Thursday, June 05, 2014

Workshops in Geneva? Here’s My List of Workshop/Conference Venues


Having worked for the last 20 years in and around the Geneva area in the training and facilitation field, after a while you get to know the good places to hold workshops and meetings.

I wanted to put these all in one place for easy use for myself, and for others, as I get asked frequently for recommendations for good venues in the area. This list includes Geneva, as well as the La Cote area – the lovely band of French-speaking Switzerland between Geneva and Lausanne, along the lake.

I focused below on the rooms, food, accommodation availability and access.

If you know of any others, please let me know, I am always delighted to find a new place that is conducive to groups working together in workshop formats!

  • Chateau de Penthes  - This workshop space is near the United Nations in Geneva, but just outside of town in a quiet environment. I have used several times the refurbished attic space (called the “Grenier” on the website for groups up to 50 or so around round tables. They have a nice kitchen that can serve lunch on the spot downstairs or across the park. There is a convenient bus stop and parking. The website appears to only be in French, but I would be surprised if the management did not speak English – try the info practique (practical information)
  • CICG (Centre International de Conferences Genève)– This is a large scale conference venue just in the middle of the United Nations complex. I have held mostly larger events here (100 – 175) in both rooms with fixed seats, and also a nice open space where you can put 18 round tables or more. They are fully set up for simultaneous translation and are also accessible by bus or parking.
  • Le Cenacle – This venue I only discovered in the last couple of years as it is across the lake from me and well hidden away from the busy city of Geneva in a quiet park in the  Malagnou area of town. I have used it for smaller groups – 10 – 30. An additional benefit is the accommodation space, where people can stay. I have used the downstairs “basement” rooms which are very serviceable, if a little dark on winter days – both have natural light and exits to outdoors for group work outside in the park. Good parking and bus access.
  • John Knox Centre – I haven’t been here for a few years, but for a period was frequently using this Centre, located within walking distance from the UN. Like Le Cenacle, it has accommodation, meeting space and a simple cafeteria. It often houses students, so has a very informal feel to it.  I have always used the Meeting Room Flory, an interesting circular room, for my groups which tend to be around 30 – 35 people.
  • International Environment House – There are rooms available in the International Environment House, which is in the Chatelaine area of Geneva near the airport. There are a number of resident organizations here (from UNEP and UNITAR, to the Ecological Footprint Network, etc.) who have access and I have worked here through these partners, but there also seems to be possible access to external users, through GEN – the Geneva Environment Network.
As you start to leave Geneva you have:
  • Ecogia (Versoix)  - I wrote a whole blog post about this wonderful, purpose-built training and workshop facility located about 15 minutes outside of Geneva – If Trainers Designed Training Centres. Of note, is that it is the training centre for the International Committee of the Red Cross and they get calendar preference.
  • Chateau de Bossey (Celigny) -  Still a little further from Geneva (about 20 minutes out by car) is this gem of a chateau which has a wide range of workshop and meeting rooms in the old building (chateau) as well as a newly developed building that holds much larger groups. I have used this venue for small meetings from 10 people, up to groups of 75 in the new building. It has ample accommodation space as well, which is good as it is located in a more rural and quiet setting. It has a wonderful terrace with a view of the lake and mountains, and a very nice cafeteria that can easily serve large numbers (there are often multiple groups there).
  • Best Western Hotel in Chavannes-de Bogis - This hotel is 15-20 minutes outside Geneva on the main motorway to Lausanne (they have an airport and train shuttle to connect people coming from Geneva). The conference facilities are varied, with a big room (we recently have 70+ people around round tables comfortably) and other rooms that can be combined or used as smaller spaces. The hotel staff is very helpful and flexible, and can change room set ups during the day as needed (for our workshop we had drumming in orchestra format in the morning then the round tables and they did this quickly at coffee break). The staff is bilingual and happy to meet and work with organizers and are happy for groups to use the whole hotel - from the rooms, coffee break area (all day coffee break), outside spaces and restaurant for activities. They do nice receptions outside in good weather, with a beautiful view on lake  Geneva from their terrace. 
And further out you have
  • IUCN (Gland)  - In the small town of Gland, about 30 minutes outside of Geneva, sits IUCN’s Conservation Centre, the headquarters of this international conservation community. The Centre also has meeting facilities which I have used extensively throughout the years (as I used to be the Head of Learning there). From small groups to up to 200, in the main conference room, IUCN has nicely appointed rooms of all sizes.  I often use the Holcom Think Tank, which has a beautiful view of the mountains. The photos of the rooms all have rather formal set ups, I mostly use small rectangular tables with 8 people around them (the equivalent to round tables). Access is by road or the Gland train station (just a short 8 minute walk away) and there is an excellent cafeteria which can serve and cater in other parts of the building as needed.
  • Le Courtil (Rolle) – Right on Lake Geneva, Le Courtil is a conference centre with both meeting rooms (many with a remarkable view) and accommodation. Rolle is about 40 minutes outside Geneva and Le Courtil has parking and can be reached by train with a little walk. I have not used the train for access but I know many people do. Others hire small buses from the local taxi companies for access. The restaurant here is very well regarded with family-style buffets with many interesting choices (let’s face it, nice meals at workshops are important!) The rooms are in the chateau or annex and are mostly for smaller groups up to 30 - 40 or so I would say. The website seems to only be in French, but I know that the management are fully bilingual, so write or call their contact number for more information.
Well, that’s my list of Geneva-area workshop and meeting venues - if you have anything to add, let me know!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great and very helpful tips for all of us in the Geneva area! Thanks Gillian,
Cecilia

Gillian Martin Mehers said...

You are welcome, Cecilia! You probably know all these venues well and sometimes it is good to have the list all in one place.

Martin Gilbraith said...

Many thanks Gillian, very helpful. I used the John Knox centre and the International Environment House last year. The Flory at John Knox room was great but no good for a sticky wall, although the Vienna room was great for that if a bit smaller. The Environment House appeared initially to be very restricted as to how the rooms could be laid out, but in the end were quite amenable and it suited us very well!

Gillian Martin Mehers said...

That's great, Martin, thanks for adding your experience, which is useful - particularly the part about rooms. I am also always looking out for venues with various restrictions on room set ups or what you can put on the walls, as that definitely affects design. Thanks!