Lesson 9: Venue choice and layout are important
Over the course of the six brokerage events, we had the opportunity to try a number of brokerage models, in a range of layouts and venues. Some key lessons were learned as a consequence of this.
- If the activities are too widely distributed people don’t readily move from activity to activity. This means that you need to have a body of people tracking down participants who have arranged bi-lateral meeting (for example) and are chatting with exhibitors in another part of the building. Activities need to be arranged in a way that keeps people relatively close, without overcrowding them.
- Brokerage activities tend to be a combination of presentations, meetings (formal networking) and networking (informal meetings). Space for food needs to be made in the programme. In our experience, it’s best if you can find a venue that allows these activities to be undertaken in adjacent rooms (or in one room, if the room is big enough).
- Keeping people in one room was easiest for us when the brokerage events were held at the large conference and convention centres, they are built for this purpose. Our experience is that the benefits of running a brokerage event at an international coherence and exhibition outweigh the limitations. The limitations are 1) cost and 2) the potential for the participants to migrate to the exhibition halls for other meetings or to see the show. Keeping track of the invited audience can be tricky at these events. On the plus side, people can come along to see what is happening even when they haven’t been invited.
- There is a growing convention to the layout of rooms for bi-lateral meetings. The B2Match software that we utilised for the events was incredibly useful for scheduling and planning – down to the number of tables we needed. If space is limited, you need more time to run the bi-lateral meetings and getting the balance right can be tricky. The earlier the planning starts, the more certain you can be about the amount of space and/or time needed for formal meetings.
- People will always congregate around food and drink. If you locate these away from where the rest of the activities are, you may find it hard to get people to meetings or the visit exhibition space.