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Mark Dodds of Roythornes Solicitors
Brexit dangers need tackling now
How sensible the Chief Executive of the British Chamber of Commerce is to encourage the event sector to get their voice heard over Brexit (MIT March). The sector relies heavily on non-UK born workers to provide an excellent service and any uncertainty over their status in this country will jeopardise not only their future but that of our valuable sector.
We work with a number of fresh produce suppliers whole also rely on non-UK workers to maintain their suppliers to our supermarket shelves, and many are already saying they are facing severe difficulties in sourcing and retaining staff due to uncertainty. The impact of this will be felt in the pockets of the consumer, and the same will happen in the events industry if we don’t make our concerns known now. In two years’ time it will simply be too late.
Jacqui Doyle of The Conference People
It’s not all about speed
We’ve been reading a lot in the industry news recently about the decline of traditional venue finding agencies – and being one of those very agencies, we felt it was time to respond. One article about an online booking service caught our attention.
This booking website offers an instant service; search, book and pay online. We’re advocates about progression, and evolving – so I popped online to have a look. OK, so this service offers over 4,000 venues in the UK.
4,000 – let’s just compare that quickly to our database, which at the last maintenance update contained detailed information on over 36,000 venues across the world. Yes, that’s right – 36,000 venues.
While this and other online services are quick – they are perhaps not comprehensive. When you choose The Conference People to book your venues, you’re getting a fast, free, and fully comprehensive service – all with specially negotiated rates.
When we started 31 years ago, we were one of the first venue finding agencies in the UK. We’re now one of thousands, with new agencies starting up all the time. We’re in a fiercely competitive market, not only with the other agencies, but with venues direct and the internet in all its glory.
An online booking service is great for speed – but are you really getting the most for your money? Have you really booked the right venue at the right price? Do you know when the venue was last refurbished? How close is the nearest train station - and how many parking spaces are there? Our proposals will give you all that information, and more. So, while you might have saved some time in the booking process – do you have all information you need for a successful event?
Our proposals not only include live availability and prices for all the venues which match your brief, it will also give you all the information you need. Bedrooms, location/travel, star rating, last refurbishment, plans for refurbishment, change in management. We pride ourselves on our industry intelligence and won’t propose a venue that we wouldn’t be happy to use ourselves.
So, we have not seen a decline in our business, our clients love the friendly, personal service we give them. It’s about building relationships, repeat business and a trust between client and supplier. After all, it’s why we are called The Conference People – it really is all about the people. Our clients, our suppliers, and just as importantly, our staff. The experience, enthusiasm, and attention to detail is just three reasons our clients come back to us, event after event.
Mark Dodds of Roythornes Solicitors
You Brain’t seen nothing yet!
Great ‘Viewpoint’ from Gareth Roberts in the last issue and how true it rings. The plain fact of the matter is that nobody knows what going to happen Brexit wise and it will be a considerable time before we do. In the meantime however there’s no denying that pre-Brexit is affecting some businesses and we can only do our best to support these where we can.
Many know that the phrase ‘May you live in interesting times’ originates from an old Chinese saying. What many don’t know however is that it was in fact a curse, and I cannot help but think things will get more ‘interesting’ in the months and years to come.
Mark Dodds of Roythornes Solicitors
QEII Centre proposals quite incredible
A great editorial on the possible six year takeover of the QEII Centre by the House of Lords, which shows just how out of touch some of those in power are. The centre will have taken bookings for major events years ahead and the fact that the House of Lords feels it can ignore the contracts made in good faith by the Centre and its customers is astounding.
Where will those events go - outside London? Outside the UK? It's hardly showing support for London or Britain, or an industry that employees thousands of people and generates hundreds of millions of pounds per annum.
My suggestion? How about the House of Lords tours the country for a few years and gets to meet some real people - it may be a good move for both the Right Honourables and for democracy!
Heni Fourie of Lane End Conference Centre
Allergens have become a major issue within our industry so I took great interest in your ‘Taking allergies off the menu’ article in the latest issue of M&IT Magazine.
At Lane End we recognise the very serious nature and health impacts connected to the 14 recognised allergens as well as other serious conditions such as diabetes and, because of this, we have recently put a process in place to better deal with this situation.
It is of upmost importance that a distinction is made between serious dietary requirements and those that are simply down to personal taste. It’s our aim to make all of our clients and their delegates happy, but that distinction is important when identifying those with serious health risks. Our priority is for those that cannot eat something for medical reasons and not for those who would prefer something a little different to what’s being offered.
It’s important to remember also that the venue should not share the responsibility alone. The event organiser certainly should play a role when it comes to identifying guests with specific health requirements. We have always taken a flexible approach but now, more than ever, we are being proactive. Rather than simply asking the event organiser for any dietary requirements we now make a point of asking specific questions in our online event planning form, which confirms that the organiser asked their guests about specific allergens and health risks.
After the questions are asked we supply a spreadsheet to be completed with guest name and requirements. I’d certainly be happy to share our process with anyone facing what is a very real issue within the meetings and events industry.
Ultimately, we have a flexible approach which has work for us in the past. In serious cases we have even put the delegate in direct contact with our Head Chef. For example, we have a delegate attending an event in November with type 2 diabetes who has to control insulin intake with exact information about the amount of carbohydrates in each portion.
We certainly won’t be taking the approach of asking guests to pay extra to cater for specific diets nor will we say no to anyone. Worst case scenario? We would encourage a guest to bring their own food on-site if it gives them peace of mind but by being open and flexible we tend to cover all bases when it comes to the minefield that is allergens and dietary requirements.
Emma Boynton of imago
The importance of Access for All
It is disappointing to read an event organiser’s view that there are meetings and event facilities that are still not regarded as up to standard when it comes to Access For All (UK legislation on accessibility is failing disabled delegates).
While most of the criticism is aimed at transport, the suggestion is that hotels and event venues have not been designed to be accessible to all their guests and plans have not been put in place to make sure this is the case.
However, we must remember that not all venues have been purpose built for meetings and events, where accessibility will have been planned into the fabric of the building. Other venues have undergone refurbishment to improve their accessibility and this should be applauded. But there will always be a proportion of spaces which are available for meetings and events which may not offer the highest levels of accessibility.
Perhaps what is needed is more clarity. Ask yourself, how easy is it to find a venue’s accessibility statement on their website? Quite often it’s buried at the bottom of the page or hidden away where nobody can see it. Personally, I think there would be less confusion if this became more prominent.
Being accessible to all is something imago considers to be a key part in developing and enhancing our people and customer service culture. We have used our accreditation and membership of the National Accessible Scheme over the years to raise standards and benchmark our performance, which in turn has helped us decide where to reinvest in refurbishment projects to help improve the facilities we offer. We believe it is an important platform to highlight, promote and develop to increase commercial opportunities in a competitive market and after 10 years of focus on this area we continue to reap the rewards as a business.
Being a member of National Accessible Scheme means we have been independently evaluated by trained assessors against demanding criteria and have a written Access Statement on our website, detailing our accessibility from parking and arrival to toilet provision. From the outset, it is clear what facilities are available and we have a dedicated point of contact if bookers need further information.
It is a shared responsibility between venues and event bookers to provide clarity on what facilities they can offer and what is required to ensure the best spaces are booked for an event. While not all meetings and event spaces will meet Access for All standards, providing all the relevant information on how accessible the facilities are will ensure there is no room for misunderstanding and all delegates benefit from a comfortable environment.