My Event World - Martin Neale

Martin Neale, head of events and marketing for The Concept Centre, on riding his motorbikes and getting the blame for rally driver Tommi Mäkinen crashing.

My Event World - Martin Neale
My Event World - Martin Neale

I got into the events industry because I was working on exhibitions within the world of publishing and as this side of industry grew, so did my passion for events. It actually wasn't a planned move but twenty years later it's one that I definitely haven't looked back on.

I have worked here since 1996, when I was asked to join Millbrook full time to establish The Concept Centre as an events venue in its own right. At the time I was working for myself, having set up my own events business but I jumped at the chance to grow The Concept Centre.

I was attracted to this particular role because I was able to be involved in The Concept Centre from its inception, which meant building new venues, creating a brand and establishing an events team. Since I started I have overseen the planning and building of four venues onsite and The Concept Centre now boasts an impressive portfolio of clients for events including product launches, conferences, exhibitions and corporate parties.

Not many people know that for a short period I was a football management consultant - that was a whole different world and a real eye-opener.

My worst experience at an event was unfairly getting the blame for rally driver Tommi Mäkinen crashing onsite during the Network Q Rally and putting his World Rally Championship chances in jeopardy. It was down to the arrangement of the crash barrier which was caused by external officials but as is often the case, the venue gets the initial brunt of the problem. I'm pleased to say Mäkinen did go on to win the championship.

If there's one thing I've learnt it's nothing is impossible, so don't give up. There's always a solution, even if it doesn't come to you straight away.

The best event I've been involved in was DVD last year. It's an MOD showcase which is instrumental in helping industry communicate with the military. I am particularly proud of The Concept Centre's work on this event, not just because of its sheer size but because through meeting our client's objectives, ultimately this helps ensure troops have the best possible equipment on the frontline.

If I could do it all over again I would have liked to have spent longer working on my own business but the opportunity to work for The Concept Centre, and be involved during the crucial build process, was a once in a lifetime chance, so it's not one I regret at all.

The one thing I can't stand is people who treat junior members of staff with less respect. I'm a true believer in speak to others as you wish to be spoken to.

Outside of work I spend my time enjoying the outdoors. I love to camp, ride my motorbikes and design water features.

If money were no object I would buy a coastal fort and turn it into a unique events venue, ideally somewhere with plenty of sunshine.

The one event I will never miss is my girlfriend's birthday.

The recession has meant that we have built even stronger relationships with The Concept Centre's incumbent clients, as all parties have had to strive to work to reduced budgets. Secondly, within the team it has really brought people's inner strengths and sheer determination to the forefront which has been really positive.

The next 12 months will be busier. We are seeing the frequency and volume of enquiries and bookings increase further still, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the interesting and challenging months ahead.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be the head of another venue, such as David Pegler, managing director of Excel London. It would be really interesting to spend a few days in his shoes as the venue is going through a lot of change - as was The Concept Centre when I started - and I thrive on such challenges. It is also interesting how the venue is bridging the gap between exhibitions and live events.

If I ruled the event industry I would bring in tax free benefits for marketing events for SMEs to support the industry's smaller players during tougher economic times. This would also help those smaller suppliers who rely on work from the event world.


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