Believe it or not, not every tech event is like SXSW or TechCrunch Disrupt. Here are the essentials your venue needs to be ready to compete for hosting business- and technology-focused events.
When we think about business and technology conferences, it’s easy for large national events to come to mind. However, the vast majority of conferences and presentations serve a much smaller local or regional audience. These events are generally hosted by organizers who are working with a tiny profit margin or (more often) just trying to break even while providing a high quality experience for their colleagues and peers. The hefty deposits and food & beverage minimums of conference centers, hotels, and other venues serving high-profile social events and conferences are usually prohibitive to these smaller events that can be real economic drivers in local communities as they grow in popularity.
This space is where smaller, locally-owned venues can thrive. With just a slight change in perspective, you can start filling up those slower mid-week days with events that boost your venue’s profile and bottom line. Better yet, the basics you must provide to be a great fit for a technology or business conference are increasingly essential to successful social events.
1. A STRONG, STABLE WIFI CONNECTION.
It’s certainly common to have an internet connection in a business establishment. However, in many small venues we visit that are primarily geared towards social events, WiFi is suprisingly not available for clients and their guests. While there may be WiFi for employees, it’s generally an afterthought beyond the connections necessary for hosting, say, a web development workshop. We recommend speaking with your service provider to ensure that you have this information readily available when you speak to organizers. If you’re not sure what you might need, our advice is to select the service tier that will provide a solid connection equal to the Fire Marshal’s maximum occupancy for your space – plus 20-30. Believe us, having an reliable internet connection while 50-100 attendees are constructing and sharing Instagram, Facebook, or blog posts that promote both the event and your venue for several hours at a time is exactly what you want to happen, and a very worthwhile ROI. Make sure your in-house social media team is ready to engage and share, too.
The very next order of importance is powering all the devices that guests, attendees, and influencers will be using while they attend functions in your space. While you’re not going to be knocking down any drywall to add outlets for just one event, it’s important to consider how to help attendees get the most out of their event experience. For business and technology events, or even monthly MeetUp groups, having a place to plug in and recharge laptops and mobile devices is essential. The quick fix is providing power strips that can handle numerous plugs of multiple sizes. Remember to consider traffic patterns and safety measures. If it works with your budget, purchasing or renting a dedicated power station that will accommodate several different phones and tablets is a great plus that will help your space stand out for social and business events alike.
3. AUDIO/VISUAL EQUIPMENT.
If you regularly host weddings and parties, you likely already have a microphone and speaker setup, either through your internal wiring or via the DJs contracted by your guests. We suggest you invest in a portable mic/speaker system, since business events (usually) will not be booking a DJ for the event. You may or may not have a projector and screen at the ready, and if so, not one that is HD or 16:9 size. After WiFi and power, the thing that will challenge organizers of a business or tech event is accommodating speaker needs. The easiest way to endear your venue to organizers is to take this headache off their hands. An investment in a 42″ (or larger, depending on the size of your space) LCD or Smart TV is comparable to purchasing a quality HD projector and screen, and would be easier to use for just about everyone involved. Get one with easily accessible HD input connections, and get the cord and adapters that will connect it to PC (HD or VGA) or Apple (proprietary) laptops as needed. If there is only room for one in the budget, mount it in your largest conference room or mid-size, classroom-sized space – not the ballroom.
4. DESK SPACE.
Here is one area where social and business event needs actually diverge. You almost certainly have the standard round event tables in your venue, ready to provide for your clients’ social gatherings. However, think about the last business or learning event you attended. If you didn’t get a prized forward-facing seat, how much of that event did you spend uncomfortably twisting in your seat to watch the keynote or emcee? Or, how many tables were half-empty because who really wants to endure that for four hours? Solution? Seminar tables. These half-sized tables are smaller than the banquet tables used for catering service and are specifically for learning or business-focused events. While their pricing is fairly moderate as facility inventory goes, budget-minded owners will be happy to note that IKEA hacks are absolutely appropriate here, and can be a bonus selling point when done in style. Wondering how to get folks talking when they’re not facing each other? Fear not, we’ll address that in #5.
5. A RELAXED LOUNGE AREA.
Business and technology conferences are equal parts (60/40? 35/65?) work and social opportunities. While the main event is where the learning and professional development generally happens, attendees, speakers, and organizers need time to step out and process, network, or speak to a potential investor. Whether you have a dedicated lounge, a stylishly comfortable lobby, or simply stage a space outside the room with a few benches and tables, providing this informal conversation space and rest area is an important complement to the focused workspace that hooks clients and their attendees. numbers 1-4 are essential to the professional interactions of tech events, and here, you encourage the equally important casual interpersonal connections that make friendships and growth possible.
These basic amenities are at the top of our list when visiting new venues for VenuGeek stories. Incorporating these details into your marketing message will increase your success rate for booking business and tech events, and of course, the quality of your customer service will bring you their loyalty.