I bought a… workshop venue

April 23, 2016

I encountered a problem... that experience planted the germ of an idea

Running workshops and facilitating events is my bread and butter. I run about 50 events a year, mostly in workplace writing, but also in strategic planning, research and community engagement.

A few years ago, I decided to give public workshops a try. I wanted to develop something like Toastmasters for Writers, with regular meetings for small groups.

I quickly encountered a problem: Brisbane is desperately short of affordable, accessible, work-focused training venues.

I discovered that corporate training venues were well beyond my budget; inner-city hotels were mostly too expensive and were more suited to meals than training (I’m not a big fan of the round-tables-with-white-linen-tablecloths look); neighbourhood centres were affordable, but required me to set up the room myself and empty the dishwasher; and library rooms were both too small and rarely available.

I used a room at my local school a few times. But while the school offered a great space for training, it hardly presented the image I was seeking. And of course there was no catering, so I had to alternate between being training-queen and catering-queen.

What I wanted was something simple yet professional, available for both short sessions and long sessions, and designed with trainers in mind.

The mother of necessity

That experience planted the germ of an idea that finally came to life last month, when my partner and I opened the doors to Northside Meetings with The Letter Lounge Café & Gifts.

Anne-Maree Jaggs (L) and Judy Gregory (R), co-owners of Northside Meetings
Anne-Maree Jaggs (L) and Judy Gregory (R), co-owners of Northside Meetings

We’ve leased a lovely commercial character building on Windsor Rd in Red Hill and converted it into a space that’s designed for work and meetings. We’ve got a good-sized training room (suitable for groups of around 30 participants), plus three small meeting rooms, a quiet café, and a courtyard garden.

What works with venues (for me anyway)…

I’ve worked in a lot of training rooms, and I’m critically conscious of the things that work well for me. Here are some of my preferences:

  • Flexible furniture that I can set up to suit my session’s format;
  • Rectangular tables (rather than round) – I find that rectangular tables encourage more group discussion and fewer papers dropped on the floor;
  • Good air flow and locally controlled air-conditioning;
  • Blank walls and robust painting so that I can hang butchers’ paper or sticky walls;
  • AV equipment that’s included as part of the room-hire fee;
  • Lighting that’s designed so that I can decide whether the front of the room is fully lit or dimmed to suit the projector;
  • A sense of openness and natural light;
  • Staff who will leave me alone to prepare the space and set up the room myself, but who are happy to offer help if I need it;
  • A general lack of fussiness, so that the room fades into the background for me and the participants, allowing us to focus on the topic at hand.

Of course, it goes without saying that participants are happy when the food is good and the coffee/tea is excellent.

Need a venue?

My Toastmasters for Writers idea is on hold at the moment. But at least now I have access to a great venue!

If you’re a trainer, facilitator or group organiser wanting access to work-focused space, please visit us at Northside Meetings, 110 Windsor Rd, Red Hill or check us out online.

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Judy Gregory
Dr. Judy Gregory is a writer, trainer and new meetings venue/café owner. Her new business, Northside Meetings, is at 110 Windsor Rd, Red Hill.

Connect with Judy on her blog or visit the website for venue details.