It doesn’t matter which way the economy is looking, every business, no matter what it does, wants to spend its money wisely, and to see a tangible return on the investments it makes. This hasn’t changed since before the financial crash and, whether we’re in feast or famine mode, won’t go away either.
The meetings and events industry in the UK is worth north of £42.5bn, depending on the sources you like to use, and encompasses everything from trade exhibitions, large congresses, brand activations, smaller meetings, training and even summer and Christmas Parties. It’s big business and there are very few companies out there that won’t be attributing a portion of its budgets to this valuable industry.
So, when it comes to meetings and events, how can we best make both the financial, and the time investment of our delegates, our organisers, and our stakeholders, pay?
The first and most important stumbling block is to make sure that the event is worth having. It sounds very basic, but meetings can have a bad reputation. Some people see them as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity, and in the past we’ve seen meetings take place that really didn’t need to. One of the main outcomes of the financial crash was that it wiped dozens of meetings out of the diaries of many large companies, that were actually unnecessary, leaving only those that were valued by attendees.
One of the first questions we’ll often ask our clients is ‘why are you having the event, and what is the purpose of it’, and also not just the top-level answers but the deeper questions on objectives and business strategy. It seems intrusive but allows us to be empathetic from the start and offer creative ways to make the meeting work harder to achieve these goals.
Equally, as an organiser it’s important to interrogate the amount of value that can be gained from the delegate’s time, and the company’s money. For training this is perhaps easier to do, it’s a more visible example of staff investment and care, however meetings can also be invaluable if they focus concentration, increase creativity or inspire a community of people. Its these sorts of objectives that first help to formulate a return.
So, once we’re clear on the objectives and the necessity of meeting, we can then look at making the most of it. Again, following the financial crash, the industry saw a lot of events completely disappear, but also the investment in the ones that were left increased. In short, if it’s worth having, then it’s worth doing it properly.
This is a really healthy approach that works for everyone, no one wants the meetings to work more than venues like ours, and by coming to a purpose run venue, the organiser is showing maximum respect for the meeting. They know they are working with professionals who make it their business to make meetings happen, and to make them work for business.
The choice to use an external venue is also an important one, many large company’s have their own on-site meeting rooms, and there are myriad of bars, coffee shops and restaurants that could be used. But an external venue gives the meeting more credibility, more space and, more importantly, a break from unproductive disruption.
For the majority of venues, it also means the chance to capitalise on the huge amounts of research that goes into developing a purpose-built meetings and events venue. Simple things like room sizes, placement and design of furniture and food and drink, all have micro effects on delegate concentration, that add up to a major effect on returns. Our own venues try and offer an escape from the world, be they a country or city location, we can offer gardens and outside space in many and the chance for a delegate to feel isolated from distraction, privacy and space to breath and think. A smart venue will be able to point these functionalities out so the organiser can use them to their advantage.
When searching for the right venue, staff should also be top of mind. It’s a tricky business, trying to create the right balance between welcoming, attentive, but also non-intrusive. Look for staff accreditations and awards, but also feel free to visit the venue yourself so you can get a feel for the place. One bad staff member can affect a guest’s experience, so don’t be afraid to be interrogative about this part of the selection process.
The other advantage of doing a recce is that you get a chance to experience the venue for yourself. Picking the right venue is like buying a house, no one knows your business better than you, so you’ll be able to decide if it’s the right environment or not. The best feedback a venue can get is that a client uses its space as their ‘external office’, many come to have such a degree of ownership over the venue that we’ll even consult with them on refurbishments!
Both of these elements, the technical and the emotional, the facilities and the feeling, are incredibly important when choosing a venue, and building the right environment to make your meeting as effective as possible. If you get these things right, your venue will be a supportive partner for your meeting and can both help you achieve and demonstrate a great return on investment.
By: Anna Poole, National Sales Manager, Make Venues