Picking a City for an Event: Lausanne

When you decide to organise an event, other than having a good idea for the content/audience (ie, “what’s it about? what kind of event?”), two things you need to figure out quite quickly are when and where it’ll happen. This post is about the “where?” question.

My initial reaction when I took the decision to go ahead with this wacky “organising events” idea was somewhere along the line of “great! I’ll do it in Lausanne!”. A bit of a selfish reaction, as it makes things easier for me, and I really love Lausanne.

Next, I started thinking. Who is this event going to be for? Where is the highest number of people likely to come for my event? Maybe Lausanne is my favourite personal choice, but it doesn’t necessarily make business sense. From the start, I’ve thought of my event as European, with the idea to attract people from all over the continent. So of course, I expect attendees to travel — but there is always a high local population at events, as the absence of travel lowers the barrier to entry (cost, travel time, stress).

Well, quite possibly, the answer to that question (where is the highest concentration of freelancers in the tech industry in Europe?) would be “London”. On the other hand, London is horrendously expensive (isn’t it?), so, why not something nearby, like… Brighton? Cheaper, but still rather easy to get to.

At that point, I decided we needed a choice of cities, and we should check them out for venue options and hotel pricing, to see if anything stood out. Obviously, we’d need to pick cities which are easy to get to from other places in Europe. So, for starters… let’s look at London/Brighton, Paris, and Berlin. Paris is very close to London with the Eurostar, and Berlin (Germany) is cheaper than both London and Paris, but it’s still an Easyjet city. Because, if you’re in Europe, chances are you’re going to be flying Easyjet or some other low-cost airline. (I should think about asking them to sponsor the event, actually…)

So, armed with those three options (London, Paris, Berlin), I set off to Le Web 3 to start talking with possible sponsors, and also to bounce ideas off my friends and peers. To my surprise, quite a few people said “but why don’t you do it in Lausanne?” when I mentioned the location wasn’t set yet. So, I started thinking. Because even if Lausanne is a personal, almost emotional choice for me, it doesn’t mean it cannot also be a good business decision.

Let’s look at Lausanne as a possible city to host my event, with a cool business mind:

  • First and foremost, it’s actually really easy to access: get off your plane in Geneva airport, walk 200m from customs, hop on the train (yes, the train station is inside the airport), and 30-40 minutes later you’re in central Lausanne. (You’re in for at least the same kind of ride to get to central London from LGW or LHR, or central Paris from CDG.) Geneva airport is an international airport which is easily reached from all over Europe, with Easyjet for example. However, it’s way less busy than CDG, LHR, LGW, which makes the arrival/departure experience much more pleasant.
  • I live in Lausanne, and so do my two main partners-in-crime: holding the event in Lausanne will make organisation much smoother for us, and allow us to ensure we don’t bump into any issues with the venue due to managing things remotely. Not to mention opportunities for sponsorships by local businesses — being locals, we know who they are and have existing connections we can use. There are also many important companies settled in the Lausanne area, like Nestle, Philip Morris, or Orange Switzerland. And it’s the Olympic Capital. (OK, drifting off-topic here…)
  • Lausanne is a beautiful city, in the midst of a beautiful region: it’s on Lake Geneva (Lac LĂ©man), but as opposed to Geneva which is at the end of the lake, Lausanne is in the middle. The view over the lake and mountains is just breath-taking. If you’re coming for a one-day conference and plan to spend a nice week-end somewhere while you’re at it, Lausanne is ideal. The city is lovely and walkable, France is 20 minutes away by boat (just across the lake), and the surrounding countryside and lakeshore is also worth a visit (for example, Le Lavaux, Unesco world heritage site, is just to the east of Lausanne). I’ll be digging out photos to convince you to come if you’re not sold yet ;-) .
  • Even though Switzerland is a rather expensive country (by European standards), holding an event in Lausanne is going to be more affordable than London, Paris, or Geneva.
  • Lausanne is a human-sized city: it’s the fifth most important city in Switzerland with 120′000 inhabitants in the city itself. It has everything one needs, but it’s not so large that you can get very lost in it or spend insane amounts of time commuting from one part of the city to the other. Public transport is very efficient.
  • Finally, Lausanne will be a welcome change for all of us on the “2.0 conference circuit”, as it’s not one of the usual “conference cities”, and probably a city you haven’t visited before much (which is a pity! you should!).

Check out:

So, here we go. Going Solo will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland — I’m looking forward to welcoming you all here in a few months.

Now tell me — did I do a good job of selling you Lausanne as a conference-city? -)

This was originally posted on Climb to the Stars. View comments on the original post.

3 Comments so far

  1. [...] Picking a City for an Event: Lausanne: explaining my decision to hold the event in Lausanne, rather than London, Paris or Berlin [...]

  2. Venue Stories « Going Solo on January 21st, 2008

    [...] be staring out of the windows during the talks, but it’s still a nice thing to have (I also brought you to Lausanne for the [...]

  3. [...] thinking of heading in that direction), come and spend a day sharpening your business skills in lovely Lausanne. You want to stay on top of that bubble, don’t [...]

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