Site selection can be one of the most time consuming aspects of meeting and event planning. It can take a lot of time to find a venue to that meets your needs, is in your budget and is available for your preferred dates. So it’s natural to feel a sense of accomplishment when we make it all come together – but honestly there’s so much more to do with the space to make it work for your event!
No matter what type of meeting or event you’re hosting, you’re meeting space should help you meet the goals of your event. You should make decisions about that space – from big decisions like room sets and small ones like tiny tweaks that can make a big difference – while thinking of the goals. Make the space work for you!
Which space you select can be a big factor but there are already tons of resources on site selection. I even cover the topic on my blog, Planning It All. So the rest of this post assumes that you already have a space for your event, whether or not that space is ideal.
Before you make any decisions, think back to the goals of this specific event. Are you looking to educate your attendees? Do you want them to engage or collaborate with one another? With the instructor? Do you want them to leave excited about something – a new project or initiative? Do you want them to brainstorm and come up with a new idea? There can be multiple goals, but prioritize them.
The room set or design you choose will likely have the biggest impact on your event’s ability to meet those goals. For example, if a successful event looks like attendees collaborating with one another, you need to select a room set that helps facilitate that. Some room sets are more collaborative than others. Here’s a hint – any sort of straight across seating (theater, standard classroom) is not very conducive to collaborating because guests can’t really see one another.
I always like to look at the venue’s menu of potential room sets as a starting point – and certainly useful for considering capacity. But don’t be afraid to change things up! There aren’t many rules in event planning that can’t be broken for the sake of making things better and more comfortable for your guests. When guests are more comfortable, they are more likely to do what you want.
Lighting is an easy way to change the environment in a room. If you have access to natural light, use it to your advantage. Keep the shades open as much as possible! Otherwise you can add uplighting or other specialty lighting to help create the mood and environment you are looking for.
Hearing is a critical sense that we majorly underutilize in events, especially corporate meetings and conferences. Music is a great way to get people excited. I have tried to incorporate intro and exit music into some of my educational events. It’s unexpected and gets guests talking with one another. The Social Tables blog has a great series on meeting music if you’re looking for ideas. I also love the idea of having classical or instrumental music during brainstorming or educational sessions, so long as it’s not distracting.
Décor can help create an environment as well. Some meeting planners shy away from décor for meetings. You don’t have to hire a floral designer for every meeting, but fresh flowers, used intentionally and sparingly, can help change the environment in a space. My team started having fresh flowers at all of our registration desks at our events. It’s a small investment but it adds a pop of color to an otherwise bland table and is a signal to guests that the event is something special.
Speaking of color, adding color to your events in an intentional way can make a big impact. Choose one color for the event and work it in in subtle ways – even into powerpoint slides.
With a little bit of creativity you can transform any space into an environment for your event, one that exists for the purpose of meeting your event’s goals. Don’t be afraid to experiment and push the envelope, and ask your vendors for help!
Amanda Luppino-Esposito is an event planner and blogger. By day she manages an events staff for a nonprofit in the Washington, DC area. By night she blogs about event planning and entertaining for Planning It All. Amanda loves events, details, and bringing people together. In her free time she loves visiting wineries, getting lost in a good book, and slowly decorating her new house in the Virginia countryside with her husband.
Written by: Amanda Luppino-Esposito