venue

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.

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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 Makes An Exceptional Event?

Guest Blogger: Steve Jarvis

Everyone wants their next event to be remembered for all the right reasons. In my opinion there are three distinct elements which make an event exceptional rather than simply a good event. If any of these three elements aren’t just right you can struggle for the event to run smoothly.

Choosing the right event with the right elements

It is impossible to have an exceptional event if you don’t first take care to make sure you have chosen the right event.  The very first question you should ask yourself when planning any event is what you want to achieve from the event. This might be a simple answer of we just want to have fun or it might be more complex that you are looking to hold a conference tied in with some team building which is focused on improving communication. Either way you need to know the event’s objectives before proceeding much further.

The second part of choosing the right event is making sure the event doesn’t exclude anyone. You might love running through a muddy obstacle course but the chances are some of those taking part wont and some may be unable to take part. If there is food being provided you need to take care not to exclude anyone there either. So if you want your event to be exceptional make sure you take care when selecting the events and any related elements.

Choosing the right venue

It is vital to any successful event let alone an exceptional one to make sure you choose the right venue which has the best facilities available for your budget. There can sometimes be a bewildering array of venues to choose from for your event. The scope of choice for your event will largely depend on how you answered the question in the section above.

At busy times of year the choice may be limited by other bookings which have already been booked in. To give yourself the very best choice you should try and give as much time as possible to find the right venue. It’s also worth contacting a professional venue finding service to help you see the full range of venues you have available and which would be best suited to your event. You can often find they may get a preferential rate as they book many events each year and also save you money.

Having the right people

Probably the most important of these three elements is making sure you have the right people involved in the event. If you are holding a conference you may be limited to the speakers you can use. If you are holding a team building event it is important to make sure the instructors are fully trained so you gain as much as possible out of the activities. Just like with finding the best venue it’s often wise to employ event professionals to help make your event exceptional.

Summary

So to summarise these three elements can largely be combined into making sure you plan the event properly. If the event is properly planned in detail and has the right type of events in the right location with the right people you have all of the ingredients of an exceptional event. It is important however to make sure you get as much detailed feedback from the event as possible before you can really say how good the event was.  Part of any planning process must be to plan for potential problems including things like the weather in the case of hot sunny days suddenly changing to thundery weather as it has done this week.

About the Author

Steve Jarvis work’s for Demon Wheelers who are a Sheffield based corporate events and team building company who travel throughout the UK hosting events for clients. Steve has worked in a variety of industries in teams of all shapes and sizes over a career which spans over 15 years.

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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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Event Management of Fieri’s Frontline Event

Fieri - Frontline Event

A couple of weeks ago saw Top Venues & Events undertake the running of an event called Frontline – An evening of inspiration. The event saw five men injured during their time spent in the army give motivational talks to a room full of people with the view to inspire them to be the best that they could be. Part of the money made from the event went towards the charity Walking with the Wounded but the main reason for the event was to help the injured war heroes market themselves as professional speakers and provide them with a means of living in the future.

We faced a number of challenging issues from the moment we decided to take on the organisation of the event right down till the evening of the event itself. The initial problems were largely due to the fact that this was the first time the client had done an event such as this, up until now the whole thing had just been an idea and so there was a lot riding on it going well. Having never done the event before the client didn’t know how many people were likely to attend but they had already booked the event space and chosen The Point at Old Trafford cricket ground.

In the weeks leading up to the event we had numerous meetings with the clients in order to successfully establish how they wanted the event to run. We were sent signage by them which we in turn edited and finalised and we also helped out with the marketing of the event specifically the social media aspects.

Top Events - Event Management

Thus is the nature of venues we discovered the week before that there was another event being held in that room on the same day and so we had to be moved to another room, it also meant we would only have access from a couple of hours before the event was due to start and this meant an all hands on deck approach to the preparation. In the days leading up to the event we prepared everything from floor plans to running orders to receipts and it all began to come together nicely.

On the evening of the event we welcomed the guest speakers, went through what would be happening and explained how the night would be planning out. We liaised with all the volunteers as well as our own staff and the venue staff such as the sound engineers and the caterers in order to ensure that everybody knew what they should be doing. We successfully set up the venue space in the short time we had before the doors opened and got ready for the arrival of the first guests. Over the next hour the guests arrived where they were greeted at the reception, checked in and directed to the bar where they could purchase a drink before the first speaker began. The event ran smoothly from start to finish, everything from the videos of the men in action during wartime to clips of them at the top of a mountain or flying round a velodrome. The night ended at around 11pm after a Q&A session with all five of the speakers on stage at the same time and by this point it’s safe to say that all 200 people in the room were unbelievably inspired.

The event was a complete success especially when you take into consideration that the whole thing was done with only a month’s worth of planning.  You could tell just by looking around that everybody from sponsors to guest speakers were ecstatic with how it had gone, we received this message from the client a few days after the event:

You have all been absolute stars, we cannot thank you enough for your commitment and exceptional organisational prowess. We hope to work with you again in the future.

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A Visit to the Countryside

Today we visited a venue called Cottons, a 4 star hotel located in Knutsford, Cheshire, and part of the Shire Hotel group which have properties spread across the UK.

Cottons Hotel Bedroom

Cottons is a perfect example of why choosing a venue outside of the city centre can often be the correct decision. The hotel is located close enough to Manchester, Chester and Liverpool to make an ideal day out whilst also having its own local attractions and acres of beautiful countryside to enjoy.

The shire group work on a three year plan which involves renovating and improving aspects of their hotels every three years, the main conference suite at Cottons underwent a complete renovation a couple of years ago, part of the restaurant is due to be done this year and the bedrooms will follow. There are three types of bedrooms, executive room, suites and family and each comes with complimentary water, fresh tea and coffee as well as free Wi-Fi Internet access.

Cottons prides itself on these thoughtful little touches and that mentality can be seen throughout the hotel with friendly and helpful staff on hand to help be it in the restaurant, bar & lounge or the 24 hour reception and room service. The hotel also boasts a beautiful spa which offers a range of treatments for male and female visitors as well as complimentary access to the pool, full equipped gym and even any gym classes that should catch your eye.

The hotel is a perfect destination for business as well as pleasure with 16 meeting rooms varying in size, the largest of which holding up to 220 delegates, and each boasting state of the art conference equipment and a dedicated conference team.

So if you’re wanting to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city and try something a little more peaceful or different, have a look at those venues on the outskirts – or better still, give us a call and we can do it for you!

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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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Accor – from Ibis to Pullman Hotels

I was recently at an event called the ‘World of Accor Expo’ in London which was a showcase from the Accor Hotel Chain of a number of their world-wide hotels. Whilst there I was asked by someone from C&IT Magazine whether Hotels/Chains were doing enough to entice and promote their hotels to agents (that’s me). My response to that was that some are and some aren’t. Whilst this wasn’t really an answer I did go on to explain that while times are much tougher than ever before for business (from both client and agents’ perspective) it was more important now than ever before to keep clients interested and in the know about hotels, be it a chain or an independent, and while the bigger chains have bigger marketing budgets it was just as important for smaller independent venues to keep working with clients and getting out to see potential new clients to show them what they can offer. However, of the larger hotel chains, one brand that is promoting themselves well, is that of Accor. With the hotel brand changing and increasing in size quite rapidly, they need to make their clients, and potential clients, aware of what they have to offer.

Accor Expo Exhibition Stands

In the last two months, I’ve attended a more low-key UK-based event (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed) where I sampled their Mercure brand and now the World of Accor Expo where I have been able to sample both the Ibis and Pullman brands. In between all that, I’ve been regularly updated on the new venues coming on board and those currently going through a refurbishment.

Accor is a French brand and you notice a French feel throughout each of the brands, although it may be quite subtle, from staff to literature to just the colours and style. The company are very proud of the fact that they are French and I think this is great that they’re keen to make people understand the history behind the group.

At the World of Accor Expo, it was apparent as to how much they love their hotels by the fact that five of the six Parisian hotels are all undergoing major refurbishments over the next year to keep the hotels up to standard.

The Pullman London, the newest addition to the Pullman part of the chain has undergone a major refurbishment. Formerly a Novotel (another of the Accor brands) it boasts a tiered theatre to hold 446 along with other meeting spaces. Within 2 minutes’ walking distance to both Euston Station and St Pancras Stations and directly next to British Library it’s ideally placed and while it’s not the prettiest building on the outside, from the inside, it offers imagination and a quirkiness that you just can’t help but love.

Even the lower budget hotels (Ibis) have undergone a rebrand and facelift. Having stayed in an Ibis hotel and attended the event at a Pullman hotel it was clear to see that all brands, from budget to more luxurious, are clean and spacious with friendly staff and a modern and up-to-date feel.

So while I’m all in favour of Accor Hotels and as a brand it offers something for everyone, I hope they continue to keep up the good work of keeping us informed as, with so many hotels and venues on offer for both business and leisure, it can be difficult to be seen and heard unless you shout!

 

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Center Parcs – Something a little bit different!

I decided it was about time I made the trip to Nottingham’s Center Parcs (the largest of the venues in the group) to see what all the fuss was about in relation to using the venue for events.

I’d been to the ‘village’ over ten years ago, purely on a leisure basis and I have to say, while I loved the place for leisure, I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work for business events.

In my head I had the picture of a large event space and facility that, by day, was a resting place for those families that wanted to get away from all of the activities on site, and by night, would turn into an event space similar to that of the cabaret acts you’d find at those well-known leisure seaside resorts we all know about.

How wrong was I!

I got to the ‘village’ (which is what the staff lovingly call the resort) early afternoon to be greeted by fake snow on the way in, lots of fairly lights in the trees and Santa’s reindeer on the roofs of the buildings dotted around the place. It reminded me of Christmas. In fact, it basically is set for Christmas which is fair enough considering we’re close enough to December.

My site inspection consisted of walking around all of the facilities, which actually didn’t take as long as I imagined it would, past real reindeer and Santa’s grotto through the ‘square’ (a street with all the food outlets) through the indoor leisure spaces including ten pin bowling, indoor badminton courts (that can double up as exhibition space or a large space for corporate dinners or awards ceremonies). I was then taken through ‘The Venue’ which is the private event space that is totally separate to any of the leisure space and consists of one extremely large floor space that can br subdivided into smaller rooms.

Center Parcs - Santa's Reindeer!

With its own bar and foyer area and located in an area that the general public don’t tend to frequent, this space is perfect for keeping the business, business and moving into the leisure side as and when you need or want to.

It’s location in the middle of woodland with its man-made lake (which looks as natural as any normal lake), beach and plenty of options for both food and activities provides the perfect option for a venue with a difference!

With easy access to the M1 motorway and fab new rates of £39.00 for a day delegate meeting rate (from Jan 2013) or from £79.00 to include 2 activities, it makes meetings more affordable and interesting.

Accommodation can be provided in the lodge facilities onsite, a little bit higher in price but then, you get a lot more for your money than staying in a standard (if there ever is such a thing) hotel.

So all in all, I was extremely impressed with the quality of the venue options and choices that you have for mixing a bit of business with pleasure. Consider it for your next meeting, if you’re travelling, as all of the sites have meeting facilities onsite and with a new location opening in 2013 near to Woburn Safari Park, it will provide options up and down the country.

(plus it’s well worth the visit, even if you only want to sample the spa facilities – something I’ll certainly be returning for!)

Happy Christmas from Centre Parcs! (and me)

 

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Dare I say It – Christmas Events (There, I said It!)

It’s that time of the year when clients have to start thinking about planning for their Christmas party events.

I know, we’re only just in September, I hear you cry. I too dislike having to think about Christmas as it feels like I’m wishing away the year.

Sadly, if you want to get a decent place for your Christmas gathering now is the time and, for some, is probably too late to get the venue they want.

Since July (well actually, I received my very first brochure back in January!!) I’ve been receiving Christmas brochures from venues wanting to show off their Christmas parties and I have to say some of them look and sound amazing!

It’s also been up to me to supply ideas to clients of what they can do for both their smaller and larger Christmas gatherings. From finding small and intimate places for dinner with a difference to large marquees and extravagant themes.

I recently went to the Hard Rock Café Manchester who hosted a Christmas taster event where the venue went all out to show you what they can do for your Christmas event. I could go so far to say they really over did it (there were live reindeer and even a Santa on his sleigh!) but I won’t as it was lots of fun, if not a little random in the heart of summer.

Now Hard Rock Café Manchester isn’t somewhere to use if you want a big extravagant dinner, but it does offer something a little bit different with their regular live bands and exclusive events along with the mezzanine area that overlooks the whole of the venue and offers a bit of VIP treatment for those who are allowed up to this area.

With the ‘recession’ (shh!) in full swing and the media constantly reminding us of the trials and tribulations we’re having as a country, some businesses have opted to either cancel their Christmas events or change the way they host them altogether by making the attendees pay something towards them.

That’s not the case for everyone as some business bosses also realise the benefit of rewarding their staff with a little something to celebrate the end of the year.

So whether you’re looking for something big and brash or just want a small casual get together, now is the time to start looking. Some of the best deals are available if you’re able to book quickly but be warned, those larger event spaces are booking up so you might want to look into the options before the real rush takes place. If you’re still stuck, give us a call and we can help point you in the right direction!

Good luck! 🙂

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Up The Hill – An evening of fun and games (and a little bit of charity work) for anyone??

Now, this is not a normal blog and I don’t normally do this, especially as there are so many charities out there in need of help. But I’m always willing to help a friend try and raise money when possible….
So, here are the details for a night of fun and games (and a little bit of charity work)…just click the link below to see the details and thanks for looking! :

UP THE HILL

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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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