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When it comes to choosing a training venue – if you’re not working at a client’s site – I imagine most trainers will tell you that they’ve found some hidden gems over the years as well as making every mistake in the book.
It’s important that the venue fits your image and that of your business; it also needs to be right for your objectives – what do you want your training to achieve? Pick the right venue and it will reflect brilliantly on your overall offering. Pick the wrong venue and everyone will feel it.
But how do you choose the right training venue for your needs?
Create a shortlist
My approach is to create an initial list of five to ten potential venues. This shortlist might be made up of recommendations from other trainers, venues I’ve found online, and venues that have impressed me in the past (either as a trainer or a trainee).
Can the venues on your shortlist accommodate the kind of training sessions you run?
The type of venue you’re looking for will depend on the content of your training, and the number of people you’ll be training at one time. Will you need a large conference room with breakout areas? Does your training include practical sessions and hands-on experiments with equipment?
Do you want an environment that’s fun and funky to fit with the style of your training, or would your training be better placed in a more traditional corporate environment? Do you need outdoor space or even somewhere with a bar or restaurant, if your training will run over several days?
Your shortlist should cover the venues that would be best able to cater to these needs.
How accessible is the location?
The location of your training venue is probably one of the most important factors. If people are attending training that’s being paid for by their employers, including travel costs, then they may be more willing to travel to somewhere off the beaten track, but, equally, employers may want to keep down travel time and costs. Naturally, people like their journey to be as straightforward and stress-free as possible – there’s nothing worse than having to set off at the crack of dawn before sitting in traffic jams and then having to drive around a venue looking for a parking space.
Ideally, your training venue should be easy to reach with great transport links and easy-to-find parking, as well as enough spaces for all of your delegates. If people are likely to travel by train, try to pick a venue that’s near the station or check with the local taxi firm that they will be able to collect delegates.
Check what’s included in the price and what counts as extras
Remember the mistakes I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Well, for many trainers, these revolve around the cost of hiring a training venue.
Far too often, a trainer picks a venue because it appears cheap in comparison to others on the shortlist, only to realise once it’s too late that a lot of the facilities and services they need are charged as ‘extras’. This can quickly push the costs up, so a seemingly cheap venue becomes very expensive.
It’s important that you ask for a breakdown of costs from the outset before you make your booking. Many excellent venues offer training/event packages, which include room hire, catering, audio-visual equipment, refreshments and more. Others will provide room hire but let you create a flexible package by choosing which extras you need.
I’d also recommend that you have a firm budget in mind from the outset and that you find a venue that fits this budget rather than being wowed by somewhere very expensive and stretching well beyond what you or your delegates can afford.
Find out if there are cheaper days in the week or year
Like most businesses, training venues have busy, in demand times and times of the week/month/year when it’s harder to get bookings. You may find that a training venue will offer you a discount for booking your training during one of these quieter times, so it’s always a good idea to ask, especially if you can be flexible about when your training takes place.
Confirm what facilities are available
When working through your shortlist, check what facilities each venue offers and whether they cover what you need. What are non-negotiables for you? Are there any nice to haves than you could live without?
If you know from the outset whether you need breakout rooms, audio-visual facilities, free WiFi access, etc., it will be easier to narrow down your short list. Also, check that the venue you’re considering offers good access for delegates with disabilities and easily accessible toilets. Will all the trainees have unobstructed views? Are there blackout blinds? Enough power points? These are all things a good training venue will have considered.
Don’t scrimp on catering
In my experience, there’s nothing worse than hungry trainees! People remember the food and refreshments on offer at a training event and often refer to this in their feedback. Feed them well and you’ll probably be well-remembered; scrimp on catering and it may come back to haunt you.
You should ask your potential training venues what catering they offer, and whether you can taste some sample meals from them menu. Alternatively, is there a catering company that they recommend and have worked well with in the past?
It’s better to go for a cheaper venue and spend more on food if your budget is tight.
Visit the venue
Once you’ve narrowed your shortlist down to five or less training venues, you should arrange to visit them in person before you book.
- What are your first impressions when you arrive at the venue?
- Is it easy to find and easy to park?
- Do the rooms and facilities live up to what you have been told about them on the venue’s website, in their brochure or over the phone?
When I view a potential training venue, it’s always with a long-term view in mind. I’m influenced by how welcoming and helpful I find the staff, and whether I can picture myself building a working relationship with them over the months and years to come. Knowing I can count on the staff to be friendly, professional and proactive feels like having a support network behind me every time I run a training event.