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A little while back we were invited to respond to a brief that asked for bidders to identify a selection of venues to host a one-day conference for 700-800 people. Easy enough you might think but the brief stipulated that the venue should not be a hotel or a conference centre and be within one hour of the client’s offices. Fortunately, the offices were in London but even so the brief proved to be somewhat challenging.

Using our network of contacts and London based friends and associates we managed to produce a short list of options a few of which were then ruled out on grounds of non-availability or, given that we’d also been provided with the client’s budget ceiling, cost.

This left a much shorter list but each of which met the brief and presented an unusual location in which to stage what was essentially an internal comms annual staff conference.

Following submission of a written proposal and a face to face pitch we won the project and delivered an excellent event at the Copperbox arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.

One of the wild card options that we included albeit not quite ‘on brief’ was Butlin’s at Bognor Regis.

More recently we have had cause to revisit this option for another prospective client and undertook a site visit to explore and fully understand the facilities and opportunities to blend a business conference with fun and entertainment for the event attendees.

Most people of a certain age will have a perception of this iconic British brand but possibly not always in a positive way. Others of a younger generation may not even recognise the brand.

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What was clear from our very first enquiry contact was that the people were prepared to work very hard to please. This was also evident throughout the site visit and by observing the team members going about their business, briskly and with a smile on their face.

But this blog is not about Butlin’s, where clearly something very good is stirring, but about what unusual or perhaps unique venues can offer that the more traditional hotel and conference based venues cannot.

One of our other clients is a third sector organisation who host an annual awards ceremony each year. The aim of the event is to recognise and celebrate achievement and there is a strong focus on children. One of the venues we looked at was ZSL London Zoo where a fairly conventional set of conference suites is brought to life simply because it is located within the zoo and overlooking Penguin Beach.

We passionately believe that venues have a tone of voice that speak to audiences. Think of when you enter a place of worship, a theatre or large sporting arena and the feeling you get. That’s the venue’s voice speaking to you.

We also passionately believe that the venue chosen to host an event should match the personality and voice of the event it is scheduled to host.  

Unusual or unique venues have their own voice and depending on the specific venue it will be quite different to almost all conventional conference and meeting space.

They possess the ability to surprise and intrigue an audience, to amuse and entertain and to make guests feel very special particularly if the venue is somewhere the general public are not able to access even as a paid visitor.

In the world of events cost and sometimes simply perception of cost can cast a positive light or a negative shadow on an event and therefore getting the choice of venue voice right is always a critical requirement for a conference and event manager.

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