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Blogspot: What changes have you seen in the events market over the last two years?

Guest Blogger: Holly Whitman

Some would say I’m merely a “pup” in the world of hospitality and events, having started my career in a hotel as a Conference & Events Co-ordinator in Bolton in 2008, moving into a Manchester city centre hotel in 2009 and then landing where I currently am as Sales Executive for Manchester Conference Centre & Hotel. But over the last 5 years since I started, much has changed in this industry… even for new eyes like mine.

Lead times for large bookings are getting shorter, gone seem the days of booking a large multiday, international conference 2 or 3 years in advance. Now large enquiries are coming in 8 – 12 months in advance… when you’re lucky! This makes it incredibly hard to plan your business on the books and forecasting as you don’t know when “that biggy” will appear. But we adapt, and we keep an eye on those rebookers!

The buyers appear far more savvy now too, probably largely connected to the recession where budgets were cut, jobs lost and belts tightened. Clients are now more confident than ever to question proposals to find the best deals, happy to pitch hotels and venues against each other to get the best price, and who can really blame them! The lines between competitor venues are now blurred, no more clear boundaries in pricing from your 5* to your 3*, purpose built venue or redeveloped site.

What does this mean for us… well for Manchester I think it means working together more than ever as a city and a destination for all conferences and events. We strive to make ourselves as desirable as possible and if we don’t win that main contract, we can push for fringe events, accommodation or overflow. I think we’re doing a pretty good job too! Hotels and venues are communicating more and obviously don’t want to give away their secrets or their biggest clients, but we know there is always someone at the end of a phone or email to ask for advice or pass on a referral.

Manchester has grown into a hub of international business, with the Convention Centre bringing in large events from across the globe. There really is something for everyone within this “walk-able” city! It’s not just hotels and purpose built venues like ourselves that host events, we’re fighting art galleries, restaurants, bars, casinos and even museums.

This is what makes Manchester great, and the venues and hotels within the city even greater.

So, what’s changed over the last 2 years… communication, competition, relationships, lead times and more than anything buyers who know what they want.

We welcome it with open arms.

About the Author

Holly Whitman is Sales Executive at Manchester Conference Centre and Hotel and is responsible for all New Business and Account Management at the venue.

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Top Ten Tips When Booking A Venue

As part of our ongoing want to help you busy event planners, we thought we’d offer a quick run-down of tips for when booking a venue. We’ve split the list into a quick-fire list and a more detailed list. Use the tips as a tick-list or as a more detailed reminder. Whatever way you choose to use them, we’re sure they’ll come in useful!

However, if you’re still struggling once you’ve got through these tips and need some help – give us a call or contact us here and we’d be happy to step in and take all these things into consideration for you.

1. Location

2. Facilities

3. Cost

4. Response Time

5. First Impressions

6. Suitability

7. Accessability

8. Food & Drink

9. Accommodation

10. Quality of Customer Service! (Last but by no means least!)

 

 

Location

Setting is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a venue. It can determine accessibility, the facilities available for you and the suitability for your event. Things to consider –

  • Do you want a local venue or an international venue?
  • What type of location are you looking for? e.g. a countryside spot or an inner city area?
  • How far are your delegates travelling? Do you need access to public services/airports/railway/motorways, and if so how far away are they?

Facilities

Having the perfect facilities for your event can mean the difference between it running smooth and running wild.

  • Can the venue offer a room large enough to hold your delegates? Can guests travel around the space without trouble?
  • Are there suitable toilets nearby?
  • Can they accommodate disabled people?
  • Can caterers provide food and drink inside the venue, or is it in another room? If so, can guests easily access these areas?

Cost

Make a budget right at the beginning and stick to it. Provided you choose a good quality, experienced venue committed to making your event the best it can be then you’ll get far more from the experience –

  • Have you made a clear budget, and stuck to it?
  • Does the cost include everything you need for your event?
  • Are there any extra hidden costs?

Response Time

How fast or slow a venue responds to an email, or call can give a clear indication of what the service of the venue will be like on the day of your event. If they give clear instruction to wait at least 42 hours, and they have not responded within that time, it may be wise to have another search.

First Impressions

If possible, book a viewing at your chosen location. When you first view your chosen venue does it amaze you, or does it make you yawn?  If your first look is positive – great! If your first impression is a bit of a let-down, don’t give up – there will be other options! (it may be the inside inspires more than the outside – let’s face it, unless your event is outside, most of your attendees will only notice the inside.

  • Make a list of things you want to see in the venue. That way, you can thoroughly assess your venue in terms of your event’s needs. If at the end of the viewing you are still not satisfied, search again.

Suitability

You’ve viewed a few venues and have narrowed them down, but how does your venue suit your event?

  • Is the venue available on the date(s) you want? Are they flexible if change is necessary?
  • Does the venue fulfil your events purpose?

Accessability

Your venue is set in the beautiful English countryside, surrounded by thick forests and a large lake. But can you actually get there? And how are your guests getting there? How about disabled delegates?

  • If you need a venue which has good transport links for example a motorway or an airport then the countryside venue would be no good. If possible, make sure guests can access your venue easily and research into possible options and routes.

Food & Drink

Venues may provide catering or they may not. Whatever the outcome, discuss a few things –

  • What type of food/drink do they offer? Does it come under the price or is it an extra charge?
  • Ask for sample menus – maybe organise a tasting session. Make sure the menu offers both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

Accommodation

Choose somewhere that can cater for everyone, not just a few people. If you’re event needs overnight accommodation, find out the following –

  • How much are they charging per room / per night?
  • Do they have the space for all your guests? If not, ask for an alternative near by.
  • Ask to view a few rooms – what are your first impressions? Do they offer en-suites, coffee and tea and towels? Would you feel comfortable staying there yourself?

Quality of Customer Service

When you visit your chosen venue, what is the overall customer service like?
From the initial phone call, to the visit itself and how they deal with you and others around you, there will be a clear indication of how they will treat you and your event.

  • Are they attentive and have good product knowledge or are they somewhere else and give you little to no useful information?
  • Can they identify problems and sort things out quickly or do they time waste?
  • How do they approach you? What manner do they talk to you with? Are they interested in your event? How do they respond to your questions?

 

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Here’s To 2013!

We thought we would create a little video to welcome you into the New Year (it is still January so we’re allowed 🙂 ). We hope you like!

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Top Venues’ Top Tips for Event Planning

Here are a few of Top Venues’ top tips for event planning and providing your delegates with information based on events within large towns and cities (some of these tips will also work for smaller towns too):

#1.    Prior to your event, send your delegates location guides so they have the opportunity to understand where they are going and get the most out of their stay.

#2.    Work with Blue Badge Guides in the city to give your attendees a local’s insight into where to find the city’s hidden gems. Blue Badge Guides will have knowledge about the city that sometimes even locals don’t know and it’s great to have that opportunity to learn some history of the city.

#3.    Check out if the city has an event schedule and plan the conference around one of the free events, providing free downtime activities for delegates.

#4.    Make use of unusual venues. Book your next conference in a sport stadium, converted Church or somewhere else equally unusual.

#5.    Try to avoid peak times in order to keep cost down. If you can be flexible, ask the venue when they have more availability and therefore lower costs.

#6.    Take advantage of the free museums and galleries in the area. Delegates can see some amazing works of art without costing them anything.

#7.    Be creative! Think of offering something different for your refreshment breaks. Try a macaroons stall or curry stand or look at what’s local to where you are.

#8.    Find local knowledge. Contact the local council and find out what’s going on in the area. Speak to your agent and get them give you information on the location of your event and details of what else is available to you.

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No matter what size your event is, we can take the pressure off you by sourcing, negotiating and making the arrangements, allowing you to spend your time on more important issues.

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"Thanks for all of your help - you really made the difference for me because of a) the time it saved me hunting around and negotiating rates, and b) getting such a good rate."

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