Holding a conference, seminar, or corporate event requires lots of decision making. One of the most important decisions you make is which venue to choose. While you might think all conference centres in Toronto are created equal, each has subtle differences and shortfalls that can impact your event’s success.
The right conference centre needs to meet all of your needs, from budget to catering and technology to customer service. Here’s everything you need to know when choosing a conference centre in Toronto.
Cost vs Value
It is always tempting to go with the most cost-effective solution. However, a conference centre is only cost-effective if it brings value. For example, if you find a cheap venue, but it only offers a space to hold the event, you are left trying to find caterers, rent technology, worry about tech services like internet connectivity. Value is the most crucial consideration. Ensuring you find a centre within your budget providing almost everything you need under one roof.
There is more to the location than the conference centre itself. You need to choose a centre easy to get to based on who is attending. Are they coming locally, or will many be flying into Toronto Pearson or Billy Bishop? If the latter, ensure the venue is reasonably close to the airport and hotels?
Will people be driving to the venue? If so, being near convenient highways and having plenty of free parking is essential. Will there be a fair share of people coming via public transit? In this case, you want a location reached from many public transport links.
If the event is to last several days, surrounding amenities are essential. A trendier conference with a high price of entry might be best held in a downtown location. In contrast, less prominent conferences are more affordable, yet typically a little further out of Toronto.
Capacity and Accommodations
How many people will be attending the event? Do you need to accommodate booths, or is it an event where people will be attending theatre-style sessions or seminars? Do events require things such as group work or note-taking? Will people need to use their laptops for any of the sessions or activities?
All of these things determine the amount and type of space required for the conference. Also, keep in mind you want rooms large enough to accommodate all your needs, but that won’t appear empty if you experience low attendance.
Amenities, Services and Decor
What amenities do you need at the conference? Some common things to consider include:
- A/V equipment
- Kitchen facilities
- Wheelchair access
- A stage
Another thing to consider is timing and decor. If your theme is eco-living living, you wouldn’t want to be scheduled at the same time as a plastics convention! A very high tech theme would not be suited to a country farm, for example. Does the venue allow you to dictate the décor and finishing touches to create the ambiance and look you desire?
Floor Plan and Layout
While capacity is essential, you also have to look at the conference space’s floor plan and layout. For example, do your attendees have to share the same entrance as people attending other events? This can confuse people arriving and pose potential issues, depending on the different events happening at the conference centre.
Is there a logical plan that allows for particular areas, such as a coffee station, a place for people to sign up for events, space for booths if you need them, easy to reach bathrooms, etc.? If it is a large space, is it adjustable with easy to install or pull out walls? The more versatile the conference centre layout, the better it will work with your needs.
Even a knitting conference requires some basic technology today. Ensuring you have the technology necessary to meet your needs is crucial, whether it is setting up video conferencing for people attending remotely, Wi-Fi for attendees to use their phones, or large plasma screens to announce upcoming sessions, provide ads, or telecast seminars.
High tech capabilities such as wireless and wired high-speed internet with at least 100 Mbps symmetrical fibre optic dedicated internet access available throughout the complex is a must.
Catering and Food Service
Every conference should consider at least offering the basics such as coffee, tea, and water. However, a first-class conference should try to include some form of catering for attendees. This helps keep people onsite.
Consider how long the conference will run and what meals might be expected. A welcome continental breakfast is often expected at events, especially where people have paid to attend. A lunch buffet or a sit-down lunch menu with several courses is usually included for higher budget events. You could also hold a grand finale event, such as a banquet, on the final day of a conference or the evening of a single day event.