How was the year 2000 for your venue?
Clive Tyers, head of conferences and exhibitions, Bournemouth International Centre (BIC): The past year has been a record year for us with business attracting more than 71,000 delegates, generating in excess of 280,000 bed-nights for the town. It was also the first time the BIC hosted two of the main political party conferences in the same year (Lib Democrats and Conservatives) after the highly successful Labour Party Conference in October 1999.
Martin Neale, general manager, Concept Centre: In what has been an exciting year we have held events for blue-chip clients and overall business has increased. Also, we launched Passion, a brand that offers clients motivational and team-based packages.
Philip Rees, commercial director, King's Hall: The year 2000 will finish as an excellent year for us with six new shows, including The Irish Superbike & Motorcycle Show, the Northern Ireland Medical Exhibition and the Boat Show, which returned to King's Hall after 15 years.
Carl Partridge, head of commercial events, NAC Stoneleigh Park: An exceptionally good year with the number of events and visitors on the increase. Also 2000 saw the launch of our new exhibition hall.
Michael Garland, sales and marketing manager, Royal Highland Centre: 2000 was quite good, although we did see a number of cancellations. In terms of the number of events, 2000 was on a par with the previous year and the number of event days increased slightly. A new north gate has been built to increase the through-rate of visitors at outdoor events and a new countryside management area is under development along with a new West entrance gate to the Royal Highland Centre. Both developments will enhance the venue and allow more visitors to access the site in greater numbers.
Matthew Lambert, sales manager, The International Centre, Telford: 2000 was our best ever year, in terms of revenue and tenancy days. Along with our regular shows we held events for several new clients, many of whom have re-booked for next year. We are also on the verge of re-branding the venue and announcing the final plans of the centre's redevelopment.
Peter Tudor, sales and marketing director Wembley Arena and Conference & Exhibition Centre: Conference business grew markedly; exhibition business was buoyant, with 17 new shows this year.
What is the biggest show you're holding in 2001?
CT: The biggest show scheduled for 2001 will probably be the five-week run of Lord of the Dance as part of Bournemouth's summer season in August.
MN: The secretive nature of the Concept Centre and indeed the nature of some of the events our clients hold within it, means confidentiality is a vital element of our service. Therefore, I cannot divulge any information on forthcoming events.
PR: The Ideal Home Exhibition will be the largest event in King's Hall in 2001. It attracts about 100,000 visitors over 12 days and is the largest Ideal Home Exhibition outside London and Birmingham.
CP: The Royal Show attracts 185,000 visitors over four days.
MG: Our biggest show is our annual Royal Highland show, which attracts 145,000 visitors. More than 900 exhibition trade stands makes it the largest exhibition in Scotland. In addition, we now host three other annual events each attracting about 40,000 visitors.
ML: The largest exhibition is either Pro-Retail or the Community Transport Exhibition. We are also holding 'Cricket Live' organised by the England and Wales Cricket Board and for the whole month of May we will be hosting the Treasures of Tutankhamen exhibition, which we hope will be a huge public event.
PT: Infrarail 2001 from Mack Brook will be the biggest exhibition - the trains return to Wembley! And Westlife in the Arena will be one of the most high profile concerts.
Will there be any changes to your venue over the coming year?
CT: In the coming year the continuing refurbishment programme for the BIC and Pavilion will focus on new cloakroom and toilet facilities with special emphasis on facilities for the disabled.
MN: In line with our creative approach to marketing the venue - and indeed as you have seen over the past three years - we constantly create new ways of using our venue. In addition we look to improve the facility on an ongoing basis. We have plans in the pipeline and will keep people updated. Watch this space.
PR: At the moment a number of major projects are in the pipeline for King's Hall and its surrounding 35-acre site. However, we are still awaiting final decisions and look forward to 2001 with anticipation.
CP: Minor works only as we have built a new conference reception, new hall, and new hotel in the past 12 months.
MG: The Royal Highland Centre is constantly undergoing changes to redevelop the whole site with a 20-year strategic plan costing about pounds 40m.
ML: The re-branding of the centre will be unveiled in January. In July works begins on our redevelopment which will eventually provide a new hall, a new look for the main building, improved public circulation areas and a new suite that will hold 650 for conferences with banquets, or 1,000 for just a banquet.
PT: Ongoing upgrade and refurbishment as always. With the stadium being rebuilt at the rear of the Wembley complex, there will be some changes to the ways in which the venues operate to avoid inconveniencing our clients. We are putting these arrangements in place now.
What one service/function should no self-respecting venue be without?
CT: A knowledgeable and efficient team of event coordinators that can provide the precise information and support those event organisers so often require.
MN: Quality catering. Here at the Concept Centre we have a dedicated on-site catering business called Relish. It provides clients with creative menus and a contemporary service reflecting the venue within which it operates.
PR: The support from a friendly and welcoming event team to ensure that new events, in particular, run smoothly.
CP: A team of professional event planners.
MG: Individuals who understand people and can communicate. If venue people cannot communicate clearly and precisely then few events would come to that venue. Understanding the needs of your clients is also a requirement.
ML: An event team that knows its venue and its capabilities inside out. An efficient team will make an event run smoothly and if this is the case the organisers will hopefully leave with a smile on their face (and a contract for next year's event!)
PT: Customer service. Helpful, willing staff with a can-do attitude in order to exceed clients' requirements.
How do UK venues compare with those on the Continent?
CT: The major difference is that we are usually much busier. The BIC/Pavilion achieves up to 80% occupancy with its mix of conference, exhibition and entertainment business. This provides the most cost-effective solution to conference and exhibition organisers.
MN: It is not my role to pass comment on venues that I do not have first hand experience of and therefore I decline to comment on this matter.
PR: Those venues on the Continent receive a much greater level of support from local and regional government and work more closely with the city to develop potential.
CP: They compare very well, but there is a big difference in funding.
MG: Perhaps the UK venues lack the government/local authority support we see at other continental venues.
ML: UK venues easily hold their own with our European competitors without receiving subsidies or financial support from the government.
PT: There are so many exciting developments across the UK venues that sometimes one forgets that this is largely down to the venue owners driving the progress. Unlike our European counterparts, we don't have the benefit of local and national government backing, and this is something that we urgently need to address to develop the events industry business in the UK.
Will all exhibitions have a virtual add-on by the year 2005?
CT: Most live exhibitions will be supplemented by a virtual add-on but I am a firm believer that we are a people business and the need to meet and network face-to-face will always be the prime demand.
MN: Technology is an integral part of every vertical market and the events/exhibition industry is no exception. As to whether all shows will have a virtual add-on remains to be seen. My attempts to navigate these virtual experiences have come to a grinding halt because of the nature of corporations' Internet connections.
PR: I believe that the larger exhibitions, particularly trade shows will have a virtual add-on but many visitors will still want to interact with other people and be involved with the products on offer, which they could not do through a virtual exhibition.
CP: Maybe not a virtual add-on, but all will make better use of the Internet.
MG: By the fact we all use computers now we will see more and more use of technology in exhibitions. This can already be seen at some shows where there is a clear link with advanced technologies.
ML: No. Although I would be surprised if all shows were not using the Internet in some way or another to promote themselves. While virtual shows will play an increasingly important role, you will never be able to replace the face-to-face element that has endured for so many years and I believe that certain industries will resist this change for some years to come.
PT: Most events if not all, but it still won't replace the actual experience of attending the show itself. You can't beat the live experience.
What is your favourite UK venue (apart from your own) and why?
CT: I do not have a favourite UK venue, but I think the ICC in Birmingham is the most impressive. However, when comparing construction costs, the BIC still gives excellent value for money.
MN: I particularly like the Orange Studio because of its creativity.
I have been impressed by how the brand extension has been positioned into the market in such a funky way.
PR: It would have to be the NEC in Birmingham. I spent six weeks last summer with many of the event teams there experiencing everything from catering to security, marketing to production - to see how we in King's Hall in Belfast compared to our counterparts in Birmingham.
CP: Cardiff Arena. It is well situated in a city centre location with excellent facilities.
MG: Any golf course.
ML: It would have to be either Harrogate International Centre or the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow. Having been involved in shows held at both venues, it would be difficult to choose a favourite.
The staff at both are professional and in the evenings the towns are fun places to unwind after a hard day's work on an event.
PT: The interesting architectural places - Business Design Centre, G-Mex, etc. Places with character and great facilities.
What is your favourite time of year and why?
CT: Spring and autumn are the favourite times of year as they are always very busy, often with back-to-back events. But what better place to mix business with leisure than Bournemouth's sunny south coast.
MN: June. The weather is ideal and it is the busiest time of the year.
PR: My favourite time of year would have to be winter. I love crisp, cold days when you can wrap up warm and go for a long walk and return home to a roaring fire.
CP: December/January. It's a time when we get most corporate events, which make a change to the normal conference and exhibition business.
Generally, you are hosting events for many thousands of visitors who are all attending events to have fun, which is something that rubs off on all the staff here.
MG: Every day is a favourite day. No two days are the same and each day I learn something new about either the venue or myself.
ML: Spring. Apart from being a busy time for the industry, it is the time when budgets have been agreed and I can get on with the business of promoting our venue and hopefully begin to see the rewards of our sales and marketing initiatives.
PT: February and September. Those are the times when we are gearing up for busy seasons, with all kinds of events to look forward to, and months - if not years - of planning about to come to fruition.
What aspect of your job keeps you awake at night?
CT: I manage to sleep very well at night, helped by the knowledge that I possess a very competent and reliable team. At the end of the day, no one is indispensable.
MN: The nature of the beast means that there is not an aspect of my job that keeps me awake at night. However, I do seem to wake up at strange hours with quirky new ideas and creative solutions to problems.
PR: The night before we open one of our own events.
CP: Never the actual event that's on as we feel comfortable to respond to any last-minute requests. Generally, you think about making sure that you have not been hit by an act of God or that your key staff are all okay and ready for the event.
MG: Nothing. I inherited from my father the ability to switch off when I leave work - which is a great asset in this industry.
ML: At the moment none. My three-week-old daughter is now at home and that is enough to take my mind off even the most stressful of days.
PT: The to-do list for the following day, whirling round in my head. I need one of those notepads by my bed to note down all the ideas that keep occurring to me.
Describe a typical working day
CT: In the conference and exhibitions industry, I do not think there is a typical working day. My current responsibilities as Chair of the British Association of Conference Destinations have meant more meetings but have also given me the opportunity to visit other venues and destinations around the UK. At the same time I have been continuing our dialogue with the wide range of clients who recognise Bournemouth's variety of facilities as an ideal match for the highest demands of their event.
MN: A typical working day consists of one meeting after another discussing a variety of topics with clients, suppliers and employees. When I am not in meetings, I am liaising with operations teams and dedicating time to strategic planning sessions. I am presented each day with a new challenge that requires a creative solution. Working long hours has become an everyday occurrence.
PR: My day starts at about at 8.15. Early on I try to catch up with any clients on site in the exhibition halls. Back in the office I work with a team of four and the majority of the day is spent on sales and marketing activity, with new clients or in planning new events which we will run ourselves.
I like to get an hour at the end of the day to go through the paperwork and items that can be delegated or need to be referred to the boss. Needless to say no two days are the same.
CP: A typical day starts with reading my overnight email messages, and responding as necessary. On average I receive 50-70 emails a day. From there on its meetings with event managers and organisers of that day's events, ascertain any amendments we need to make for future events, generally followed by a quick lunch. Normally a meeting of some nature will take place. Today it's the signing off of our web site which has just had a private organisers area added to it which allows access to a host of operational marketing and PR information in a downloadable format.
MG: Like many other venue operators I have no typical working day. I am at my desk at about 8.30 but planning your day can prove rather difficult.
What with constantly having to react to receiving emails, faxes, letters, telephone calls, setting up meetings and events taking place etc no two days are alike. While trying to be proactive and reactive at the same time, before you know it it's time to go home or better still time to go to the golf course.
ML: I'm sure that there are few people in our industry who can claim to have a typical day. Meetings in one form or another tend to form an integral part of every day, as does some element of work on either the centre redevelopment plans or the new marketing campaign. Apart from that calls to and from clients, quoting and general administration seem to fill the rest of the day with very little time left for much else!
PT: No day is typical. It starts with the opening of an exhibition or the arrival of conference delegates; popping in to see the organisers, wishing them well, and making sure everything is going fine. Then, it's back to the desk and planning/ selling/marketing for the months/years ahead and the end of the day usually means spending time with the promoter in the Arena. And seeing a bit of the show.