event

The Meetings Show 2016

This year’s meeting show took place from the 14th – 16th June 2016 at Olympia Exhibition Centre, London. Our girl Laura headed down for one night and one day for a busy but productive whirlwind 24 hours in London….
It all began on Tuesday 14th June. I hopped on a train to London at 5.04pm, arriving at 7.20pm I headed straight to check in at my hotel for the night, the Melia White House.  The Melia White House is beautiful and quite possibly has the best smelling lobby area ever! It was a vacation for my nose (my house tends to smell look cooking but not the nice kind, the kind when you are full and smell food and you just think ‘nope’. I’m not making myself sound great here am I?). Moving on, I checked in, collected an envelope with my pass and important details about the show from the concierge and then headed to my room. Okay, that sounds simple but funny story I’m a numpty and didn’t know how to use the lift (highly embarrassing). A kind man had to show me how to make the lift doors open. Heads up, you use the touch screen machine to the right of the first set of lifts, select what floor you want and then it tells you what lift to go to and it takes you there, it’s simple really once you know what you are doing or if you aren’t a numpty like myself. The Melia White House not only has 581 lovely rooms in eight categories it also has great event space. They have 10 meeting rooms and the largest can hold 150 delegates. Day Delegate Rates are between £60.00 – £70.00 for a full day meeting and include: 2 coffee breaks, 3-course buffet lunch in the restaurant, Wi-Fi, water, stationary, roll up screen and flipchart.

On Wednesday 15th June I woke up bright and early to get ready for a day at The Meetings Show. I headed down for breakfast which was lovely, checked out and boarded the coach that took us straight to Olympia for the show. I believe this is the first year that the event has taken place in the larger hall and it was a good and manageable size. Not too big, not too small.

Whilst at the show I had meetings with venues that we currently work with and found some new ones to start building strong and positive relationships with. One of the new venues I met was CentrEd at ExCel, London.

CentrEd (with a capital E, that was not a typo) is located at the Royal Victoria Dock in London. Although a bit further out than the sought after City area of London, CentrEd is easily accessible via public transport and heading out of The City has its benefits. For example, all 29 rooms have natural daylight and balconies with views of the beautiful Royal Victoria Dock. The rooms have flexible walls so the venue can create spaces for 20 delegates all the way up to spaces for 400 delegates. Plus you are only 20 minutes away from The City so should you need to get back there after it won’t take you long.

Next up is the Ibis London Earls Court Conference Centre or ILEC for short. This venue claims to be the most versatile space in West London and I can most definitely see why. The venue has an innovative modular space called The London Suite. This suite can then be partitioned and divided up to create smaller rooms. The whole hall can seat 1200 in a theatre style but then can be divided up so many ways that it can create as many as nine individual rooms. Not only can the venue cater for pretty much anything and everything they also have 504 bedrooms on site making it a great option for large conferences that also require bedrooms.

If you’re interested in any of the venues above or want to find out more on how we can help, get in touch!

You can email myself or the rest of the team at theteam@top-venues.co.uk or give us a ring on 0844 8709963. We look forward to hearing from you!

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A New Experience In London

New girl to the Top Venues team, Laura Maguire, tells us about her first real trip into London doing site visits:

Vine Tree Hotels & Venues promotes a collection of luxury, high quality venues in the UK and Europe so last week Top Venues took a trip to London to go and see four of these venues to help update our own venue knowledge and establish new working relationships to help our clients.

Merchant Taylors’ Hall

Firstly, this venue is stunning!

Located on Threadneedle Street and not far from Bank Tube Station, this venue is very easily accessible. The Merchant Taylors’ Hall has 9 spaces available for events. The largest space is the Great Hall that can hold up to 380 delegates. Looking down onto the Great Hall is The Kings Gallery that can hold up to 30 theatre style. Story has it that this room was made for a king who didn’t like to eat in front of people because he had a rather long tongue which caused him spit a bit when he ate. So he had this room made so he could still look into the Great Hall but eat alone. Across from The Kings Gallery is The Drawing Room, these two rooms can be easily used together. There is a stunning courtyard in the centre of the building allowing an easy flow around the venue. There is onsite catering and a head chef who is happy to cater in any style. The kitchen here is actually the oldest working kitchen in London. The venue treats every event enquiry on its own and creates a bespoke price package that fits in your requirements.


The Landmark London Hotel

Next up we took a taxi to The Landmark Hotel, which is by far the fanciest place I have ever been so far.

The Landmark has 11 event rooms, the largest holding up to 512 delegates theatre style. The Landmark Suites are perfect for small meetings but unfortunately they don’t have natural lighting, which could be a draw back. The hotel has around 300 bedrooms that can also be used for small meetings. It has 4 restaurants and bars for guests to dine at or relax with a drink or two. The Landmark is easily accessible as it is located opposite Marylebone rail and underground station. Although this is a beautiful 5* hotel personally I wouldn’t pick it for a stay as it’s not my style but for an event it is perfect.

 

Lord’s Cricket Ground

Lord’s Cricket Ground has a mix of very traditional event spaces and modern space. The Pavilion is very traditional and has a strict dress code of suit trousers and jacket, which is not negotiable. Across the pitch from the Pavilion you find the Media Suite that can seat 75 delegates. This space is very modern and would be perfect for events where there is a trainer teaching the delegates. Lord’s also has various spaces that can be used for conferences and meetings. However, there will be some disruption to when events can take place over the coming year due to the rebuild of The Warner Stand. The venue also has a museum on site, which is home to the world famous ashes. It’s an odd feeling when you are at Lord’s because you are in the middle of London and yet feel like you aren’t in a city at all.

 

The Arch

The Arch, my personal favourite of the 4 venues.

This venue is 7 townhouses converted into one hotel, which gives the hotel some lovely quirks. For example, there are hidden staircases to nowhere and if you look down the corridor through the houses, it’s not straight because of when it used to be separate houses and all the rooms are different shapes and sizes. Another reason I fell in love with The Arch, besides it’s beautiful rooms, suites and bar/ restaurant area is the hotel is opposite Madonna’s house. This sent me into a bit of Madonna frenzy that resulted in me taking multiple photos of her house (I can assure you I’m not a stalker!). The hotel has a few beautiful areas for events, including the quirky and luxurious Martini Library. This space can hold 14 in a boardroom for meetings or is perfect for welcome drinks and/ or a sit down meal. Everything about The Arch has been carefully thought about by the owner. He has taken all the things he dislikes from his experiences of staying at hotels around the world and done something so that his hotel doesn’t have that. For instance, apparently he hates the little cartons of milk you get in most hotels as part of the tea/coffee offering in the rooms and instead has a small bottle of fresh milk in the mini fridge for guests to use.

 

Whilst only being in London for only a day I can certainly say it’s been a great experience and opened my eyes to venues I wasn’t aware of and can use moving forward for our clients. Being able to view them first hand makes it much easier to understand what the venues can offer in real terms and realistically explain to our clients details on why they work for their events if they fit the bill.

If you’re interested in any of the venues above or want to find out more on how we can help, get in touch! You can email myself or the rest of the team at theteam@top-venues.co.uk or give us a ring on 0844 8709963. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Lucas on the point of The Customer Is Always Right

The customer is always right.

We all heard it, especially in the hospitality industry, where there are no “Nos” and the guests are by far closest to being self-proclaimed gods (outside of banking obviously). All knowing. Always having an opinion, and even more, since it is their own opinion it has to be right. If they decide to have two opinions these are both right too. It takes a lot of guts and truly a Machiavellic style of conduct to persuade a strongly opinionated guest in any way; something like explaining to a four year old child it is ok to be Spiderman, but without actually swinging from skyscrapers or the sofa. Another good comparison of explaining to the client they are actually wrong would be an ancient, Roman advisor to emperor Nero, known for his love of art, music, good food and burning down the Rome because it smelled. The advisor explained that in order to convince the Caesar, one must always squeeze a massive and clearly visible compliment into a very small and superficial “no”, obviously handing over the whole decision making power to the emperor/guest. Insulting a sensitive soul of the emperor was usually rewarded by a visit from Praetorian Guards, equalling to a death sentence.

We live in a very tolerant, accepting and forgiving society, everyone is sensitive, everyone can be offended by someone else celebrating a holiday (tut, tut). Cutting through three lanes without indicating at eighty miles per hour can be seen as creative and Barraco is the president of the world. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Everyone can express it via social media while review websites terrorise and terrify hoteliers and restaurateurs to the point where they would rather offer a complimentary Kobe beef steak than deal with an online troll who cannot be touched, criticised, reasoned with, and as per statistics is going to let all other trolls know about “poor experience”.

The list of complaints we discussed with a venue recently only reinforces the feeling that little has changed since Roman times.
We include the list of the most interesting “issues” below.

  • We could not take the guest’s bags to the bedroom straight away – We did take the bags but the guest had to wait a few minutes.
  • The guest found a hair on the bed – we changed all the linen. Then the guest found another one, so we changed it again. We think it could have been guest’s own hair, but obviously could not prove either way.
  • We had to change the clock in the meeting room to a less reflective one.
  • The flipchart was too tall, so we swapped it.
  • The guest had to go outside to get to the restaurant, but it is still within the same complex.
  • The guest complained that the teabags were unhygienic as they were not individually wrapped. We sourced an alternative.
  • The hot water was too hot.

All these terrifying, horrible and life threatening issues happened during a one day booking for approximately 10 people. Instead of the course contents, the attendees have watched in horror how the organiser’s emotions jumped up and down, finishing with an audible and distinct rant at the management about the venue quality, service etc etc. Obviously, since the training was interrupted by some 7-8 extra breaks when the organiser had to go and release the boiling abundance of neurotransmitters in a bottleneck between amygdala and prefrontal cortex (anger management and emotions controlling parts of the human brain) in a form of half-coherent sentences thrown at random members of staff; there wasn’t that much material covered during the day and the self-fulfilling prophecy fulfilled itself – it was a disaster.

The final of the story was classic, the organiser demanded a full refund and got it. The interesting part was, we knew this venue for its consistency, good, stable standards as well as financial awareness and flexibility. The more interesting part was, that we listened to this client’s rant about the venue (obviously omitting the above bullet points and using general expressions) being so bad, we actually questioned our own knowledge and experience. The best part however was…the client ranting about us, to us, and trying to extort us. This happened after the client completely ignored ALL communication from us, including dates, rates, rooms, locations; literally, if there was any detail vital to holding a meeting/seminar/conference, it was entirely ignored and replaced with the client’s own interpretation. It sounded like this:

TV: we have proposed rates of £38, £45 and £47.
Client: No, I want £40 everywhere.
TV: Yes, but in that location these were the best we could achieve, they are very, very competitive for Central London (!?!)
Client: I didn’t see them.
TV: Right, I believe we have discussed these on the telephone, prior to visiting the venues
Client: Yes, but I want them to be £40, your proposal was very unclear, you should improve your system
TV: How would you improve our system ?
Client: Make sure that individual prices are clear and visible, not only the totals. I was misled to believe the rates were £40 everywhere, I only looked at the totals. (the brief was for 20 people, ideally at £40.00 per person per day)
TV: OK, so the totals were not £800.00 each ?
Client: I don’t know, I don’t have time for checking these and scrolling through all the paperwork, you should improve your system and your proposals (just FYI the proposal is usually 4x A4 pages PDF document, with venue options, pictures, itemised and explained individual prices and totals on the bottom in a separate box)
TV: I thought we have discussed these rates on the telephone and you said they were steep, but doable, obviously you have visited all three venues ?
Client: Yes, but I thought they were all £40, because I only looked at totals, your system doesn’t work, I don’t have time to be looking for information !
TV: OK, these rates are already reduced, I don’t think the venues will be able to do anything else.
Client: Can you tell them I would be paying by debit card on the day ? Surely that should help ?
TV (in their mind only, wishing they have not given up smoking some time ago as it would be a great moment to start): Did you know that a new-born baby giraffe travels about six feet to arrive on the ground ? What are your thoughts on the Middle East process ? Do you think there is a possibility for discovering silicone and not carbon based living organisms in outer space ?….
Client: Unfortunately I will not be able to work with you.
TV: Sorry to hear that…

We have terminated all arrangements with this client, which is unusual for a small company, but the valuable lesson we have learned (again) was – if it sounds impossible, it might actually be impossible to work with someone.

Value your time; you will never get back the energy and nerves. Extra work will cost your company more than the actual revenue achieved. Most importantly, have no doubts, you are not creating a healthy client/business relationship, you are creating complaints, whether you like it or not.

All the best and good luck to all sales people.

Category : Blog & Uncategorized
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Why Me?!

Here’s the latest Blogspot from our lovely blogger, Holly Brailsford, all about how to embrace being given the task of sourcing and organising any event….

 

So… since you’d been chosen to plan the office Christmas get-together which was a huge success you’ve drawn the short straw to book an off-site 2 day meeting for all of your senior management or… “bestowed” the honour of organising and running the company’s annual conference!

Inside you whisper… Why me??

When this planning malarkey isn’t part of your main job role, and you’ve never organised anything larger than a dinner for 30 at your local pub for your Christmas Do’, where on earth do you start!?

The whisper of “Why me!” has now grown to a scream!

First of all, there is a reason you have been given the job of planning, implementing and heading up such an important date/s in your company’s calendar so “hurrah” is really what you should be thinking.

How many people will be attending? Find out will the event be compulsory, invite only or do your delegates sign up to attend? You’ll need an idea of minimum and maximum numbers you expect, as well as an idea of room layout. If you’re unsure what would work best, the venue will be able to advise you.

Location of this event is your first point of call, find out what is important to the big bosses. Who is attending and where are they coming from? Do they have a preferred location, such as near Head Office or a flagship site. This will help you narrow down your venue search.

Are they looking for the buzz of a city centre that is easy to access by everyone attending by car, rail or plane, or the peace of the countryside with free parking in abundance? Do they want your attendees to go free into the city in an evening to explore, or keep them in all in one venue for networking and relationship building?

Do you need to think about being near an airport to accommodate your international guests? If so, there are now almost micro-cities on the doorstep of major air links so you can literally watch the planes take off during your event which can add a really quirky edge to the day.

Budget – What do they want to spend on this shindig and how much will be included for the each person attending? Are delegates paying to attend or is this one “on the house?”

Once you know the answers to these questions you’re on the right track to start looking at potential venues.

A Conference & Events Agency is always a great help when venue searching, they will have a list of varied and preferred suppliers at their finger-tips ready and eager to accept your new enquiry. You can also go one step further and choose an agency that can assist in the planning and logistical side of your conference.

Just like buying a new car or house, you’ll know which venue is right when you get there. You’ll get “that feeling” that the atmosphere and staff will create, if you can picture yourself behind their registration desk ticking off names and see your delegates eating their lunch then this is the venue for you. However… You need to look with your head as well as your heart.

  • How easy is it to get from the main plenary room to your break-outs?
    Are your break-out rooms split up over different floors?
    How good is their signage and can you provide additional?
    Do you need the venue to be DDA compliant?
  • Where is lunch & is there room for an exhibition if needed?
    Do you require seating for lunch?
    Will your delegates be queuing for lunch if you’re planning a buffet?
    Is the buffet self-service or will staff be on hand to assist?
  • What is the standard of the food & can you try some?
    Do you need a bespoke or themed menu and is there an extra charge for this?
    Listen to the venues recommendations regarding food and how to fuel your delegates.
  • Is there WIFI for everyone?
    Is the internet key to your event for streaming or video link? Find out the bandwidths  and do some testing if you can.
  • Are you able to provide pop-up banners, uniformed staff and “brand up” as much as you like?
    This will help create the delegate journey, from arrival they’ll  be seeing your logos and company colours making them feel at ease straight away.

The list of questions is endless and this is where your C&E Coordinator at the venue will help and so will your chosen agency. So don’t feel like a rabbit in head lights, it’ll all come together!

Also listen to your Coordinator at the venue too, they know the building and how to make it work best for you. Their advice will come from experience and if you’re ever unsure you can ask for past examples of how something worked or didn’t work for a previous client.

When it comes to signing the contract for your venue, make sure you read all of the terms and conditions. They can differ from venue to venue so ensure you’re fully aware of all the minimum number charges, cancelation policy should you need it and any other important points they may have failed to mention on confirmation.

The most important part of planning any event is to enjoy it!

As long as your open with your communication, ask questions when needed and you’re organised it will all go swimmingly and you’ll feel an immense sense of achievement when it all comes together.

Event planning isn’t for everyone, but anyone can do it.

 

About the Author

Holly Brailsford is Sales Manager at The Midland Hotel 

Category : Blog
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Blogspot: New Year, New Event: Better Late Than Never!

Ok lovely blog readers, this one’s a bit late, but rather late than never right??
So here’s what our lovely friend, Holly Brailsford had to say about new years and events….

 

Now that 2014 is in full swing, everyone can start to plan their yearly event calendar, whether big or small. Some may even begin thinking about what might be coming up for 2015 and after. Post-Its and note-pads are covering desks up and down the country, as cups of tea and coffee are drunk whilst ideas are thrown back and forth. What a wonderful time of year!

Year on year we see the same events and conferences hit our doors, it’s fantastic to have the repeat business and we love seeing a familiar face. What is even greater is when the event gets better and better, we love nothing more than an enthusiastic organiser! Numbers rise, delegates are more excited to attend and the whole experience becomes more well-rounded for all. What are these organisers doing differently? Whether their field is medical, charity, financial etc, they keep people attending time after time and keep them engaged with the topic.

One of the key points is changing with the times, it sounds so simple but embracing the new can make a huge difference to the delegate experience. We have events now that can stream internationally so delegates and companies whose budgets have been cut can login and watch from afar, keeping the interest going for those who can’t attend in person. It’s also a great way for those people who do attend, but miss a key speaker, to login afterwards and watch their talk at a later date.

Twitter and hashtag-ing is becoming more and more popular and powerful, giving your event its own hashtag is a brilliant way of drawing in a younger and more tech savvy audience and also broadening your reach across social networking. Your hashtag can be included on promotional material prior to the event, to create a buzz before you’ve even arrived. It can be printed on banners, hand-outs and event t-shirts to push the message that you want your delegates to interact! If you want to go one step further you can include a live news-feed during your conference.

We see very formal events, who sometimes are dealing with incredibly difficult or troubling topics lighten the mood with brightly coloured welcome packs, banners and matching t-shirts and hoodies for staff. This is a great way of taking the edge of a conference which could otherwise be very emotionally draining.

As you head into 2014 and think about a new event you plan to hold, something totally new for you and your company think about “you” as the delegate. What will make you excited to attend, what will make you comfortable throughout and most importantly… what will make you want to come back for the 2nd year it’s held. There is nothing more valuable than constructive feedback and opinions of others who attend events regularly. Ask them what made a particular event stand out for them, you’ll probably be surprised by the answer!

If you’re gearing up for your annual event… what can you shake up to cause more interest and a buzz! If you’re bored of planning the conference, the chances are your delegates are bored of attending. What would make it fun for you, even when covering the darkest of subjects? How can you engage and interact with the attendees more effectively and what do they need to take away with them at the end.

Large events are also fabulous networking opportunities across companies or within larger frame-works of people who only see each other a few times a year. Sharing best-practice between colleagues and peers during these times is something to consider as well, giving your delegates enough down-time to work the room.

2014 is going to be about experimenting and trying something new, and sometimes a little out of the norm. But, who says the norm has to be dull…. Throw in some colour and a sense of humour and even the heaviest of subjects can be met with a smile.

About the Author

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

Category : Blog
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Note from Down Under – Blogspot

Our lovely blogger Emily treats us to the next installment of her monthly blog….

Reality Strikes Back!

Can you believe yet another year has past?! Time flies when you are grown up and have a proper job.

Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year, it was rather an odd one here in Melbourne but me and my partner made the most of it and got into the spirit of things none the less. Anyway, onwards and upwards to the new year and a whole new year of events to look forward to. In true spirit of things, this months piece is going to delve into something we all know all too well, those dreaded January Blues.

Melbourne Skyline

It is an awful feeling, you have had some time off work, been eating and drinking till your hearts content, spending time with loved ones you only see once a year and just are full of Christmas cheer. The weather is miserable, cold and dark yet you still have Christmas to look forward to to push you through. January hits and its back to work, back to routine, diets begin to shed the Christmas pounds and you’re still filled with dark, cold days and nothing to look forward to right? It is not a great time of year, lets be honest, but it has rather a different feel down under where January isn’t all that bad.

We are currently just hitting summer here in Australia so this kind of takes the edge off the typical ‘January Blues’. While we are still all heading back to work after a nice long break. We are welcomed with warm sunny mornings, beautiful sunsets and soaring temperatures which is an instant mood boost, just being able to sit outside to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner helps. We can look forward to the weekend as while we all may be a little strapped for cash, here you can just make a picnic and hit the beach or visit one of Melbourne’s many beautiful parks which are home to open air cinemas during the summer period while back in the UK we end up being couped up inside avoiding the weather which leads to further frustration.

 

A Stroll Over The Sand Dunes

The end of January also hosts a public holiday for ‘Australia Day’ which is rather a big deal over here with events taking place in major cities all over the country. Events range from large fire work displays and street parties to twilight markets, beer and food festivals and array of family fun events, think St Patricks Day but on a bigger scale. Another major event of the Australian events calendar this month is the Australian Open Tennis which people look forward to year round and book tickets well in advance to ensure they have the best court side seats where they can sip Pimms and eat strawberries and not have to worry about running for cover (an all to favourite past time at Wimbledon). A lot of planning an management goes into this event as expected and like Wimbledon it is that of a continuous success, my aim is to try and get involved some way this year, what an event to be a part of. The arena itself is set along the river and is rather prestigious to say the least, again the courts will be graced with some of the worlds best but who will win the trophy.

The summer event season is just kicking off and let me tell you, it looks to be a cracking year for events in Melbourne alone and I for one am stuck for choice on what to attend and get involved with, a slight change to what I would usually be doing at this time of year in the UK, so if you want to banish those January Blues I suggest you enjoy a nice wintry Christmas in the UK and then get yourself on the next plane and soak up some of this sun, there is plenty to go around thats for sure.

 

Emily Dwyer is an event manager originally from the UK that’s just emigrated to Australia with her partner. Emily regularly writes blog of her experiences in the event industry and has a monthly blogspot here on the Top Venues website amongst writing her own. You can read other blogs Emily has written about her experiences here: www.theeventure.wordpress.com

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Blogspot: Making an Event ‘Exceptional’

Ok people, here it is, our next blogspot. You may think we’ve already covered Making an Exceptional Event. However, this time we’re looking at it from a different angle…and looking at making an Event Exceptional! Happy reading….

Guest Blogger: Jilly Jones

Exceptional events happen because of the people involved. Right from the initial enquiry, it is vital to establish the event objective and to ensure that the venue can deliver and is the right ‘fit’. To be ‘mis sold’ to at this stage by an over eager events manager that may mistakenly believe that their venue and staff can supply what they want will end in disaster. For example hosting a corporate conference with a serious business element in a ‘family friendly’ leisure environment during school holidays may well have an adverse effect on the success of the conference.
Tools such as ‘Trip Advisor’ and ‘VenueVerdict’ help event organiser to properly research the venue and identify any particular strengths or weaknesses which may be addressed. Investigate any awards that the venue may hold, to identify the strengths of the venue and how this in turn may benefit the event. Awards such as Gold Standard in the Green business tourism scheme will contribute to assessing the carbon footprint of your event. Likewise venues holding awards for customer service will leave your delegates delighted.

 

From this stage on it’s up to the events manager and the client working together to ensure the success of any project. The planning is an integral part of the process. Objectives must be clear and understood by all of the parties involved.

A degree of marketing strategy in the planning process ensures that the audience (whether that be your internal or external customer) is considered fully and will be communicated to in the way in which is convenient. For example, to send out hard copy invitations and information to any delegates that may be field-based will end in catastrophe! Effective communication must exist not only prior to your event, but also during and post event to continually evaluate the event objective. ‘Goody bags’ remain a very popular part of the event: your delegates leave with a ‘momento’ and this can be a great way of ensuring that further branded material and follow up information is distributed.

Creativite and innovative ideas that will engage your audience and keep them talking about the event long after they return to the office benefit the longevity of any event. Keep things simple by inviting external professionals who can deliver those special touches such as facilitation and entertainment. This adds value and rewards delegates who have committed the time and energy to attend.

About the Author

Jilly Jones is Business Development Manager for Farncombe Conference Centre and Dormy House

on the Farncombe Estate and in her words ‘One of the most beautiful estates in the Cotswolds.’

 

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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.

Category : Blog
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A Little Bit of Christmas Cheer

Ok, ok, so we’re supposed to be into the height of the summer months…and as I look out of the window to the rain, I have to say I’m not particularly feeling it.

What I am hearing is the call for Christmas events. Yup. You heard right. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. There. I said it.

It doesn’t feel too long ago when I was discussing Christmas events last year on the blog but time does seem to fly and it’s important that you think about these things before they creep up on you and it’s too late.

For those of you thinking “You’ve got to be serious – Christmas thoughts in July” – well I forgive you. It does sound a bit ludicrous and almost feels like we’re wishing the year away.

I can assure you we’re not.

We’ve been receiving Christmas brochures in the office since the last Christmas party finished in January! I kid you not.

We’ve also been receiving Christmas party enquiries since February. I kid you not again.

While Christmas parties have changed somewhat over the last few years (namely down to a certain something happening with the economy – ssshh!) it’s still important to make your staff or work colleagues feel a bit of love from the office. While not everyone has the luxury of spending lots of money to reward staff throughout the year, it’s important that staff morale is kept high in order to keep the work flow going.

Royal Courts of Justice, London

So why not spend a little bit of money, put a bit of thought into the gathering and you’ll probably get a happier member of staff that wants to continue working hard so they can do it all again next year. It doesn’t need to be expensive to make someone feel special.

Prices range from £25.00 per head up to £150.00 per head depending on whether you want an all inclusive, drinks, food, theme and everything or just a meal. The average price for a party package in London for instance will cost between £50 – 80 per head whereas in Manchester you’re looking at more £30 – 50 per head. Obviously the price goes up or down depending on venue, date and what’s included.

If you really don’t have a budget for an external event, have it in the office. It’s not completely wrong to be sat at your desk with a glass of wine in hand – is it?!?

Alternatively, head to a local pub or restaurant and have a meal.

For those wanting to make it a little bit more formal or more of a party, there really is something for everyone. Think about joiner parties. If you don’t have a large group to accommodate, lots of venues offer joiner-parties where you can (as it says) Join A Party. Costs per head are lower and you still get the theming, entertainment and meal with novelties.

Alternatively, for something a bit more lavish, consider having a theme created just for you – while a bit more expensive, it will be exclusive and you can have it tailored to suit your needs.

Of course, there’s still the top venues that offer a themed private party and these can be fabulous and cost less than if you were to devise and dress a venue in your own theme. You could try somewhere like the Great Hall at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for a more formal event. Or the Bloomsbury Ballroom, again in London. Alternatively, somewhere like the National Football Museum in Manchester may be more your style.

National Football Museum, Manchester

In all honesty, most venues will offer you different packages for different prices depending on what date and day of the week you want to hold it. The options are endless…with more and more venues making a bit more of an effort to draw in business, you can expect good rates, more for your money and more exciting ideas.

 

But I warn those of you with large groups – you need to be booking now. Dates are filling up for private parties and once they’re gone, they’re truly gone, leaving you with limited options.

So go ahead…have a look around and see what you can find for your Christmas party.

Or, if you really don’t have the time, let us know and we can do it all for you – big or small we’re here to help!

Merry Christmas Everyone! 🙂

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Top Ten Tips For Planning An Outdoor Event

Top Ten Tips : Planning an outdoor event….need I say more??
Just a few ideas on things you need to consider when booking and planning an outdoor event.

1. Budget – accommodate for extra equipment if needed e.g. marquees, heaters.
2. Venue – choose an outdoor venue that will suit your event! (this may include a wet weather contingency)
3. Weather – monitor the weather to see if you’ll have to make some last minute changes!
4. Power – in a remote area, how are you going to power your event?
5. Layout – create a sketch of the venue to denote where you want everything to be.
6. Logistics – think beyond the event schedule itself!
7. Communication – walkie-talkies are a great way to stay in touch!
8. Pest control – cover food and keep bugs out by using sugary water.
9. Toilets – make sure facilities are easily accessible.
10. Clean up – make sure the area you use is left how you found it!

If you would like more detail on how to plan an outdoor event, check out or previous blog:  Summer Outdoor Events

Alternatively, if you would like some help planning your own outdoor event and don’t want the hassle of having to think about it yourself, get in touch with us at here and we’ll happily do it for you.

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Summer Outdoor Events

We’re now nearly into July, which means the start of the summer events season is already upon us!

Cannon Bridge Roof Garden

Festival season is on our doorstep with Glastonbury this weekend and other festivals already having happened, as well as the start of some of the great outdoor events that are happening in London this year, such as Brick Lane Comedy Festival. So what’s stopping you from taking your event outdoors?

The weather is too unpredictable and it’s too risky!

The weather plays a massive part in an outdoor event and living in the UK means you’re subject to unpredictable weather. Waterlogged grounds, flooding and heavy winds can cause difficulties in the preparation and breakdown of an event, as well as the implications it has to the event itself. There are ways however to make the blow of bad weather a little softer. It is very important to prioritise weather contingency into planning, so why not create a Weather Action Plan? By looking at possible weather conditions for the day(s) of event and creating an action plan for any last minute changes, you can follow it simply and effectively without running into any trouble on the day(s)!

An indoor venue seems a better option!

Holding an event outdoors can give a different feel and dimension to an event, and there are plenty of outdoor venues around the UK and further afield which can be explored! The range of outdoor venues available are from countryside gardens and fields to inner city rooftops. Hilton London Wembley is a particular favourite for city people looking to hold their event outside. On the 9th floor is SkyBar-9 which features an open-air terrace overlooking Wembley Stadium. If you’re willing to travel for your event, why not head over to Slane Castle in Ireland? The venue is popular for large and small outdoor events, with the choice of hiring the castle grounds for a small gathering or the 100,000 seated natural amphitheatre for much larger gatherings!

I don’t know what kind of catering will be suitable!

Picnic by the lake at Blenheim Palace

You may not know, but there are restrictions on the kind of food you can serve at an outdoor event. Especially during the summer when it can be humid, it is wise to look up on the hazards that certain foods can provide.. And don’t forget about insects! Food is the main attraction for pests, but with a bit of planning they are easy to tackle. Place some bowls containing sugary water in different locations of the event to keep insects at bay. If you don’t want to disrupt the elegance of an event, instead use decorative mesh lids to cover platters.

 

If you thought having an outdoor event would be challenging, you were right. However, it can easily be planned and enjoyable if correctly prepared beforehand! By having a detailed back up plan, it’s like having a safety net underneath you, and it can easily be followed and executed if anything was to go wrong at your outdoor event. Take the plunge and organise your event outdoors!

Happy Planning! 🙂

P.S If you need any help give us a call on 0844 8709963 or email us at help@top-venues.co.uk and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.

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New unique venue to open in London!

Exploring London Underground’s ‘ghost’ stations have been very limited to just a few small tours each year. However, this is about to change as The Old London Underground Company’s founder Ajit Chambers has been given permission to open up a number of the  abandoned stations as tourist attractions and venues.

The first project being undertaken is at Down Street station, 80 years after it was closed to passengers. During the Second World War, the station was used as an underground bunker for Winston Churchill and his war cabinet. The plan is to bring back that moment in the stations history in an interactive exhibit open to all.

Another station Ajit is looking to reopen is Brompton Road, who already has plans approved to transform the station from an antique Underground to a thriving tourist attraction, including a climbing wall and a rooftop restaurant.

Not only are these two stations being bought back to live, Ajit has proposed he open a further 26, so keep your eyes peeled for these unusual new venues!

London Underground Abandonded Stations

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