Reflecting on venues – 12 months of conferences

In the last 12 months I have been incredibly fortunate to have attended some great events invested heavily in time and money to attend some great events.  One of the benefits of doing this has been the opportunity to see lots of different venues. I wanted to reflect on what was good about each and share it mainly for the benefit of a couple of friends who organise conferences. If anyone would like to discuss this in more detail I would be happy to do so.

At the end of March and beginning of April 2014, I attended Future Everything in Manchester which was held at the Town Hall.  The main room is beautiful and full of interesting things to look at and generally the day went well. It is also very easy for me to get to from Leeds to Manchester and is a short walk from Manchester Piccadilly.

In June, I travelled to Birmingham to attend a one day blogging conference called Blognix.  It was at the Custard Factory in Digbeth.  The venue was quirky and perfect for the scale of the event and again walkable from my incoming station.

The next event UK Podcasters 14 was in August and was held at the Hotel La Tour in Birmingham. (Update December 2017: rebranded in 2017 to Clayton Hotels so updated Link)  The hotel is modern and beautiful and I recall that one of my first tweets that day was that I was in a hotel so posh that the toilets flushed themselves. The fit-out of the venue is very high quality and the food was very nice.  The room was ideal for the audience and nothing was too much trouble for the staff. Tea and coffee provided via self-service machines and fridges filled with cans worked very well on the day and they provided ice creams in the afternoon which was memorable on a hot summer’s day.

In November, I attended both NUXUK 3 and LeanConf within a week, both held in Manchester. NUXUK was at the Royal Northern College of Music and Leanconf at the Comedy Store. Again both venues are walkable from Piccadilly, both were ideal in terms of auditorium size for their relative audiences and great for seeing the speakers.

In January, I was a campmaker at UKGovcamp15 which was brilliant fun and I had a great day.  It was at Microsoft in Victoria which I really like as a venue and it has plenty of breakout rooms which is good for this type of event. In the spirit of an open space event, the participants took over the venue and made it work how they needed it to.

The Service Design for Public Services: SPIDER Project Conference was at the end of January and was held at the Wales Millenium centre in Cardiff which is another beautiful building to visit with the added bonus of being able to stay near Cardiff Bay.

Service Design in Government was in March at 15 Hatfields which I had previously enjoyed visiting while attending a course.  This has great flexible spaces and lunch was hot food serviced in small bowls which you could easily eat while standing up and talking to other attendees. The addition of a sponsored coffee bar was a great one. It is also near to my favorite hotel and easy to get to from the South Bank.

This brings me to the inspiration for this post. I travelled to London on Saturday morning to attend the PSA LIVE event which is the Professional Speaking Association’s spring convention.  The venue was 200 Aldersgate Street which is an etc venue.  Again the fit-out was very nice, the room worked well for the event and was flexible enough to work both for speakers from the stage and group sessions during the ‘ask the expert’ sessions. The refreshment breaks worked well.  The big differentiator was the Bento Box style lunch which really lifted the (nice) food to something special.

Overall my favorite venue was the Hotel La Tour for service and feel, for food, I liked etc Venue’s bento boxes and 15 Hatfields little bowls of tasty hot food, however, the best location is the Wales Millenium Centre.

YMMV