experience

The Cambridge Experience

A few weeks ago Laura took a trip to beautiful Cambridge for a couple of days of looking at the university buildings event spaces, feeling like you’re in Harry Potter and reliving your student days. Here’s what she got up to at The Cambridge Experience…

 

On Thursday I took the train to London and then back out to Cambridge. After the four hour journey, I arrived at the Robinson College, which might I add is the nicest student accommodation I’ve ever been in; much nicer than the shabby Rusholme student flat I lived in. Cambridge University is split into colleges where the students live and study. This is something that took me a while to get my head around as it is such a unique university experience compared to all other universities in the UK. After being shown to my dorm for the night, I did a quick sprits of perfume and a speedy lipstick reapplication before making my way down into the college building for drinks and to meet the lovely Conference Cambridge team.

 

The Robinson College has just opened its new £5million conference and event space. We were lucky enough to have the chance to look around the amazing top of the range event spaces it has to offer. The Crausaz Wordsworth Building has a bright and functional foyer area that is joined onto the kitchens that can be shut off or opened up making this space perfect for drinks receptions and networking. The Plenary room is the largest space in the building and can hold 72 delegates in a cabaret style. This space overlooks an outdoor area that is perfect for outdoor breakout space in the summer months. Upstairs there are many syndicate rooms that all boast natural light and top end AV equipment. They can also seat up to 18 people cabaret.

 

After a look around all the fresh and impressive spaces Robinson College had to offer, we took a trip into Cambridge for a drink in a quintessentially British pub, I mean it would be rude not to take a look at the Cambridge nightlife. How else can we sell the city to our clients if we can’t give an all round view of everything the city has to offer?

 

The next day we started with breakfast and show around of the Møller Centre. The Møller Centre is a dedicated residential management and training centre with a lot to offer to potential clients. The venue has 23 meeting and event spaces the largest seating up to 140 delegates. My personal favourite area of The Møller Centre was the indoor but still outdoor garden that can be used by anybody visiting the venue.

 

Next up was a look around the Churchill College – another one of the colleges that students live at during term time. The Churchill College’s largest space can hold 420 people and the college can sleep 400. In terms of style, this college felt and looked a lot more traditional than the Robinson College, which was a lot more modern.

 

Now for the part I had been most looking forward to and dreading at the same time (balance isn’t my thing and I had visions of me falling out): punting down the River Cam. After a relaxing punt ride in the sun (and no falling into the river thankfully) we had a quick tour of the Kings College Chapel before heading for a delicious lunch in The Kings College itself. As the trip drew to a close we had a walking tour of Cambridge and a look around the Gonville & Caius College.

 

Cambridge is a beautiful city with some incredible buildings making it a great conference and event city. The city is small and compact and every corner you turn there is another beautiful building to greet you. Also, you feel like you are in Harry Potter, so what more do you need?

 

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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Notes from Down Under – Blogspot

So here at Top Venues, we thought you might like to get the opinions and stories of an event planner Down Under to compare to that of event life here in the UK.

We’d like to introduce you to Emily Dwyer, an event planner who’s just emigrated to Australia and has agreed to post a monthly blog right here on our blogspot for all you lovely readers. Over to Emily:

 

Notes from Down Under – Its beginning to (not) look a lot like Christmas.

 

Hello Top Venue Readers!

Most of you probably won’t know me but I am the writer of The Eventure. I am rather new to this blog writing business but I am enjoying it. If you read my about me page, you will discover that I recently made a life changing decision to move to Australia in pursuit of my Event Management dreams. The blog will document my journey into the events industry down under and how it differs from that in the UK. Join me here every month to see how I am getting on.

Firstly I would like to say a massive thanks to Top Venues for having me write for them and rant to all their readers along with my own.

My first piece to you this month is going to discuss how the lead up to Christmas here in Australia differs from that of the UK’s and particularly with the events industry. I hope you enjoy and feel free to email me any comments.

So, It is that time of year again when the nights start drawing in early, the frost starts to take over, madness starts in the shops and the decorations and bright lights start to appear, its Christmas of course, my favourite time of year! As we know all too well in the UK the build up starts earlier each year, unfortunate for those with young kids who have excited little youngsters for about 3 months but it is a particularly busy and exciting period for event organisers and venues across the globe.

Australian Christmas Tree - no different to ours!

 

From experience, I know that within the UK in particularly Christmas is an event managers and venues busiest time of year. We are a traditional country and like to go all out over the festive period. Venues get booked a year in advance, parties have to be booked months prior to the actual event and larger council run events take at least a year’s planning so overall a lot of thought goes into this holiday season.

Now hold that thought, I am going to paint a mental image for you, here I am in Melbourne in the first week of December basking in glorious sunshine (30 degrees worth I may add) with the main topic of conversation being about the summer holidays, not a Christmas tree in sight and not even a Christmas song played in any shop and not much advertised around the city or in venues for Christmas events. Now not only am I the biggest kid at Christmas but I love the buzz and atmosphere around the season and the vast amount of events that occur over this period. A time to be merry and thankful for great family and friends and the year gone by and a time to celebrate all that was in the past year.

It started to occur to me that the Aussie’s do it a little differently to us, as this is currently their summer period its difficult to engage in the christmas type events that are on offer to us in the UK such as ice skating, drinking mulled wine and keeping in warm in front of a log fire in a nice country pub. In Australia you can expect the type of events that take place in our summer such as outdoor music festivals, Open Air cinemas and street parties with not much emphasis placed on Christmas parties, Christmas themed markets and venues seeming to do very little marketing for Christmas parties and dining events. Events companies across Australia are not planning for Christmas events but for summer weddings and outdoor garden parties along with outdoor events within the music and sport arena.

Its not all bad though, I can only speak for Melbourne but the council here make a reasonably effort for the kids by decorating the town hall as a massive present, placing large toy soldiers at various points around the city and having a large gingerbread house where the kids can see santa. One of the biggest Christmas events to take place here in Melbourne is the revealing of the Christmas window displays at one of the department stores and the Christmas Decoration trail around the city but I have got to say it is nothing spectacular but then I am bias. It is just a very laid back approach over here and not a massive emphasis placed on the season but fear not, I will be bringing the Great British Christmas to the shores of Australia this year and be basking in all things christmasy, well as much as I can anyway but for now have a very Merry Christmas Great Britain and I guess i’ll get a shrimp on the barbi or something like that.

 

Read other blogs Emily has written about her experiences here: www.theeventure.wordpress.com

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