Think about the learning that you’ve undertaken, what makes it stand out and why do you remember it? The content and how is was facilitated no doubt spring to mind and are important but equally important is the environment in which the learning took place. Even after 50 years, I still have happy memories of school outings to learn at a museum, farm or ancient castle and I’m sure you do as well.
Research on learner engagement reveals that a positive learning environment leads to endorphins being released into our blood that in turn gives feelings of euphoria and stimulates the frontal lobe of our brain. Essentially, learning becomes a pleasurable experience.
Creating the right learning environment is therefore vital in developing high-performance teamwork and why it is one of the 16 key elements of the Team DyNAmics© Model.
Whether it’s a team-building workshop or a conference you are arranging, the location you chose, is a key factor in the overall experience of those attending. Get it right and you enhance their experience and they will remember the learning for a longer period of time, get it wrong and those attending will feel undervalued and will no doubt tell you via feedback. So what are the things to consider when booking a venue for training or a conference?
Well last week, I was fortunate to be at Deer Park Country House Hotel, near Honiton in Devon and I have used this as an example.
1. First Impressions Count
We are very visual, so on arrival at the venue, will the initial look give those attending the WOW factor?
2. How Are You Greeted By Staff?
Are the staff friendly? Do they treat you in a professional but personable manner? Do they listen to your needs and try to find solutions to meet those needs? Sometimes, you don’t need to even speak to the staff, just sit down and look around you at how they go about their jobs and listen to them interacting with other customers. Also, don’t feel shy to ask how they enjoy working at the venue and how long they have worked there.
3. What are the learning facilities like?
If it is team building, do they have rooms conducive to a positive learning experience? If it is a conference, will it comfortably cater for the amount of delegates expected? Can they cover the technology needs you require? Screens, AV etc.
4. What are the break-out and dining areas like?
It is important that whilst not in the main training or conference room that there are areas that will enable delegates to sit and relax in smaller groups and also have refreshments.
5. Do they have facilities for those with disabilities and the ability to cater for those with special dietary requirements?
6. If overnight accommodation is required, does this meet your needs and what is there for delegates to do in their free time?
7. How close are travel links? Are there any pick-up/drop-off options?
Deer Park Country House and Hotel is close to both Exeter Airport and Honiton Railway Station (direct route from London Waterloo), as well as just being off the A30, however, they can even pick you up in one of their collection of classic cars.
Obviously, budget needs to be taken into account however, in my experience, a lot of venues that provide an environment that really enhances the learning experience or conference, for delegates and gives them the WOW-factor, are often not too dissimilar in price to large brand hotels with standard training rooms and conference facilities.
What venues have stuck with me?
As a team-building expert and international conference speaker, I have had the opportunity to experience in excess of 1,000 different venues. With team-building, the ones that I have experienced and stick out are the opulence of the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, the more austere and surreal setting of a Bedouin Tent in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert, training at the top of a Swiss Mountain, leadership development on board racing yachts in the Solent and on the lower decks of an 18th Century battleship, the Morgan Car Factory, Royal Armouries and an adventure park.
Speaking at conferences, the ones that stick with me have been Wembley Stadium, the Tower Of London, a purpose-built educational hotel in Beijing, with one of the world’s largest plasma screens and a conference room at a hotel in Riga, the capital of Latvia that overlooked the River Daugava.
So, in summary, whether you are booking a venue for team-building or a conference, think very carefully about the venue you choose, to provide delegates with a location that enhances their learning experiences and in doing so, will increase the length the learning is retained and therefore used.
A special thanks to Mark Godfrey, MD of Deer Park Country House and Hotel and his team, for their time, hospitality and excellent customer service.
Wishing you continued happiness and success in both work and life.
Yours behaviourally, Nick
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