Before we explore the many different venues for conferences in London, there are certain other considerations that must be accounted for before going ahead with your event. Let's begin by checking out this year’s best practices when it comes to conference planning.
Latest conference trends you need to know about:
- Industrial, unusual or alternative conference spaces - trendy and diverse conference hire is one of this year's hottest trends in London as they drive interest and make great talking points.
- Interactive or hybrid events - digital conference facilities accompanied by a live blog, online visual chat or webcast, or combined with a film screening, swap meet, picnic, or concert.
- Immersive events - conferences boasting personalised name badges, branded cocktails and drinks receptions, or swag bags that make for a richer and more memorable event experience for your delegates.
- A focus on attendee engagement - think live streaming, video conferencing, audience polling, event hashtags, and on-site bloggers.
- Impressive event technology - business conference venues with dedicated event apps, real-time social media integration, special keynote audio webcasts, touchscreen technology, online contests, real-time language translations, and innovative digital graffiti walls that are a surefire way to blow attendees away.
- Green events - eco-friendly conference centres, with touches like recycled paper, local organic materials and green values, that demonstrate a company’s CSR credentials that can inspire guests.
- The right mix of famous and little known guest speakers - Well known keynote speakers will help draw crowds, while little known but interesting ones who can offer great insights will help you save some money. (Pro tip: the best conference places often have special areas during breakout sessions, where guest speakers can mingle with attendees and keep the discussion going.)
Top tips and tricks for planning a conference:
- The agenda and guest speakers will be the selling factor for potential registrants (remember that the best guest speakers get snapped up quickly, so book them ASAP).
- Strong attendance brings revenue and adds sponsorship opportunities.
- The conference theme will help unify your ideas and secure appropriate guest speakers and expo partners, as well as allow you to identify the right parties to market to.
- Think about where to hold your conference - an attractive location will help bring the punters in.
- Use social media to generate buzz, boost attendance and keep your event in people’s minds far beyond the end-date.
- Avoid surprises when renting a conference hall or working with vendors by getting all agreements in writing.
- Coordinate the details by walking through your itinerary as your attendees would.
- Be well prepared – communicate with vendors and arrive at the venue early, so you have plenty of time to set up and check last-minute services (and make sure to test computers, internet connections, projectors, and other A/V equipment before the day).
- Mix on-stage discussion panels with stand-alone speakers.
- Schedule regular breaks, especially for half-day or full-day sessions (breaks every 60–80 minutes are ideal).
- Keep your session on track and on time (let your guest speakers know how much time they’ve been allotted for their presentation, and make sure to account for the time it takes for guest speakers to get up on stage, be introduced, get their presentation up on the screen, etc.).
Whether you’re an educator looking for a theatre style academic venue in central London, a manager searching for conference venues in the city of London, or a conference organiser hoping to find top conference spaces in London in the best locations, we can recommend something that suits your needs. A venue can make or break an event, so it’s important to read up on how to choose a conference venue before you start your search for space.
When hiring a conference venue, be sure to keep in mind:
- Your budget - are you looking for a budget conference hall, a mid-range hotel with conference rooms, or a premium business conference facilities close to the city centre? The cheapest conference spaces in London can be hired for as little as £300 per session, or at per person rates between approximately £30-£60, while the most exclusive and largest venues can rise to over £10,000. Depending on your group size, budget, and location, venues offer a range of different prices and payment strategies including straight hire fees, or fees per hour, day, and session. When searching for the ideal venue, make sure the prices being offered fit within your budget alongside providing a fantastic place for your event.
- A convenient location - This is of vital importance to the success of your conference. Consider that you may have attendees with disabilities and ensure that the facilities are fully-equipped with ramps, lifts, and wide gangways. As well as that, check for nearby public transport access, as well as parking (ideally free) facilities, you may also want the venue to be near restaurants and hotels, in case your attendees are travelling from afar, or that your conference will last more than a day.
- The type of venue - Your choice of venue is, in essence, an extension of the image and ambience you wish to create at your event, so it’s important to make the right choice. Expecting a lot of guests and trying to make a big impression? Take a look at an auditorium, theatre, or hall. Holding something more intimate with a chilled-out atmosphere? Try a meeting room, cafe, or dining room. Making the right choice of venue will put everyone at ease and ensure your event begins on the front foot.
- The number of attendees you anticipate - This is especially important to get right as you don’t want a sparsely populated venue killing the atmosphere of your event, or an overcrowded room causing a hubbub and creating an uncomfortable setting. With this in mind, choosing a venue that will just about accommodate the number of people you expect will help create a lively atmosphere that also appreciates everybody’s need for space and comfort.
- Your event date - aim to book your conference venue ASAP – this means a year or more in advance for large or more complex events. This doesn’t mean that smaller, less complex events should be booked at the last moment however, you should try and put the wheels in motion around one to three months ahead of the date.
- The facilities you require - It’s likely that you’ll need some extra services and amenities at the venue you hire. This can be technological equipment such as computers, WiFi, and microphones, or presentation aids including projectors, flipcharts, and board markers/stationary equipment. Also consider the other spaces that are available in the venue, such as outdoor areas or function spaces for breaks, as well as kitchen facilities and dining rooms.
- The time of your event - This will have a large impact on the attendance figures for your conference, so it’s important to try and select a time where all your guests will be available. If you’re able to do so, speak with potential attendees beforehand to try and figure out the best time to hold the conference.
- Public Transport - As previously mentioned, the accessibility of your event is incredibly important, which therefore makes the need for efficient public transport a must. You may have guests coming from distant locations, so be sure to check for nearby airport and railway access, while also making sure transport within the town or city of your location is frequent and in close proximity to your venue.
- Catering - Before the event you may want to consider choosing a venue that offers their own in-house catering, or use an external one. While using a venue that provides catering will make your life easier, it’s of paramount importance to be sure that they’ll provide a menu that takes into consideration every guests dietary requirements alongside offering a variety of options. External caterers may give you more to think about logistically, but can provide easier and cheaper food options that fit with the needs of you and your guests.
- Any cancellation policies - Should you or the venue need to cancel, make sure you are clear on what the policies are for doing so. If you think you may need to cancel, some venues will charge fees or keep a certain percentage of the event price, so it’s important to have these established at the beginning of your event planning stage. Should the event venues cancel, make sure you have some back-up venues that you can contact in the case of needing a venue switch.
- Onsite technical support - Ask venue manager whether there will be someone available on the day of the event for technical support.
- The lighting - Decide whether you want to spotlight guest speakers or facilitate two-way communication by ensuring both the stage and audience are well lit.
- The timing - Ask venue manager how long in advance you’ll have access to the venue before your conference is scheduled to start and how quickly you need to be packed up and out of the venue at the end of the conference.
While this seems like a lot to consider, the more answers you can get from the venue manager, the better prepared you’ll be. Covering all your bases by having a solid plan for the day will help ensure your conference is a successful and enjoyable one that attendees remember long after the last PowerPoint slide.
Most popular districts/locations for conferences in London:
- City of London - London’s historic financial centre, known affectionately as the Square Mile, is a go-to place for outstanding conference venues and facilities. With so much business going on in such a concentrated area, take your pick from a variety of different conference spaces that are modern, stylish, and will see to all your corporate needs.
- Central London - Including major areas such as Westminster, Mayfair, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden, there’s plenty of great conference spaces packed within central London. Depending on you location and needs, there’s a whole range of versatile conference venues right in the heart of the capital that can host a range of different meet-ups, both large and small.
- Shoreditch - Perhaps an unusual choice amongst big businesses and corporations, Shoreditch is an incredibly popular area to do business for smaller companies, startups, and offices. Featuring a range of more relaxed, trendy, and creative spaces, why not combine your gathering with some breakfast or lunch in one of London’s coolest districts?
- London Bridge - South of the river Thames, there’s a great demand for convenient, comfortable, and easy-to-reach conference venues, which makes London Bridge a prime location, due to its proximity to both northern and southern boroughs. Not only that, it’s full of modern meeting rooms that are clean, casual, and capable of holding a range of different conferences.
Most popular conference venues types in London:
- Theatres - From University lecture theatres, to bespoke conference venues and cinemas, there’s a fantastic range of theatres and large conference rooms on offer in London. Able to comfortably hold large capacities and equipped with large stages, screens, and projectors, these venues are the ideal place to hold events such as product launches, informative conferences, or presentations.
- Seminar rooms - For smaller gatherings, the range of seminar venues on offer in London will offer all the services you need to make your meet-ups a breeze. Including comfortable seating, television screens, and stationary equipment, you can easily hold conference calls, office meetings, or even interviews in these well-designed spaces.
- Halls - Popular thanks to their openness and flexibility, hall hire is a way of finding an attractive space with plenty of room, while also being able to stamp your own authority on it. Again, highly popular with corporations or small businesses, these venues are great at showing off new products, announcing business expansions, or creating your own networking event.
- Cafes & dining rooms - Sometimes a specific conference venue can just feel like too much. The solution? Take your business to one of London’s fantastic cafes or dining rooms, where you can talk over some delicious food and take away the serious atmosphere that can sometimes accompany a more straight-up meeting room. As modern-day workplaces evolve, cafes and restaurants are receiving far more bookings for people looking to hold small meetings or office conferences.