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Choosing a Training and Conference Centre
A guide to choosing training and conference centres

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:
  • Cost,
  • Capacity,
  • Customer satisfaction.


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:

  • 1 main classroom for 12 people with OHP, screen, flip chart stand, flip chart pad and flip chart pen.
  • 1 VHS player and monitor.
  • 1 syndicate room with flip chart stand, pad and pens.
  • Coffee/tea and biscuits in morning.
  • 2 course cooked lunch.
  • Tea/coffee in afternoon.

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:

  • extra syndicate rooms,
  • telephone calls,
  • photocopying,
  • faxes (sending and receiving),
  • emails (sending and receiving)
  • flip chart pads,
  • video camera and recorder,
  • computers
  • Internet access.



It is essential to establish whether a training centre can handle your volume or whether they will have to sub-contract.


Customer Satisfaction

This is all about how flexible the centre is in dealing with its customers. Some questions you can ask are:

  • Are there set start, finish, and meal times?
  • Can rooms be accessed the previous evening to set up classrooms?
  • Is there any storage available?
  • Would it be possible (at no extra cost) to have the courses' dining tables moved together on the last day of the course.
  • Can empty rooms be used for short exercises (at no extra cost)?

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 below:

_ Location
_ Parking
_ Reception
_ Contacts
_ Delivery arrangements
_ Staff
_ Access to training room
_ Size/shape of training room
_ Capacity of training room
_ Heating and ventilation
_ Lighting
_ Power sockets
_ Light switches
_ Acoustics
_ Equipment
_ Wall space and fixings
_ Syndicate rooms
_ Toilets
_ Access for preparation
_ Food
_ Meal and break arrangements
_ Bedrooms
_ Leisure facilities
_ Security
_ Emergency procedures


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.