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Large Conference vs Small Conference - Which Suits Your Needs?

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, particularly when it comes to conferences.

Indeed, there are just as many advantages to events geared around 50 attendees as there are to those tailored for thousands.

Exactly which organisers plump for will – or rather should – hinge on the nature of their industry and the experience they hope to provide.

A clear definition of both will help them settle on a preferred venue.

Lane End is one of only a handful of UK conference centres offering both small and large events. Our purpose-built buildings are designed to cater for modest gatherings and big crowds alike, providing an ideal backdrop for keynote speeches, seminars, training workshops and more.

In this article we’ll outline the benefits of large and small conferences respectively, helping readers decide on the best fit.

Reasons To Organise A Large Conference

Status

Large scale events carry with them a degree of prestige.

There’s something to be said for drawing attendees from far and wide, with capacity often linked to status.

While some view footfall as a vanity metric, others place great stock in attendance and see it to underline and even enhance reputations.

For that reason, the biggest brands will nearly always opt for the biggest conferences, safe in the knowledge they can attract requisite numbers.

Anyone working for them will then naturally be on the lookout for bigger venues. This is the equivalent of a headline music act moving from arenas to stadiums. It’s no bad thing, providing you can put bums on seats…

Keynote Speakers

Large Conference Seating - Lane End

Large conferences often become such when featuring big names, typically keynote speakers.

If your business has that pulling power, the likelihood is there will be plenty in the way of demand, necessitating a bigger venue as a result.

That’s not to say smaller conferences can’t attract esteemed speakers. But expanded ones may have a number lined up, putting the event into another bracket entirely.

That said, if your occasion is built around a single lecturer, ensure they can command a large room. Some people, even those with status, feel comfortable in more modest surroundings.

Length/Accommodation

Large conferences are true to their name when spanning several days.

This warrants a varied agenda but also careful consideration when it comes to accommodation. Expecting attendees to sort hotel stays themselves is short-sighted and an example of poor management. By contrast, offering overnight facilities is pro-active and a reason venues like Lane End appeal.

If you can literally accommodate hundreds of attendees, there is nothing to stop you arranging a weeklong conference experience that delights all involved.

Subject Matter

Bigger conferences are known for covering a greater breadth of topic, often spread across several different lecture rooms or concert halls within the same building.

This gives attendees the opportunity to dip their toes into areas beyond their actual field of interest, even if a tenuous (industry) link exists. This is no bad thing, but smaller conferences tend to remain more focused. Again, which side you fall on will depend on the overall goal.

Additional Considerations

A bigger event obviously necessitates a bigger checklist.

Conference organisers will have to factor things such as branding – both inside the venue and that aimed at promoting it online. The likes of pop-up websites and social media hashtags are now par for the course when planning events of this ilk.

More time and budget will also be spent on sustenance. Catering for large numbers means catering for different tastes and dietary requirements, a menu may even be sent in advance, with orders taken digitally. Preparing food on that scale is decidedly easier when you can call upon an on-site kitchen. Does your chosen venue boast that?

Then comes the often-precarious issue of parking. It’s easy to gravitate towards a particular conference centre based on the aesthetics whilst overlooking access itself. Hundreds or indeed thousands of attendees equates to hundreds or indeed thousands of parking spaces needed.

Likewise, travel links into and out of the region should be weighed up, particularly by those hoping to entice people from across the country or, in some cases, from overseas.

Put simply, a bigger event brings with it a bigger responsibility.

Reasons To Organise A Small Conference

Networking

Collaboration Task - Lane End

Regular conference goers view events as ideal networking opportunities. Striking up conversations and building relationships is that bit easier at smaller gatherings.

If you hope to facilitate networking, opting for smaller numbers is sensible. Rapport is more readily established among a handful of people if only because less effort is required!

Not only that but there’s even a better chance for people to meet keynote speakers themselves.

Brainstorming

Smaller conferences allow for more participation. It’s far easier to voice opinions and share ideas among a group of 30 than it is one of 300. If organisers hope to spark debate and involve those present, this can be realised in a smaller conference setting, where there is less risk of being drowned out. Even the shy and retiring can find confidence in this setup.

When dealing with dozens as opposed to hundreds of attendees, you can also arrange for teams to split off into breakout rooms and collaborate on a planned exercise. This is ideal when teambuilding is top of the agenda.

Focus

As highlighted above, smaller conferences are nearly always planned around a particular subject and for that reason, provide more in the way of focus. Staff training tends to fall into this category and often results in employees leaving with something actionable they can take back to the workplace… be that a new process or strategy.

In short, there are less distractions and deviations alike when planning a small conference.

All that said, if the collective want to explore a subject in further detail, there is certainly more flexibility within the overall agenda. A discussion can be extended if everyone is bought in, given there is no fear of alienating/disappointing dozens of people left thinking ‘this isn’t what I signed up for’.

Evidently, there is much to consider when planning large and small conferences, and each bring a host of benefits. The one thing both have in common however is the need for a purpose-built venue with a proven track record of delighting allcomers. Lane End fit this bill and would be delighted to stage your next event… whatever the size.

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