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Planning a corporate event can feel overwhelming at times with the seemingly endless variables to consider—budget, attendance, format, A/V equipment, accommodations, etc.—so the experts at University of Delaware (UD) Conference Services offer these valuable tips.

Plan Ahead

Proper planning is key. Jan O’Neill, Senior Event Manager in UD’s Office of Conference Services, says her job is to ask the right questions to help the client plan the event. “Most importantly, I ask clients what they want to accomplish, and once the goals are outlined, I can then determine what space works best,” says O’Neill, who considers such variables as:

  • Expected attendance
  • Seating configuration
  • Agenda
  • How much interaction between attendees is desired?
  • Are breakout rooms needed?
  • Technological requirements

“Before assigning a space to the client, it’s important to qualify as much information as possible,” O’Neill says. “As event managers, we can suggest the best seating configurations, for example. The general rule of thumb is to allow 10-15 square feet per attendee, but you have to account for A/V equipment, food tables, tables for panels, etc. This is where our experience can help.”

Know Your Audience

The demographics of the attendees plays an important role. “Older audiences prefer a lecture style, while younger attendees want more technology; they want to be entertained,” O’Neill says. “Also, most events today include networking, whether it’s before the event or during breaks. Clients want the attendees to be engaged.”

Stay Flexible

One of the advantages of holding an event at UD, notes Polly Weir, UD’s Director of Conference Services, is the wide range of physical resources—everything from conference venues to stadiums, athletic fields, performance venues, academic space, computer labs, and libraries. Available space ranges from 750 square feet to over 7,000 square feet. 

O’Neill adds, “The worst-case scenario is to have more attendees than you originally planned for, so we are fortunate in that many times we can change venues before the event, if needed.”

Stay On Budget

Of course, with any business event, staying on budget is paramount. “As a college conference center, we typically work with budget-conscious clients,” O’Neill says. Weir also points out that college campuses often offer a perfect alternative to traditional hotel settings at a good price. “College campuses are generally less expensive, more flexible, and, most importantly, provide an environment around sharing information,” Weir explains. “This serves to lend credibility to your meeting.”

One way to help stretch the budget is to have the space serve double duty. “Instead of booking a separate room for breakout sessions, for example, we can design the space so that these sessions are in the same room as the meeting,” O’Neill says. “We can also be creative when meals are served—use one half of the space for lunch and the other for dinner—to save costs.”

Weir adds that meeting attendees at UD often have the option of affordable housing in residence halls (during the summer) or a complete hotel experience at a major chain, such as the Courtyard by Marriott on UD’s Newark campus. “Many of our accommodations at UD are suites, and some are apartments,” Weir says. “We have a lot to offer by way of comfortable places to stay.”

O’Neill adds that she was once a corporate meeting planner, so she knows what the client is experiencing. “I’ve been there and am happy to do some hand holding to make it easier on the client,” she says.

The University of Delaware has conference venues in Newark (site of the main campus), Wilmington, and Lewes, and each location has its own personality. Venues include a modern, 40,000-square-foot conference center with a ballroom and theater-style auditorium, a historic mansion, a warm and inviting hall with 19,000 square feet of meeting space, and a coastal retreat center. www.udel.edu/conferences

University of Delaware Conference Venues

Clayton Hall Conference Center
100 David Hollowell Drive
Newark, DE 19716

Goodstay Center and Arsht Hall
University of Delaware
2600-2800 Pennsylvania Avenue
Wilmington, DE 19806

Virden Retreat Center
University of Delaware
700 Pilottown Road
Lewes, DE 19958

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