The space is key
Sam Gill, CEO at Concerto Group has witnessed the demand for alternative event spaces rise, with modes of client spend adjusted accordingly. "We have seen a move towards minimum spend models for key dates that has spread from nightclubs to more bespoke event venues and a greater flexibility on variable pricing models to maximise revenues, which I refer to as the EasyJet model of pricing," he says.
Rosalind Shelley, project director at Venue Search London has similarly noticed a change in the venue selection process - namely that people aren’t willing to settle for any old space. "I would say that now clients are always looking for a new venue, one that people haven’t been to before.
"It is becoming so important that at Venue Search London, we are constantly out and about visiting new and refurbished venues so that we always have something new and exciting to put in front of our clients. People want to ensure that they have chosen the best option – something that will engage and excite theiraudience," she explains.
Gareth McTiffin, marketing and events manager at Merlin Events London says clients expect wi-fi and other technology from their venues, as well as that something extra from a space. "More clients are keen to explore alternative, unique venue options, to freshen their event, which means more venues are being researched online rather than relying on venue directories to source a venue. Offering one of a kind experiences within our venue packages is hugely popular among bookers, they want the wow factor."
Varied modes of booking
Booking venues online is now an option, and Shelley explains Venue Search London offers a personal service. "Even though we are web-based, we call and qualify every single enquiry that we receive to ensure that we fully understand the client’s brief so that we can recommend the best venue options," she says.
"The client is incredibly important to us as well as each and every venue that we suggest. As long as the client’s brief fits their venue, they will do what they can to make it work for the client."
McTiffin explains the team at Merlin Events London respond to customer enquiries with tailored information. "Before an event, we send out a full quotation which details price, an example timetable for their specific enquiry and a fully inclusive package breakdown meaning all information is in one place.
"Fortunately, at Merlin Events we manage a variety of venues, which means if one attraction isn’t quite suitable for an enquiry we’re able to offer alternative venues within the portfolio which may be more appropriate. In addition, the client will also receive a video link to a show-round of the attraction, or for enquiries at Madame Tussaud’s we offer a virtual reality walk-through of the event spaces and set-ups."
Gill adds that the size of a company will dictate how a venue is secured. "We offer flexibility as to how and what they buy. Agencies will normally want just the venue and catering, while some smaller clients without in-house event expertise often require a more complete production and design service."
Securing venues for large-scale events
Richard Morey, group events director at Media 10 explains it is becoming increasingly difficult for the company to secure space for its events, which include Grand Designs Live, Ideal Home Show and The Cake & Bake Show.
"Specifically for us running exhibitions, the venue landscape has changed, mainly through the demise of Earls Court.
"The calendars of the main large venues have of course become crowded, costs rise and make the risk of launching large scale events prohibitive, preventing truly ambitious, creative and challenging events from getting off the drawing board – could we launch a show on the scale of Grand Designs Live in today’s climate?"
He adds that the trend towards combining such events with existing retail outlets can prove risky. "Our fear is that they will pull visitors out of the shows - visitors who we have paid large sums to attract to our events - and away from our exhibitors. Ultimately it will damage the venue's core business."
All in all, Morey and the Media 10 group seek out venues that attract visitors to its events, and in turn provide value to exhibitors. "The venues we choose must be easily accessible and we do what we can to make this as easy for them [visitors] as possible, by organising transport such as additional trains and buses," he adds.
One customer’s perspective
Paul Atherton, managing director/producer at Simple Productions and Q&D Productions says he's hosted more than 100 events in London over the last 20 years, and has recently noticed a change in the client/venue relationship.
Atherton refers to a recent experience where a venue he secured for an event failed to deliver. In July last year it was discussed he would host a Christmas party at a particular space the following January, however Atherton claims he was forced to move the event to another venue at short notice.
"Nowadays, venues think that they are the only option in town. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that they're in central London and clients literally have thousands of other facilities open to them and that the competition is extremely fierce. Nobody has the greatest view or the best cocktails for instance - there's always something as good or better elsewhere," he explains.
While he did find an alternate venue in which to host the event, Atherton believes it points at poor venue management. "Venues come in all shapes and sizes with all types of people running them and you can invariably find what you're looking for, but it's been getting a lot harder to find the good ones in the past few years.
"I hope it's just a phase and London will soon return to being run by intelligent, long-sighted business acumen," he adds.
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