You should have already decided how each meeting room is to be set up according to requirements for the meeting. This was outlined in a previous tip – Liaison with the Venue and Conference Room Set Up. Meeting rooms can be set up as theatre, cabaret or classroom for a presentation, hollow square or U shape for discussions, or boardroom for committees or small discussion meetings.
Important things to consider on-site:
Allocate staff to look after specific meeting rooms, do a walk-around with staff before the event begins so that they know where rooms are situated. Ensure that they have been given access keys if the rooms are lockable.
Whilst doing the walk-around decide on what signage is required to inform the delegates both of the name of the room and the name of the meeting or session. Consider directional signage if delegates have to move around between sessions.
Be aware of which entrance or exit for the room is to be used by the delegates. This is important both for traffic flow and so that any latecomers will not disrupt the meeting or the speaker’s flow. The entrance and exit is normally at the back of the room away from the top table or screen.
You will already have decided if name badge checks or barcode reading will need to be done at the entrance to the meeting room.
Allocate staff to check room set up before each day starts. They should check that the layout is correct and that water, pens, paper, name cards etc. are laid out according to the running order. AV should be in place and working.
With each meeting room know the following:
o Access times
o Sessions times
o Times of coffee and lunch breaks, when room can be cleared and replenished by venue staff
o Room set up
o AV requirements
o Who is responsible for the room and their contact number
During set up be aware of any health and safety hazard. Ensure there are no cables that delegates could trip over and that fire exits are kept clear of obstruction.
Whoever is responsible for the room should know how all equipment works, i.e. air conditioning, heating control, light phasing, how to darken the rooms with blinds.
Make sure that the venue has followed the written set up instructions like number of chairs to a table as requested, speaker table at front of room, extra tables for brochures or handouts. Ensure that flipcharts, pens, and white boards are where they should be.
The person responsible for the room should already have gone through the AV requirements, either with the venue if they are supplying it or with the privately hired supplier. They should make sure all the required equipment is present and have extra supplies of consumables like batteries to hand in case they are needed.
Check the visibility of the stage and speaker or podium as viewed from various seats. Some rooms may require LCD screens positioned around the room so that everyone can see the presentation and speaker. Other rooms may have pillars or be an awkward shape – make sure all delegates can get a good view of what is going on.
It is essential to have IT or AV technicians in the room or on-site depending how complicated the technical and AV set up is.
The AV production company will have already have done a site visit and will have quoted for the equipment they believe is required for your conference or meeting. Considerations will include size and height of stage, how many screens and their size for the room area, the number of speaker positions, top table and podium requirements, and whether additional lighting is required. Remember if using lapel microphones that you may need to have extra available if there is more than one speaker for a session.
If you are using a production company for a larger meeting the producer and caller should already be aware of the programme and have all the timings set and equipment required to ensure the meeting runs smoothly.
Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.
We have already discusses in Tips part 5 the topic “Finding the right venue”, the importance of choosing the right the meeting space for your event and what needs to consider. In this section we will discuss what you need to plan for in the main meeting room.
It is important to make sure that the meeting room is large enough for the capacity of expected audience, the production area required for staging and the audio visual equipment (AV) and control. This should already have been discussed and verified with the venue before signing the contract.
Production Requirements – you need to consider the space that you will need for the stage and presentation, the projection AV and power outlets, and where to place the screen and top table in relation to the room orientation and entrance doors – you need to minimize disruption from possible late comers. Certain conference rooms already have inbuilt stage, screen etc, which makes the room setup easier to plan.
For front projection you need to allow the front row to be at least no closer than twice the screen height, and the bottom of the screen should be no lower than 1.2 meter from the ground. Allow for optimum viewing angles and if necessary in a large room you may require two screens or large LCD projectors for those seated at an angle and who are not looking directly at the screen. If using back projection you may require one third the length of the room to project a clear rear image. A minimum of 3 meter ceiling height is required for a clear image to be projected above the audience head.
It is important for the production company that is working with you to do their own site visit to the venue to clarify all the technical logistical issues. These may include staging position, power capacity, main power points, ambient lighting switches, where best to run cables, and where to put translation booths if required. If possible it is always advisable to have the meeting room on the ground floor room with easy access for the crew to unload equipment for set up and de-rig.
Conference Room lay out
How you lay out the conference room depends on the type of meeting as well as the number of people attending and the room’s capacity. Check the room’s exact measurements carefully with hotel floor plan as the hotel estimation of capacity audience may be different to your event’s requirement.
There are several different layouts commonly used that you can consider for your meeting depending on its type:
Classroom – useful for workshop type environment where delegates face the screen behind rows of desks usually with a central aisle for access.
Theatre – front facing rows no desks, some specific rooms will have racked or auditorium seating, others may have tablets for writing that can fold down for delegates to use. This setting is useful for presentations and you are more restricted on space.
Cabaret or Half Moon – where delegates sit on half table facing towards the screen and speaker. This is a good layout to use for training classes where you need a bit of collaboration between delegates. If the room is larger than anticipated attendees the cabaret style tends to take up more space than theatre seating.
Hollow Square – seating with delegates facing each other on 4 sides of a square this is good for meetings where delegates will be having discussions with each other and need to see all the participants.
U-shape or Open Square – where delegates sit on three sides of the square normally with the screen of presenter in the open side. This is good for workshops and training sessions where there is presentation but where delegates also need to be able to discuss topics.
Boardroom – used for the smaller meeting groups where seating is around a long table with one or two people at either end.
Hotels will have an indication of the room capacity for your type of set up, however it is always best to check and allowed for plenty of space for people to move around. You know your programme: you might need extra space at the side depending on the activities planned and depending on whether refreshments or lunch are going to be served in the meeting room.
You need to be prepared if more people register to attend the meeting and you need to make adjustments to the staging to make more room: it is important to discuss these possibilities with your production company and to have layout of the floor plan to hand.
During all the planning of the conference or seminar you need to keep the hotel informed of the running order of the programme and what facilities and services are required from the hotel or what you will be using from outside suppliers.
Location is a very important to consider: make sure that the venue is easily accessible for all attendees. Will the delegates be coming from near or far, do they need overnight accommodation, Is the event best suited for a city centre or country location, near an airport or train station, easy access to public transport, or do you require near access to motorways and a venue with plenty of parking?
Accommodation: Is the event just one day or over several days? Do you require on-site accommodation or a conference centre or venue with a selection of hotels near to the venue? Even if the event is only for one day you may still need accommodation for the set up staff, or delegates and speakers.
The programme of a conference or seminar will dictate how much time you need to hire the space for setup, rehearsal, exhibition set up if linked with a conference, and de rigging if you have much staging after the event. You will need to take this into account when finding out what space is available on the dates you require.
Understand how many meeting rooms and what size, breakout rooms, exhibition space, registration area and lunch. coffee break area you require and on what dates. It is easiest to set this out on a spreadsheet and add to this the number of overall attendees you expect at each session. You need to understand how many rooms you require and their layout such as theatre style will not require as large a room for 50 pax as one set out for cabaret style, or classroom style for the same number. Always make sure that you have adequate space for your delegates to be in a meeting without feeling cramped, this is also important for the coffee break or lunch areas where the delegates will want to network.
The facilities – Staging, A/V, multi-media and technical support must be taken into consideration. Each session requirement will affect the size of room required. Ceiling height restrictions, weight load bearing factors and easy access is important to consider when the space is being used for exhibition. If the event requires simultaneous translation you will need to leave adequate space for booths to be set up. The plenary room may require, back projection with stage set this will take up quite a large area of the room. Note that some venues already have tiered theatre seating and in-build A/V in their meeting rooms. If wishing to have a private lunch area consider whether this will be a stand up fork buffet suitable for a networking lunch which will not require such a large area as a seated buffet lunch. Coffee break area’s should be with-in easy access to the meeting rooms or a central place where the main exhibition area is set.
Venue Search and Site Visit
Venue search can be done by a specific venue search agent who do not charge a fee but get commission from the booking. Alternatively an event company used for managing the event can do a venue search and booking on your behalf. If you prefer to do this yourself, then tourist offices, hotel chains, trade directories, the internet, can all assist.
Once you have a short list of venues you think are suitable you must always do a site visit to inspect the venue as brochures and website will never compensate for an actual visit and understanding the layout of the venue and how the delegate flow and programme will work. When doing a visit always have an inspection check list, (If you require further information on the check list please contact B2B Event Management and we will send out.) When you do the site visit you must also be prepared to discuss your programme, and give the venue as much information to enable them to understand the best use of their site for your event. Before making a final decision make sure you understand the contract and cancellation policies. It is also advisable to see if you can get any references from other organizations who have used the venue for their events.
John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference