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From theme parks to castles: hosting a memorable conference has never been easier


Jul 16, 2008 | Feature

If the lives of a typical businessman and a global rock star have just one thing in common it is that they involve significant amounts of time spent in a succession of hotels and corporate venues up and down the country.

And it is fair to say that, while this is as far as such a comparison can go, both are likely to feel that every location looks pretty similar after a while.

Indeed, however many thousands a venue may have spent updating its sound system or however well-regarded the guest speakers are in their respective fields, it is all too easy for organisers to allow delegates to develop 'conference fatigue' and lose concentration and motivation amid a long summer of round-table discussions in chain hotel boardrooms.

As such, just as with events organised outside of the corporate sphere, the pressure is on for conference organisers to come up with, if not an original idea, then at least a novel venue that will ensure that their event is both looked forward to and remembered – after all, not many people choose their local pub for their wedding reception.

Fortunately, those tasked with putting together a business meeting or training event are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to going off the beaten track and gaining a bit of one-upmanship over their peers.

No longer are such events confined to traditional conferencing venues, but rather most place which could be considered a 'good day out' for the family can also turn out to be the perfect place to invite delegates and guest speakers to.

Just a few minutes walk from the relative anonymity of Westminster, for example, the Imperial War Museum offers a stunning backdrop for corporate conferences, allowing guests to awaken their minds amid a Battle of Britain Spitfire, Monty's tank from North Africa and a replica World War One trench before getting down to business.

Furthermore, the museum's Atrium is one of the few places in the capitol capable of comfortably holding 1,000 guests for a reception, though a number of the other leading museums in the city, for instance the British Museum or the Natural History Museum, also offer similar benefits, with most businesses likely to be able to find one such venue to suit their needs.

In the same vein, a couple of miles downstream, the Tower of London has gone from imprisoning enemies of the realm to providing an historic location for entertaining and corporate functions, with delegates not only able to receive training or listen to lectures behind the fortress walls but also benefit from private viewings of the Crown Jewels and tours with their own Yeoman Warder.

For those organisers happy to throw away any pretence of educational benefits could do worse than hold their conference in Legoland in Windsor, easily reached from the centre of the capital and particularly from Heathrow Airport, and sure to go down a hit with professional engineers or a team of local town planners.

Likewise, Alton Towers serves as a perfect antidote to the urban venues of Manchester or Birmingham, scooping the M&IT Awards Best Unusual Venue prize for 2008, as well as being named one of the top venues by Prestige Events Magazine and RSVP Magazine over the past few months., with some of the big names praising the theme park on its corporate site including Barclays, Royal Sun Alliance and Dominos Pizza.

Of course, while ensuring delegates have a good time is important to long-term success, conferences are ultimately an extension of business and, when looked at from this point of view, the arguments for opting for an unusual venue are often even more compelling.

Invited guests may no longer have to choose between attending a conference or keeping their families happy over the summer holidays, while guests may be more liable to securing deals after bonding together over a museum exhibit or roller-coaster.

And though some organisers may be understandably reluctant to break with tradition, they can be sure that their rivals will be all too happy to trump their invitations and make delegates an offer they can't refuse. ADNFCR-1752-ID-18686994-ADNFCR

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