10 reasons to use the Thames Clipper River Bus Service

By Wendy Greenhalgh, Sales and Marketing Director, One Great George Street (London Media Centre for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games)

Westminster’s transport links are a powerful selling point for venues located in the heart of the business tourist district and the Thames Clipper River Bus Service deserves a special plug.

I watched with interest the recent BBC documentary showing how the River Lea had been cleaned out, with hoards of shopping trolleys and cars removed from the river bed. River Lea has now been completely revitalised and is even being populated with new fish – wonderful considering its former path through wasteland!

After such a long time of underuse, it’s pleasing to see that the Thames has welcomed a similar redevelopment in the form of a far more effective River Bus Service for travelling along the famous London river. It is also admirable that it has been integrated so well into the city’s infrastructure.

Here are 10 great reasons for promoting the use of the Thames Clippers River Bus Service to conference and meetings delegates, particularly next year during the Olympics:

  • You can use your Oyster card and take advantage of discounted travel fares.
  • For business meetings, the express, commuter-style service is ideal.
  • The leisure River Tours Service comes complete with tourist commentary, and any Thames Clipper River Bus Service presents an innovative and fun way to transport delegates to familiarisation trips, site inspections and other meetings, conferences and events held at The Westminster Collection‘s 54 member venues.
  • All piers are wheelchair accessible, most riverboats are accessible, and most new riverboats have dedicated wheelchair spaces. The Woolwich ferry is a free service operating between Woolwich and North Woolwich and is accessible to people using wheelchairs and powered buggies.
  • The Thames River Bus provides an easy-to-follow timetable and service map, so navigating your way to the departure piers is made simpler.
  • Maps of the river services operational during the Olympic Games are already available.
  • It’s an efficient method of travel for the 10,000 accredited journalists needing to move between the Olympic Park and the London Media Centre for the 2012 Olympics, located within One Great George Street in Westminster.
  • The London 2012 sporting venues accessible by river include Greenwich Park, North Greenwich Area, The Royal Artillery Barracks, Horse Guards Parade and Eton Dorney.
  • The River Bus Service is ideal for those wishing to get to the Beach Volley Ball, Road Cycling, the start and finish of the Race Walk and Olympic and Paralympic Marathons next year.
  • It’s worth considering if you’re a visitor to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (National House for Italy) and 45 Millbank (National House for Georgia), both venues within the Westminster Collection.

In short, using the River Bus Service is quick, fun, affordable and definitely worth considering for meeting and event organisers and bookers.

Westminster host venues for 2012 Olympics

Take a look at this handy and informative 3D map (as above) showing the location of the two River Bus Service access piers together with the locations of some of the Westminster Collection host venues for events in 2012.

For a comprehensive guide to the Thames Clipper River Bus Service, including timetables and fares, click here to download TFL’s River Bus Guide.


Choosing the perfect wedding venue

By Erika Unbehaun, Flutterfly Events

The most exciting and rewarding part of planning an event is seeing everything come together on the day. One of the most challenging parts of planning a wedding is finding the right venue. You should decide what type of venue you want before drawing up a shortlist. Some popular types of venues in the UK are historic building, hotels, museums and marquees – each bringing different experiences, rules, and regulations.

Before embarking on your venue hunt create a checklist with the following questions and take them along with you:

Questions for the venue:

  • What’s the hire period? Can we get a late license?
  • Do we have exclusive use of the venue?
  • Can I bring my own suppliers or do you have a preferred supplier list?
  • Are there any restrictions on food and beverage?
  • Any noise restrictions?
  • Do I need to hire a dance floor?
  • Are tables, chairs, linen and tableware included in the fee?
  • Can we bring our own alcohol?
  • Is there onsite parking?
  • Are you handicap accessible?
  • Can you accommodate children?
  • Are candles allowed?
  • Do we have a private events entrance?
  • Is there a cloakroom?  Is it staffed?
  • Is there a room for the bride to get ready in if required?
  • Do you have overnight accommodation?
  • Is a food tasting included?
  • Can I store supplies at the venue the day before and after the event?
  • Is VAT included in the price?
  • Is staff gratuity included?
  • What time can I arrive on site to set up?

Top Tips: Historic Wedding Venue

  • Make sure you’re aware of any restrictions. Many historic venues don’t allow open flames, chocolate fountains, ice luges, confetti or certain entertainment, due to risk of damage.
  • While the hire fee may be more for a historic venue, the decoration costs tend to be lower because the interior is grand and ornate.
  • Many historic venues have elaborate colour schemes so plan your colour theme around the venue to avoid any clashes.
  • Ask the venue manager which rooms you’ll have access to on the wedding day. While you might have exclusive hire of the venue, one or two rooms might be off-limits.

Top Tips: Hotel Wedding Venue

  • Hotels make for great events but they don’t offer exclusive hire and you may bump into hotel guests. Ask the venue manager where you’re allowed to take photographers both indoors and outdoors. When looking outdoors, does this provide a nice backdrop?
  • Will you and your guests have a private entrance and exit so you don’t see hotel guests?
  • Ask the hotel if they have ever scheduled two weddings on the same day.

Top Tips: Museum Wedding Venue

  • Ask the event manager about any limitations such as open flames, music, entertainment, alcohol and flowers. Museums carry heavy restrictions as risk of damage can be high.
  • Find out when you have access to the venue. Most museums are open to the public until 6pm which means you cannot access the building until 6-6.30pm.
  • Due to short turnaround times from closing the museum to the public to opening the doors to a private event, museums have a strict policy on which vendors can work there. Book your museum venue first before hiring any vendors

Top Tips: Marquee Wedding Venue

  • Is there a cark park nearby and a walkway for guests to access to the marquee?
  • Seriously consider hiring a generator to help power the caterering equipment, band equipment and toilets.
  • Hire security to keep an eye on the marquee the evening before the event. The fees for the security staff are miniscule in comparison to the damage that can be done.

Once you’re ready to book a venue you need to be confident and happy with the staff, hire period, access times and catering services.  If possible, try to have a food tasting before signing the contract so you’re not tied in to a caterer you’re not satisfied with.  The worst that will happen is you pay for the food tasting. Get everything in writing and enjoy your day!


Organising a successful product launch or exhibition

By Hannah Evans, events sales coordinator


Exhibitions can be a valuable marketing tool for your business, providing an excellent opportunity to invite existing and potential clients to find out more about your products and services. Below are six tips that will help ensure your exhibition is carefully planned and organised, enjoyed by all of your guests and most importantly is a success, creating a return on your investment.

1.       Working with the venue

Co-ordinating exhibitions can often prove to be quite daunting, with organisers caught in the middle juggling and managing the numerous requests and expectations of their own team, the suppliers and the venue. It is therefore imperative that the venue representative you are dealing with understands your remit and objectives and is flexible to your needs and requests, especially last minute ones.

2.       Obtain information from the venue

Request information from the venue to assist you with the operational and logistical planning of the event. Feel free to request documents such as scaled floor plans, door measurements and table dimensions to help plan the set up of your exhibition.

Be aware that due to health and safety legislation the venue is obliged to request risk assessments and method statements for any “unusual” activity which is not being looked after by the venue, such as the installation of lights, use of ladders, furniture deliveries, etc. A method statement is simply a description of the work that is being carried out and the risk assessment lists all possible accidents that the work may cause and how to try and avoid injuries. In addition to these two documents you will be required to complete a permit to work and you must ensure that  if you do bring in any electrical equipment, all items are PAT tested.

3.       Clarify your requirements with the venue in advance of the event

It is important that the venue understands what you need or don’t need in the room. For example if you require clothed trestle tables for exhibitors, advise the venue where you want them and at what time.

Power and other audio visual requirements are also something that should be clearly displayed on a floor plan. This will give the venue sufficient instructions to run extension leads and connectivity to the required locations.

4.       Employ a stylist

Employing a visual stylist is a great way to ensure your products and services are displayed in the best way possible. Trusting a visual expert to position the products and create a flow and style to the event may enhance the exhibitors’ experiences. They also provide added support to the team and have an impeccable eye for the finer details.

If a restrictive event budget does not permit you hiring a stylist, utilise the venue as much as you can. Often a venue has photos or information from other exhibitions they have hosted. Request this information from the event organiser- you may be pleasantly surprised how much inspiration can be gained from a previous event

5.       Schedule and catering breaks

Catering is an extremely important part of the event. Quality catering at the exhibition will inevitably enhance the guest’s experience, hence it is important that not only is catering selected correctly, but the service is scheduled appropriately.

Request a menu tasting with the caterers in advance of the event. That way you can personally discuss your menu options with the organiser and the chef to ensure seasonality and fit with the profile of the event.

Exhibitions generally run over a day or an afternoon so consider when is best to offer catering. You don’t want to have food sitting out for long periods as it will tire so keep the catering times scheduled in accordance with the guest’s arrival time. It is recommended to set specific times to serve catering.

During regular meal times, it is advisable to select more substantial items to serve as guests tend to have more of an appetite. Morning coffee, afternoon tea and early evening canapés can also work to balance the flow of the food against the numbers on site.

Finally, it is worth bearing in mind that with use of buffets and bars, you will need to allow space within the room for the setup.

6.       Goodie bags

Goodie bags are a great way to give your clients a promotional sample of your product to take home. Make sure goodie bags are well presented so guests are proud to carry it down the street and advertise your brand. Go the extra mile and wrap the contents of the bag (even the brochures) so the clients feel like the contents are presents. Coloured tissue paper is always a nice touch to conceal the contents.

If your exhibition budget is tight, or perhaps you want to offer something a little more personal, why not ask the venue’s chef to make a ‘goodie’ bag for you? The chef at 41 Portland Place makes delicious chocolate brownies wrapped in cellophane and stylish ribbon for around £2.50 per bag – an inexpensive but thoughtful gift for your clients with the opportunity to attach a business card or promotional brochure.

For additional tips on organising exhibitions visit www.41portlandplace.com

Above and Beyond…

By David Vaughton, venues director, EEF Venues

One of the key ingredients of a successful event is the venue – the setting in which the event will take place. As an event planner it’s essential to choose a venue that your clients will love, and that goes above and beyond in terms of providing excellent customer service.

With an increase in customer expectations, the availability of superior technology, a variety of dining options and a range of room choices all as standard in many event venues, choosing a venue that goes the extra mile with their customer service is what will ensure your event stands out.

From the moment that a client walks into a venue, they should be greeted in a friendly and enthusiastic manner, and be shown around the facilities by a team member who is knowledgeable about their event and willing to help with any additional requirements they may have. Every client wants to feel valued, and if a venue can convey this then their experience will be greatly improved, in turn reflecting well on your service as an event planner.

The events team at an exceptional venue should be passionate about event organisation and be eager to meet and exceed each and every customer’s expectations, rather than just caring about the fee they’ll receive at the end. Superior service and a commitment to ensuring the highest of quality throughout is one of the most important things to look out for when you are choosing a venue as an event planner. Finding a team that is passionate about perfecting every nook and cranny of the customer experience is not always that easy but it is well worth the hunt. Venues where every single staff member takes total ownership of customer care offers you peace of mind and your event attendees a first class experience that they will want to repeat.

By taking into consideration the real importance of outstanding customer service you will be able to provide outstanding events for each and every one of your clients.

Finally, it is also well worth considering choosing a venue where the pricing structure is clear and easy to follow, with no hidden extras, a feature promised by all of the venues within EEF Venues’ portfolio. Not only will this make your life easier but your client will really appreciate a clear outline of the costs involved rather than being met with an array of nasty surprises later down the line.