What is the cancellation policy?

What other activities are planned elsewhere in the venue at the same time?

Who will provide fire alarm/health and safety information to delegates?

now for something completely different…

new and unusual venues are bound to be a talking point among delegates and
could add a real buzz to a sales or motivational event:

TV’s Big Brother House at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, can be
hired for training and corporate entertainment and is available between filming
from December to March. Geared towards motivational training, agency Skybridge
offers a team-building activity day for around £25,000 for 40 people.
Alternatively, companies can work with Skybridge to devise their own training
event, which can include an overnight stay for up to 14 people, costing around £20,000.
For more information, call Skybridge 020 8254 1785.

If you want to appeal to the child within, you should consider Birmingham’s
Orange Studio. This non-residential conference venue includes a ‘playground’,
complete with space hoppers, a punch bag and all the old favourite games such
as Kerplunk and Connect 4. Squishy sofas and a help-yourself coffee and juice
bar add to the relaxed atmosphere of this break-out area.

venue also has 10 meeting rooms, the largest accommodating up to 120 people. It
has a computer training room, with full technical support provided, a roof-top
garden and restaurant. The Orange Studio, which is owned by the mobile phone
company, charges £42 per person, which includes refreshments and lunch.

more information call 0800 0790909 or visit www.orangestudio.co.uk

The Glasgow Science Centre may appeal to those seeking a futuristic theme.
Resembling a spaceship that has landed on the banks of the River Clyde, this
impressive building, which opened to the public last year, is the result of a
£75m investment and is fast becoming one of Scotland’s favoured venues for
corporate events and meetings. The Imax theatre is particularly popular with
its massive 80x60ft screen, which can be used with Power Point presentations.
The centre’s atrium area can also be adapted for seminars and seats up to 250
people. The Science Centre consists of three buildings and has a number of
options available to event organisers.

more details, call 0141 420 5010 or visit www.gsc.org.uk

& Weblinks

venue providers:

Tel: 08706 040506  www.bestwestern.co.uk

Association of Conference Destinations
Tel: 0121 212 1400  www.bacd.org.uk

Centres of Excellence
Tel: 01306 886900  www.cceonline.co.uk

Conference Centres
Tel: 01296 722100  www.hayley-conf.co.uk

Tel: 0800 321 3232  www.hiltongroup.com

Business Reservations
Tel: 01483 520770  www.ibr.co.uk

Style Conferences
Tel: 0800 592250  www.initialstyle.co.uk


Tel: 0114 249 3090  www.venuemasters.co.uk


Brother House, Elstree, Herts
Tel: Skybridge 020 8254 1785

Manor, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Tel: 01494 563996  www.bradenham.grant-thornton.co.uk

Court, Loughborough, Leicestershire
Tel: 01509 211515  www.burleigh-court.co.uk

Management Development Centre, Bedford
Tel: 01234 752700  www.cranfield.ac.uk

Glasgow Science Centre
Tel: 0141 420 5010  www.gsc.org.uk

Management Development, Windermere, Cumbria
Tel: 015395 30224  www.lmd.org.uk

Aston House, Middle Aston, Oxfordshire
Tel: 01869 340361  www.middleastonhouse.com

Centre, Cambridge
Tel: 01223 465555  www.mollercentre.co.uk

Orange Studio
Tel: 0800 0790909  www.orangestudio.co.uk

Grange, Leamington Spa, Worcestershire
Tel: 01926 336621  www.wgrange.com

Comments are closed.