The UK’s Best Cities for Hosting Conferences (Outside of London)

With the UK getting closer and closer to fully “re-opening” following the pandemic, events and conferences are sure to follow suit – allowing guests and hosts to once again network without being hidden behind laptop screens.  And with in-person events soon to be back on the table, organisers will also have to work out which cities and locations will be best suited to holding such conferences.

With its plethora of transport links, accommodation, and venues, it makes sense that London is something of a hosting hub. But how do other cities from around the country compare to the nation’s capital?

To get to the bottom of that very question, we conducted some in-depth, cross-country research. Take a look at what we turned up below.

How We Did It

We gathered a list of every city in the UK outside of London, before searching conference venue websites to uncover the number of such spaces in each UK city. From there, we looked into transport links like railway stations per local authority, how close these were to the nearest airport, the average number of flights, and the number of available car parks.

Then, we pinned down the number of central hotels per city, before rounding off our data by looking at the crime rate per 1k people in each county or metropolitan area. This gave us an index score which we could use to rank these five factors out of 25.

Benchmarking in this way allowed us to uncover the cities outside of London that are best for hosting a conference.

The UK’s Top Cities for Hosting Conferences

With a total score of 121 out of 175, Manchester was the city deemed the best for hosting a conference outside London. With an average number of 425 venues, organisers aren’t exactly spoiled for choice, while a large amount of city centre hotels, train stations, monthly flights, and car parks mean that the city can easily accommodate travelling attendees.

Despite its top spot, however, the city also had the highest crime rate per 1k people, so any attendees might want to take extra care of their belongings if they find themselves attending an event here.

Elsewhere, Scotland performed well too, with Edinburgh and Glasgow taking second and third place, respectively. Glasgow also had the highest number of train stations per local authority out of any other city in our top ten, making it a breeze for attendees looking to get around the city.

The UK’s second city, Birmingham, also made a respectable showing. With 420 venues – more than both Edinburgh and Glasgow – it’s certainly well-stocked with locations, but its somewhat low volume of hotels lets it down somewhat.

The UK’s Least Equipped Cities for Hosting Conferences

With a total score of just 21, St Davids in Wales is by far the least well-equipped city for hosting a conference. Venues are scarce at only two, there are no train stations in the region, the closest public airport is 113 miles away, and with only two car parks available, attendees are bound to be squabbling over who gets to use them.

In fact, Wales fared poorly overall. As well as Swansea in tenth place, the second and third place honours went to St Asaph and Bangor. Both shared an overall score of 35, and ranked low for volume of venues, train stations (zero in the case of St Asaph) and proximity to the nearest airport.

In the North, meanwhile, Sunderland, Carlisle, Lancaster and Ripon also proved to be poor cities to hold a conference in too. Despite decent numbers of venues, the low number of railway stations meant that attendees may find it a little awkward to reach the conference in the first place.

The Full Index of UK Cities

Want to see how your city ranked? Check out the full index of our results below:

The Best & Worst Regions for Hosting Conferences

Top Tips for Hosting a Conference

If you’re thinking of hosting a conference anytime soon, then remember, there are a lot of moving parts. Preparation is key, so keep these handy pointers in mind at the planning stage for the best results…

  • Give yourself plenty of time. Organising an event involves a lot of preparation. Somewhere in the region of six months should give you enough time to secure the venue, speakers and suppliers – with enough left over to review and make amendments.

  • Get a headcount. Knowing your numbers makes a big difference, even if it’s just a ballpark figure. You want attendees to be as comfortable as possible, especially when people might still be cagey about being in large groups.

  • Set a budget and stick to it. You’ll have to consider the cost of the venue, equipment, marketing, catering and speakers, so make sure each item has an individual team member dedicated to delivering on budget.

  • Stay in sync with your values. Think of the conference as an extension of your brand’s values, vision and identity. Whatever your objectives for the event are, make sure that the tone you want to set is in line with your audience – and consider how the venue and speakers will help to emphasise this tone. A niche industry conference will feel a lot different from an employee away day.

  • Create a planning team. Delegating tasks to your staff will help take a lot off your plate, and they’ll be able to pitch in with some fresh ideas too. The venue may even have a conference planner who can help you out if you need some extra assistance.

And don’t forget, we can tailor event passes around the needs and budget of your brand, whatever they may be. Available in a range of shapes, sizes and designs, and fully integrable with your existing security and access infrastructure; our customisable event passes can help your upcoming conferences go as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.

Looking for more conference-based content from our blog? Get the most out of your upcoming events by giving these articles a read:

Swype is one of the UK’s leading plastic card and print specialists, delivering first-class service and innovative solutions. For more information about our products and services, visit the homepage or call 01744 815475.

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