I was asked today for some advice on using castles and stately homes as meeting venues. My thoughts below might be useful to anyone considering this type of venue for a meeting.
Over the years I have run meetings in all kinds of venues, from scout camps, at the basic end, to beautiful 5 star hotels. My experience has taught me that price is not an indicator of the suitability of a venue i.e. just because you pay a lot doesn’t mean you will get a great meeting space. I have used many castles and stately homes for meetings, here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of this type of venue.
- An usual venue will make the meeting memorable
- These types of venues tend to use freestanding meeting room furniture which allows for the room layout to be changed to give different configurations for different sessions. By contract most modern conference centres have large tables in the middle of meeting rooms, with all the technical stuff hardwired in. This makes it impossible to change the room layout.
- These venues can have high ceilings and lots of light – a space conducive for productive working
- An environment that’s different from the office will stimulate people to think and work differently
- Stately homes and castles tend to have lots of space inside and outside, this allows for a meeting design that uses informal coffee conversations, walking conversations etc This variety of agenda design will get the best from people in the event
- These types of venues often have onsite facilities for activities like archery or clay pigeon shooting, activities that get people away from their work. I am not a believer in filling evenings with working sessions. I think that people work best when they get proper breaks and downtime from their work.
- The working space can be cramped with little natural light.
- They may not have effective heating / airconditioning, which can lead to rooms being cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
- The walls of these types of venues are usually covered with pictures / oak panels etc. This means wall charts and posters cannot be hung on the walls. This is easily overcome by putting partitioning or pinboards in the room. However you need to ensure there is enough space
- Many stately homes and castles are set up as hotels rather than conference centres. My experience is that many hotels are not well set up for events, unless they have dedicated, experienced conference / events staff.
- Old buildings don’t usually have the technology built in like modern, purpose built conference centres. You need to check the technical equipment available