The choice is endless….choosing an alternative venue

By René Dee, chief executive, The Westminster Collection

Of all the world’s capital cities, London has probably the richest array of event venues. Wherever you look across central London, you’ll find a successful venue which operates as part of a parent organisation whose primary activity has nothing to do with the events sector. That may seem an odd thing to say, but the fact is that many of the capital’s most effective venues are owned by professional institutes, societies or associations, church organisations, charities, museums, private members’ clubs, academic bodies – even by boat owners.

The fact that so many are successful is a tribute to the way in which these organisations have allowed their event activities to develop as self-standing operations which are nevertheless fully integrated into their overall activity.

Event organisers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a venue in London,  and with Westminster’s  most popular venues far richer and more varied than venues found anywhere else in the world, Westminster is truly the place to carry to be seen to be holding meetings and conferences. In many cities, an event organiser’s choice will primarily be purpose built, modern venues which may be highly effective but are in essence indistinguishable: in London, and especially in Westminster, we have some of the best purpose built venues anywhere, but they are complemented by dozens of very high quality venues which have their own very distinctive history and heritage.

Making an asset out of that heritage is actually quite a challenge in itself. Promoting a venue as the home of a historic professional institution has to be managed quite carefully: wrongly handled, it can communicate to today’s event organiser the risk of a rather stuffy environment. Even though that risk doesn’t actually exist, because the facilities are contemporary in terms of technology and sophistication, that’s why some venues have chosen to market themselves as prestigious addresses – for example   116 Pall Mall (Institute of Directors),  One Wimpole Street (Royal Society of Medicine),  One Great George Street (Institute of Civil Engineers) No. 4 Hamilton Place (Royal Aeronautical Society and the newest member of The Westminster Collection, 41 Portland Place ( Academy of Medical Sciences). They aren’t in any way ashamed of their heritage, but they realise that by making it what might be called a sub-brand, they are optimising their potential customer audience.

When looking for a venue, it is worth looking at all the options now available, think outside of the box, offer your clients something new – you don’t have to compromise on technology or style, in fact you may be surprised to find that alternative venues are often at the forefront of such advances to ensure that they continue to stand out from the crowd.

Exceeding Expectations…

By Melissa Morris, Chandos House

From the moment she gets engaged, every bride’s childhood fantasy becomes a reality and all the possibilities of her dream wedding are within her grasp. Her thoughts become occupied with what dress she’ll wear, where the wedding will take place and what song she’ll choose for her first dance as a married woman.

As a wedding or event planner, it’s important to deliver every detail that the bride wants, but in this modern world where we want everything just so and right now, and where brides expect their day to be truly magical, how can wedding planners exceed their expectations?

Most brides who enlist the help of a wedding planner do so to relieve the stress and anxiety of the huge task of researching, organising and implementing their big day. One of the most important factors to a bride is to have a wedding planner who listens to her desires to make them a reality. As a wedding planner it is essential to thoroughly research any requirements the bride has and provide her with a selection of options so that she can see a range of what’s available. Providing too many choices is just as inadequate as providing too few; the bride could feel overwhelmed or not have the time to consider a multitude of options. If a bride wants to get married in a stately home for example, choose three or four that are within her budget and comprise any other requirements that she would like and present these to her with images, prices, menu possibilities and available dates.

It’s also imperative to provide the bride with everything she wants within the limits of her budget. Although every bride wants her day to be special, it’s no good suggesting dresses and venues that are way out of her budget and that will potentially make her feel like she can’t afford the best. Researching as many options as possible and choosing a select few that you think the bride will love is certain to make her feel special and as though you have considered her needs and personality, rather than choosing the same options you would present to any bride.

When trying to exceed a bride’s expectation of the service you’re providing, another crucial factor to consider is communication. Every bride wants to feel like her wedding planner understands her needs and is doing everything she can to make them a reality. If a bride knows what’s happening with every aspect of her wedding then her anxiety is reduced, which is one of the main roles of a wedding planner in the first place. Wedding planners can go a step further and ensure that they have a connection with a member of the bridal party, typically a bridesmaid, meaning that should a minor issue arise or if they have key information to pass onto the bride, they can let the bridesmaid know first. The bride doesn’t need to know every little detail of what’s been said to who or any concerns that may crop up on the day; she only needs to know where you are with each key aspect and in complete control.

Finally, when planning a wedding, remember to always keep your cool and remain as enthusiastic about each bride’s big day as you would your own. To most women, this is the biggest day of their life, and as long as you are showing each bride that you understand this, she’ll feel like you are exceeding her expectations.

The events team at Chandos House is very used to working closely with Wedding Planners  and together we will ensure the success of  your Wedding Day.

Food for thought…

By Kate Meehan, operations director, 76 Portland Place

Seasonal produce is something which is often talked about and seen to be promoted but isn’t all that often upheld. Is it really important or is it just another one of these fashionable things to be seen to be doing?

76 Portland Place advocates the promotion of seasonal and sustainable produce and outlines a number of reasons why it is something you should consider when booking a venue for an event.

Food and drink is incredibly important to clients today when booking an event, from the taste, to the look and where it has come from. With growing concern over food miles, genetic modification of so much of our produce, and the increasing desire to help British farmers keep hold of their livelihood, it is something well worth considering when booking an event.

Here are some top reasons to make sure that the food on offer at your venue of choice is seasonal and locally produced.

  • Clients who have in-depth corporate social responsibility policies will want to know that the food they will consume at meetings is seasonal and British wherever possible. The less distance the food has travelled, the less food co2 will have been emitted therefore making it more sustainable and better for the environment
  • Food is fresher and healthier. The less processed food is, the better it is for you, packed full of vitamins and usually far tastier too. If food is fresh and hasn’t had to travel too far there isn’t the need for the amount of preservatives that are so often found in food and drink and fruit and vegetables have a chance to ripen before they get picked which improves the flavor without a doubt.
  • Today, people are far more aware of the decline of British agriculture and the importance to try and sustain this where possible. British produce is appreciated more now than ever before and people want to help local farmers where they can rather than relying on food that is distributed by large manufacturing companies.
  • Believe it or not seasonal produce as well as being tastier and healthier, is often cheaper than buying in produce from overseas[1]. Shipping costs continue to rise astronomically as the price of fuel increases and there is also the additional cost of preserving the food.

So there you go, some food for thought – next time you’re booking an event why not ask about the catering and see what is on offer? Whether your client is concerned about corporate social responsibility, their health or just tasty, fresh food – they will be delighted you are one step ahead and already thinking about the finer detail.