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Martin Wheeler of CAT Publications 20/11/2007 [0]

Stress, booze, and long hours - all in a day's work

I agree with your findings and personally I wouldn’t want to work in any other industry, its fun, exciting, exasperating, annoying, and stressful but the most wonderful satisfaction at the end of most days and the delight when speaking with thrilled clients.

We are proud of the professional work we do. To make it even better for us as an agent the venues should ensure that staff who meet the guests and answer the phone are a) English speaking b) Trained to sound happy on the phone c) Know the product they are selling d) At least smile to show that they are enjoying their work.

All venues need to train staff in all departments to correspond with each other, understand that clients will make return business if they are looked after, dressed appropriately at work, smile, say ‘hello’ to guests (more then just a grunt), be proud of their work.

A happy atmosphere goes from the staff to the guests, a bad atmosphere creates untold problems throughout. I could go on
Martin Wheeler, Venue & Hotel Finders



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Jane Evans of CAT Publications 16/11/2007 [0]

AIM will boost buyer confidence

The star rating system has always been lacking when it comes to selecting meetings venues. It is for that reason the MIA launched AIM in April of this year. AIM is a professional accreditation scheme which examines facilities and service and even checks for the basics such as DDA compliance and transparency of contracts.

Currently there are over 120 MIA member venues and suppliers that have qualified at Entry level of AIM and with hundreds of others in process the scheme will very soon offer buyers of meeting space choice and confidence where the traditional star rating scheme cannot.

AIM examines facilities and ensures that the venue or supplier is operating legally so it immediately ticks many of those procurement boxes. The really clever part is that it also grades service levels. We have all heard the story of the 5-star venue with 0-star service; well AIM effectively enables venues who cannot achieve a high star-rating to compete instead on their level of service. In other words where a venue can’t achieve a star rating, perhaps they don’t offer accommodation or perhaps they are academic venues or perhaps as an hotel they simply don’t achieve the facilities criteria demanded of a star rating scheme, AIM measures and reports on their levels of service and gives them an opportunity to stand out as either a Silver or Gold AIM Accredited venue.

The Silver and Gold measures are high and the scheme has already received applications that have failed, a fact which in itself should give the assurance to buyers that where they see the Gold and Silver AIM brand the service will be exceptional.
So there is already an effective alternative to the traditional star-rating scheme and one that I am confident will grow in importance.
For a list of AIM accredited venues go to www.mia-uk.org

Jane Evans, Chief Executive, MIA



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Lynne Snow of CAT Publications 12/11/2007 [1]

Academic events fund education research

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is without doubt key to business and critical to the future for us all. A little known fact is that money made by academic venues in selling their space for conferences, business meetings and events goes straight back into funding the teaching and research of students which in turn ensures the future growth of our industries. Therefore businesses that opt to use educational venues for their events over commercial venues and hotels, are helping to sustain our future and their own. Business’ that choose an educational venue for conferencing and training have made this an integral part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme and their procurement policy. Here at Aston University in Birmingham there is modern stylish, urban chic four star facilities as standard in both the Aston Business School Conference Centre (the residential venue) and the Lakeside Centre (the day centre). Nowhere dispels the myth that universities sell second class facilities these days better than conference venues within the top universities in the UK. The only purpose in doing this is to generate external income streams for teaching and research, so why is it that hotels are still the most popular choice. Why is it that conference and event buyers and procurement teams are still reluctant to grasp the concept that this is not a second class option, but a win - win for everyone? Add to that the fact that it is probably better value too and a dedicated learning environment with on site, in house professional support and award winning teams of staff and all round you get more for your money anyway. Come and see for yourself, it’s probably much, much better than you ever imagined. Lynne Snow Aston University

Martin Lewis of CAT Publications Ltd 12/11/2007

Lynne's point is well made. The theme of National Meetings Week 2007 was "Sustaining our Cultural Legacy" and, without doubt, education fits that brief. Her suggestion that corporate buyers need look no further than academic venues in order to fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibilities also has substance and is an interesting angle for academic venues to pursue in the corporate sector. I visited Aston Business School recently and was astonished at the quality of bedrooms and meeting space and the value for money offered. Let the procurement departments loose in the academic venues and see what happens!



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James Adam of Adam Baker Event Logistics 30/10/2007 [1]

Green Stars?

Is it not time to scrap hotel star ratings or review this outdated system that no longer offers a proper benchmark? The current scope appears too narrow with 4 and 5 star properties calling themselves four star deluxe, five star business, palace and now some purporting to be 7 stars! Would you stay in a one star? Do you know what it is? The individual tourist boards add to the confusion and lack of clarity with their criteria, which varies from country to country.

This brings me on to service, which has completely lost out as so much emphasis is placed on the physical amenities.

The first and simplest solution is to scrap the whole scheme and turn to the professionals for recommendations after all this confusion provides many of us with a living. Or look to the web for hotel reviews. But as we know most people only write to complain and the system is reliant on honesty from all parties.

There is another area that as yet has no global benchmark and which in our age should be considered; that being the green credentials. As the much discussed CSR debate rages on this is an area which should be considered in discussions.

Considering how much is spent within the industry there must be a way to fund an independent body that issues clear guidelines, criteria and sets out to reward each field, the infrastructure, service and green credentials; One that is clearly understood by the prospective customer.

Jane Evans of MIA 20/11/2007

The star rating system has always been lacking when it comes to selecting meetings venues. It is for that reason the MIA launched AIM in April of this year. AIM is a professional accreditation scheme which examines facilities and service and even checks for the basics such as DDA compliance and transparency of contracts. Currently there are over 120 MIA member venues and suppliers that have qualified at Entry level of AIM and with hundreds of others in process the scheme will very soon offer buyers of meeting space choice and confidence where the traditional star rating scheme cannot.
AIM examines facilities and ensures that the venue or supplier is operating legally so it immediately ticks many of those procurement boxes. The really clever part is that it also grades service levels . We have all heard the story of the 5-star venue with 0-star service, well AIM effectively enables venues who cannot achieve a high star-rating to compete instead on their level of service. In other words where a venue can’t achieve a star rating, perhaps they don’t offer accommodation or perhaps they are academic venues or perhaps as an hotel they simply don’t achieve the facilities criteria demanded of a star rating scheme, AIM measures and reports on their levels of service and gives them an opportunity to stand out as either a Silver or Gold AIM Accredited venue.
The Silver and Gold measures are high and the scheme has already received applications that have failed a fact which in itself should give assurance to buyers that where they see the Gold and Silver AIM brand the service will be exceptional.
So there is already an effective alternative to the traditional star-rating scheme and one that I am confident will grow in importance.
For a list of AIM accredited venues go to www.mia-uk.org



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Rob Allen, Chief Executive, TRO of CAT Publications 18/10/2007 [1]

Ignorant or mischievous financial reporting?


M&IT’s annual Financial Benchmarks Survey of UK Event Organisers always makes for interesting reading, but when the stark analysis of company accounts receives a subsequent dollop of spin, it can result in a news story that is completely misleading.
Take the newly-released edition, for example, and the case of TRO. The story that appears on Meetpie.com reports that we made an £80k loss in 2004, comparing this with a £793k profit in 2005. Leaving aside the point that this is rather old history for a document published in 2007, the facts behind the story are that over a 20 month period spanning both 2003 and 2004, TRO was in the process of consolidating and disposing of two joint venture and one subsidiary business, to produce, by January 2005, a single trading entity. The combined financial result of this re-organisation, reported as Exceptional Items and Income from Group Undertakings in both the 2003 and 2004 financial years, was a loss of £244,182.
The operating profit before tax and after interest of TRO’s core business in 2003 and 2004 was £472,178 and £675,501 respectively. In 2005 and 2006 the comparable figures were £793,524 and £823,750, as reported in our filed accounts.
Technically the report has not said anything incorrect, but nor does it not give the true position. I’m not sure whether this is down to ignorance or mischief, but to report on the 2004 Loss on Profit before Tax without further explanation of the circumstances of the exceptional items in the accounts is, at the very least, irresponsible.
For the record, we are confidently expecting to exceed £1m PBT in 2007.


Rob Allen, Chief Executive, TRO

Martin Lewis of CAT Publications 21/10/2007

Rob's clarifications are welcome. There was neither mischief nor spin in the story published on www.meetpie.com and, as Rob rightly points out, there was no factual inaccuracy. The business of reporting financial results is, of necessity, a matter of history mostly driven by the fact that agency businesses often file accounts as late as they can. All agencies are welcome to provide accounts to M&IT and www.meetpie.com in advance of filing including TRO, if Rob is so keen for us to report more contemporaneously.



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Tim Waygood of CAT Publications 17/10/2007 [2]

Eventia’s One Future is not the way forward for us

Eventia has launched the “Eventia One Future” initiative. According to their website;

‘Clients of Eventia members will receive lower carbon event management and have the ability to make a voluntary 1% contribution of their total spend on any event. The proceeds will be used to support UK woodland creation and energy education in primary schools. 1% has been selected as it most closely corresponds to the current market cost of carbon credits in relation to events activity’

Whilst this initiative is to be welcomed for the concern it communicates, it is not the route we will take for several reasons. Reasons are as follows:

• A flat 1 per cent misses the fact that events vary tremendously in terms of their carbon impact. For instance how can you equate an event involving flights compared to an event taking the shortly to be carbon neutral Eurostar to Paris. Turnover and carbon impact are not related.

•Energy education is already quite well done - it is the governments and adults that need the education! Recent BBC reports outline very aware 4-12 year olds suffering stress due to climate concerns

•Planting trees in the UK is not nearly as effective as offsetting carbon by planting and preserving in the tropics. The UK has already committed to substantial carbon reductions, offsetting in third world countries is therefore to be preferred.

•Creating lower carbon events must involve estimating the carbon impact of different options, then using a code of practice that involves supplier management to do the same, and offering an offset option that covers the carbon generated. Our carbon consultants advice is to measure – reduce – measure – offset.

I applaud the good intentions but don’t understand the logic of this policy.

If you want to see what MotivAction is doing go to:

www.motivaction.co.uk/resources/pdf/goinggreen.pdf

John Keenan of CAT Publications Ltd 25/10/2007

Tim Waygood’s comments on the Eventia One Future initiative are carefully thought-out, but they present a narrow view (rather selectively teased from a recent BBC report) of a very complex picture. As one of the team who developed the programme I’d like to respond to some of his key objections:

Certainly events vary in terms of their carbon impact, so one per cent doesn’t pretend to be a precise offset figure for all events. But research has shown that it is the closest general value for event emissions The Eventia One Future programme is supported by measurement tools that enable users to calculate exactly their events’ carbon impacts if they want to. But that figure of one per cent provides an easily identifiable starting point for those wanting a voluntary approved offset option.

If energy education had proved to be as successful as Tim Waygood suggests, UK emissions would be declining significantly by now. In fact, domestic emissions continue to be one of the largest emissions sources in the UK, so addressing the issue in our homes is a priority. School education has started to produce results in domestic energy saving - through children’s influence on their parents’ behaviour. Equipping the next generation to be carbon-responsible consumers in one of the highest per capita emitting nations in the world has got to be a sound, if not crucial, investment.

Waygood’s statement that the UK has already committed to substantial carbon reductions is not supported by clear evidence that these targets are likely to be met. UK carbon reduction projects have the advantage of being easily verifiable within an environment that supports long term viability.
And yes - offsetting in third world countries has its merit, but there are moral and ethical issues about effectively paying people in developing countries to emit less whilst our own emissions remain high. There’s a strong argument for putting our own house in order first.

We entirely agree with his assertion that creating lower carbon events has to be the overriding priority. And this does mean estimating the carbon impact of different options, then using a code of practice that involves managing suppliers to do the same, and offering an offset option that covers the carbon generated. This is what the One Future programme is all about.

Lower carbon event management is being achieved by Eventia members measuring and reducing their own carbon impact, researching and reducing emissions from events themselves, through the delivery of greater information to clients and carbon responsible planning. Members are being supported to adopt best practice themselves as a precursor to rolling this out through the supply chain. Offset is a voluntary part of the programme and all members are clearly advised of the primary need for reduction over offset, which should occupy a secondary or tertiary role in a carbon management programme.

Eventia's carbon consultants, The Carbon Consultancy have consistently advised the need to measure, reduce and offset in that order. The Eventia programme is supported by practical tools and advice to realise the aim of reduced emissions from events.

It’s clear from Tim Waygood’s comments that he is as committed to delivering lower carbon events as we are. This issue is one which is being addressed by the industry as a whole, and Eventia is promoting dialogue and the sharing of best practice to facilitate progress. We invite Tim to contribute his obvious knowledge and enthusiasm to join with us in building a carbon-responsible industry - rather than throwing stones from the sidelines. We’re should all be on the same side here.

Aileen Reuter
Marketing Director, Maritz and Head of the Eventia CSR Working Party

Peter Turnbull of Corperactive Event Business 18/01/2008

Wake up and smell the emissions!
What is the motivation behind these initiatives? Who says that clients of Eventia will receive lower carbon event management? How can that possibly be proven? Lower than what exactly? It is an insult to the majority of many small, hard working eco friendly event companies (most of whom supply the bigger companies with their event content) to imply that by buying an event from them means higher carbon event management. Rubbish. The sceptic in me tells me that companies are jumping on the green bandwagon to steal a march and make a buck. Well done to Tim Waygood for not falling for this. At Corperactive, we have had a CSR policy in place since 2002, but we don't make a song and dance about it to impress potential clients. We just get on with it. Perhaps it would be better if companies simply reduced their carbon emissions instead of building the offset contribution into their costs (and profits).



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