These days event visitors are demanding more for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend an event. In turn, planners are looking to provide their guests with experiences that create brand loyalty and affinity. With venues a big contributing factor to an event experience, venue choice has become more important than ever.
Last month, we partnered with Exhibition News on a roundtable with a group of knowledgeable event profs from the event organiser world, in which we discussed how to navigate a venue move. Events move venue for a variety of reasons – growth, to increase reach, to keep the event fresh, to please exhibitors and sponsors – and there’s lot’s to consider, from transport links and accommodation to budget, venue space and visitor geographical spread
But what should be top of the list for consideration before you sign on the dotted line?
Research, research and more research!
Survey everyone. There’s a tendency to keep a venue move hush-hush. And for good reason. There’s nothing worse than a move being announced out of your control. However, there’s always the option to ask your suppliers to sign an NDA. Keep focus groups small and don’t forget to speak to your lapsed and registered non-attendees. Confide in your top tier of exhibitors. Let them feel involved in the decision-making process so they feel valued. It could pay dividends to the success of your move.
Speak to your suppliers
Relationships between event organisers and their suppliers are vital when it comes to moving venue. Most suppliers have intimate knowledge of venue spaces and long-standing, established relationships with venue operations teams, making them perfectly placed to advise on the potential opportunities and pitfalls of a move. Get your suppliers involved early on in your planning process – having a more collaborative approach will undoubtedly lead to a smoother transition.
Look beyond the key services
The likes of car parking facilities, catering and connectivity are all incredibly important when looking into a new venue but don’t overlook what’s happening in and around the venue during your dates, especially during the build-up and break down periods. Look into all eventualities, such as building works, street festivals and national public events that could affect access to the venue and/or create noise pollution.
Don’t overlook the marketing plan
This one sounds obvious. However, as marketers, I think we’re all guilty of relying on proven tactics. In this ultra-competitive events world, a ‘we’ve moved’ card probably isn’t going to cut it. You can’t afford to wait and see if your existing community will follow you, you’ll need to attract a new audience.
Start with a clean page and draft a new marketing plan – and consider the impact on the budget. How are you going to reach your new extended audience? Are there local organisations you can build mutually beneficial relationships with? Should you spend more budget on digital campaigns -where you can easily target people within specific geographical locations with specific interests at a relatively low cost?
Don’t forget your exhibitor sales campaign. Key messages telling local businesses you’re moving to a venue nearer to where they’re based can be a powerful tool in convincing new companies to join the show.
Get your story clear
If you’re nervous about going public with the news of your venue move, why not do a soft launch? Tell your exhibitors and sponsors first and iron out any issues that may arise, then announce to your visitors and to the press. Ensure all of your teams are briefed on the reasons and benefits for the move so everyone presents a unified message.
Content is still king
We all know that it’s content that attracts audiences to events. If you’re moving your exhibition to a new region, consider localising some of your content to attract a local audience. For example, if you’re moving a food and drink event, you might want to consider inviting local well-known chefs to deliver seminar sessions or practical workshops. Take a look at which large corporations have head offices in the new region – subject matter experts who work for them may be more likely to agree to be a keynote speaker if they know they don’t need to travel far. You should save on fees and travel expenses, too!
Shrink to grow
It’s possible that you may lose some visitors and exhibitors the year you move, so don’t let that scare you off. It’s also possible that your revenues may decrease a little. If you know this from the offset, then you can build this into your strategy. You may open up your event to a much wider audience and if you lose some key exhibitors along the way, they’re likely to return to the show once you’ve proven it will still work. What a great story it will be when that happens – for you and your exhibitors.
Moving your event to a new venue is always going to be a daunting and complex task. There’s too much riding on it not to be. Do the necessary research but don’t feel you need to go at it alone. Lean on your suppliers and venue partners to share their knowledge, and give advice and support. After all, your success is their success.