A good starting point for choosing a training or conference centre is the MWLS Training and Conference Directory, but however you find a centre, you are strongly recommended to visit the centre and conduct your own survey before making any bookings. A survey should concentrate on three areas:
It's best to ask the training centre to quote the day rate, and cancellation charges, against a standard set of specifications. The following are a set of specifications that I have found useful for comparison purposes:
If the centre is residential, find out what the 24 hour rate is (including the above plus evening meal and breakfast). Although some training centres have competitive day rates, the cost of extras can be prohibitive, so it's also a good idea to ask for the costs of the following:
It is essential to establish whether a training centre can handle
your volume or whether they will have to sub-contract.
This is all about how flexible the centre is in dealing with its customers. Some questions you can ask are:
Site Survey Checklist
It is worth taking a couple of hours to really get the feel of
the place. Talk to the staff, trainers and students. Explore the
buildings and the grounds. Use a checklist like the one shown
Types of Centre
Many hotels are properly equipped to function as conference centres, but too many others see conferences and training courses only as a means of filling empty rooms. They often have to hire in all the training equipment. Function rooms double as meeting rooms, and bedrooms have the beds removed to provide syndicate rooms. I have even seen instances of syndicate rooms not being ready until 11 o'clock because the hotel had rented them to guests the night before!
Sports centres and social clubs
Much of what has been said about hotels also applies to sports centres and social clubs, except that the standard is even more variable. Don't automatically disregard these venues, however, because some of them provide excellent service and facilities at competitive prices. Always make sure that you carry out a thorough site survey nevertheless.
Residential training centres
Residential training centres are in the business of providing excellent training facilities in suitable surroundings. They are also very expensive. You would only use a residential training centre for longer, more complex courses.