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Heni Fourie of Lane End Conference Centre 25/10/2016 [0]

Allergen Minefield

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.

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Emma Boynton of imago 14/10/2016 [0]

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.

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Stephane Doutriaux, Poken CEO 10/10/2016 [0]

How to build better events: the evolving role of big data

Technology has revolutionised the way we plan, organise and implement events, from Twitter polls and touch points to live streaming events. While new developments like these present organisers with the ability to gather vast amounts of valuable data, many still neglect its potential and instead opt for basic analytics tools.
The primary objective of most events is to satisfy their sponsors’ needs, but because of frequent last-minute challenges that organisers face, we often see lofty goals drawn back to the same set of basic targets at the cost of long-term strategic vision. Fortunately there are a number of technologies and platforms on the market that can help event organisers collect key metrics, from collecting registration data to measuring actual interactions between exhibitors and buyers, understanding traffic patterns in front of exhibits, as well as measuring the time spent at each stand.
Approaching event planning from an analytical mind set and utilising the data that is readily available is a sure fire way to create and build more profitable events. Gone are the days of guesstimating and relying on chance. It’s time to start turning big data into event success – Google turned random information search into a goldmine, now it’s the event industry's turn to optimise its analytics!

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Mark Dodds of Roythornes Solicitors 10/10/2016 [0]

The lasting effect of dark days

The shocking figures released by the French Tourism minister showing that Paris occupancy rates in July were half those the previous year, (Security hits Paris occupancy figures, MIT Sept 2016), shows the real and damaging effect terrorist attacks have long after the initial incident is off the news headlines. With such low rates, economies will no doubt have to be made and it is the front line staff and their families who will suffer.

But whilst it is very easy to say we should stand up to such actions and continue to use cities that have been scarred by atrocities, I fear that with so much choice available to event managers there will be no quick fix. Our thoughts however should be with our industry colleagues, struggling through a very hard time which is certainly not of their own making.

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Mark Dodds of Roythornes Solicitors 30/09/2016 [0]

When perks become bribes...

An interesting and astounding set of revelations in your blog Venue finding agencies - more bad than good? Which indicates that agency bookers are demanding free stays and upgrades as rewards for booking their events at hotels.

I’m not one to decline the odd perk as a ‘thank you’ but to demand sweeteners for placing business is in my simple view close to bribery and both the hotel and the agency may well be in breach of their anti-bribery policies (if they can find them!) if these incidents are not reported.

The problem is of course, is that it has probably become ‘accepted practice’ but that does not make it right and until someone, as you say, ‘names and shames’ it will sadly continue.

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Grant Morgan, senior manager, Poken 23/08/2016 [0]

You don’t listen to music on your Walkman, so why are you still using exhibitor badge scanners?

As a host of technologies make their way onto the exhibition space, we are seeing the experience shaped increasingly by the attendee. While many exhibitors are riding the wave of change, there are still the technophobic few resisting new technologies in place of outdated lead-generation badge scanners.
There’s nothing worse than walking through an exhibition and hearing the dreaded words, “May I scan your badge?” This one-dimensional transaction provides no value to the participant, whether or not they are interested in what’s on offer, and not much more to the exhibitor.
While not every interaction happens like this, we still see it far too often. Exhibitions should be about meeting people - trying to understand their objectives and values.
New technology, like NFC (near field communication) and RFID (radio frequency identification) smart badges, really push the nature of lead generation by allowing participants to determine what interests them through the collection of digital collateral with a single swipe. This action leaves the exhibitor a digital business card, generating higher quality leads and greater return on investment. The adoption of these technologies provides a highly valuable experience for participants, and therefore more valuable returns for exhibitors.
Attending an exhibition should no longer be a ‘voyeuristic’ experience, where people walk the aisles and exhibitors sport their wares. Let’s do away with the outmoded badge scanner!

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