Didn’t you know we have a shortage?! Searching for large London venues.

Literally, there are thousands upon thousands of venues in London to hold your next event, but why is it such a struggle to find one that works for my clients?

The problem we come up against regularly is: it’s all about the size! Sorry guys, it’s true, size does matter! Well, as far as events go, it does.

We specialise in large events, typical numbers of around 300 plus, and before you all start calling us up, I’m talking about 300 cabaret style with a huge stage/set and back projection. You’d think a capital city as big and as business-focused as ours, there would be a multitude of these type of venues popping up all over the place. Clients see the huge convention hotels in America, Europe, and Asia and don’t believe that we don’t have hotels of this size in London. Well, not enough of them. This is coupled with the increase in demand for events in London, brought about by the decrease in the pound, so you just can’t shoe-horn anymore in.

I know you’re probably screaming at your computer screen, “what about ExCeL London?”, and my clients counter this with “it’s too far from the city!”. You try telling them how flexible the space is, or how amenable the venue is, it’s surrounded by good sized hotels for bedrooms and there’s a little thing called the DLR! But, they are still adamant that their event must be central, but not everyone says this. ExCeL are great and my sales contact there is always coming up trumps for me (shout out to Harry!), but clients are still complaining about the location.

Okay, “so what about Marriott Grosvenor House”, I hear you say. A frustration everyone struggles with is time, and response time needs to be quick. Due to their high demand, response rate can be delayed at times and when you do speak to somebody, the hotel is normally booked up for the next 3 years. Associations and the International market have got this place totally booked out – a smart move I would say.

What else is out there? Lee Valley VeloPark is a fab unusual venue, but my clients aren’t too keen on running their conference in the centre of a bike track that people are using – but some would. Hilton London Metropole? Just too traditional! Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, it’s stunning, modern, has everything you could need at an event, so what’s the problem? If my event is mid-week and non-residential, the hotel won’t take the booking without a minimum of 150 bedrooms. I totally get it, they don’t want to block themselves out, but this doesn’t help me or my client. This happens a lot with large hotels, it’s all about revenue and diary management, and we get that as venue finders. Their GPs would go through the floor if they filled their hotels with non-residential events, but try explaining that to a client.

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So, your client wants something a little different. A common theme? They want a blank canvas venue, with a warehouse feel. Hold up it needs to be pillar free – they don’t make warehouses that big. Old Billingsgate, now there’s a dramatic building, the space is phenomenal, the architecture is beautiful and the location is perfect. There can’t be any problems with this choice, and on the surface, you’d be right. But I work for a full-service agency and we supply all our own AV/staging etc. Still not seeing a problem? There’s a little thing called a buyout fee at a handful of venues in London. “What’s this?” you ask. For every piece of technical equipment we take into the venue, we must pay 12% commission on it. That’s every microphone and every piece of stage, which can mount up on a big production. All this comes off a clients’ bottom line, which means there is less budget to spend on the actual event. I get it with some venues, you don’t want a one-man-in-a-van type production company coming along damaging the building and any truss you have in place. But we’re a professional company with all the correct qualifications, insurance and certificates and we’re happy to produce these for your inspection. It just seems wrong to me that a venue will pay a finder’s fee to us of 8% commission, then charges us 12% commission to do our job, but that’s another blog for another time.

So, you find the perfect solution “Tobacco Dock”. It’s funky, unusual and hallelujah has a capacity for 650 cabaret – it’s the largest room. Alright, it has a few pillars, but these shouldn’t effect sight lines for our numbers. You triumphantly take your client for a site inspection, and you know what? They freak out, and not in a good way, like when you hear the song!

Suddenly faced with the sort of venue they’ve been asking for, they panic, saying it’s just a little too “way out” or some would say “a bit risky”. Their thoughts turn to; what will the perception of the delegates be? Will the stakeholders like it? And before you know it, you’re back at square one again!

Just trying to share insight into the regular dilemmas of a venue finder, and by no means is this a personal attack at venues (especially anyone that has been mentioned… no one was harmed in the producing or writing of this post.)

Good day to you all.

Emma Kennard – Operations Manager at venuepot

2 Comments

  1. Check out the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal both have large capacities for larger conferences 400+ cabaret, but surely we will also see expansion to venues within good travel links to Heathrow and London 34mins like the new Exhibition & Conference Centre we are opening in Farnborough, Hampshire next year.

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