New TWC website launches to provide effective venue sourcing for events planners under pressure

Robin Parker, marketing director for The Westminster Collection, talks us through the design decisions and brand new features of the venue collection’s new website, which launched officially this month.

Venue choice in London can be overwhelming as there are so many locations, building styles, budget options and varying degrees of quality to consider. We know from our clients that efficiency at the venue sourcing stage is absolutely critical, because that’s often the most time consuming part. You have an event theme, an intended date and a full marketing plan ready to get off the ground for your event, but until you find the right venue, very little of it can get underway.

Efficiency for the event planner was central to the rebuild of The Westminster Collection’s brand new website, which I’m pleased to launch this month.

Saying it quickly, saying it well and making it easy to enquire are important aspects of the new design of the site, which was built by Design Incorporated. Event planners were telling us they wanted a speedy foot in the door to some of London’s best and most centrally located venues, and that their initial decisions about which venues to book are driven by venue location, capacity and style.

Taking that feedback, we stripped down our original site and took it right back to basics. Location is a huge lure for The Westminster Collection but the boundaries of this borough are often misunderstood. The City of Westminster is home to some of the finest meetings, conference and events venues in the capital, and it accounts for a huge area of Zone 1 central London, encompassing major landmarks, world famous shopping streets, beautiful parks and an assortment of restaurants, attractions and entertainment.

It borders the London Borough of Camden to the east and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the west, incorporating districts including Bayswater, Belgravia, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Marylebone, Paddington, Pimlico, St James’s, St John’s Wood, Soho, Victoria and the famous West End.

With a responsive design that makes it compatible with mobile and tablet devices, venues can now be browsed and selected from an interactive, Google-based map, which emphasises the breadth of the City of Westminster and the wealth of venues available within it. Venues are pinned to the map and when clicked, give the user the option to view the full profile.

Explore and compare venues side by side

The site’s new venue shortlist facility now enables event planners to add one or more of their preferred Westminster venues to a shortlist, from which they can then compare venues side-by-side according to location, size, room specifications and accessibility. If they’re happy with their selection, they can click ‘enquire with selected venues’ to complete a brief form which will then distribute this single enquiry to all of these venues.

The site is very image-led, which is a way for us to showcase the unique attributes of every one of our venues. Through photography displayed on the venue profiles and with our dynamic, dashboard style homepage, we have developed the website as a full-screen experience to maximise the accessibility from the large array of devices that people use to browse the internet today. The website features a considerable number of interactive features that have been built using JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3 to ensure that they are usable across as many devices and browsers as possible.

Integrated news and special offers

The special offers page of the site now syncs smartly with the individual venue profiles, so if you view a profile, you’ll see the venue’s most recent corresponding offer appear in the left hand toolbar. The news page is also much more user friendly, with an attractive layout and the ability to share individual articles across social media channels – a feature we now expect when we access content online. Readers can also comment on articles and perform a keyword search of the site’s blog content to find relevant posts.

The project team

A particularly rewarding part of the build process of the new website is that the project has been steered by a specially formed committee of representatives from venues within the collection, led by Craig Wallace, conference and events manager at 1 Wimpole Street, with support from Anna Glazebrook at One Great George Street, Clare Hodgkinson at Church House Conference Centre, Maria Schuett at Central Hall Westminster, Petra Bones at The Banqueting House and our marketing and communications agency Custard Communications.

What we have now is something we’re very proud of and feedback during our recent soft launch demonstration phase at Confex is proving valuable. Although we’re confident the website is a much stronger tool for events planners, we will not stop the site development here. We’ll continue to polish and refine features and site functionality and we look forward to the platform this now gives us to better communicate with the events community and those looking to do business in Westminster.

Any feedback and suggestions are welcomed. Please email news@venues-london.co.uk.

No.11 Cavendish completes £250k refurb

The refurbishment of 10 meeting rooms at No.11 Cavendish Square is now complete and event organisers are invited to enjoy the spruced up surroundings at this centrally located venue, near Oxford Circus.

New carpets, re-painted walls and new blinds complement a collection of contemporary photographs of iconic London scenes hung on the walls, including views of the Shard, the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral.

One wall in each of the meeting rooms is now magnetised, enabling delegates to attach free-standing magnetic flip charts as required. Low wattage lighting and energy saving LCD panels also now feature in each room.

The £250,000 refurbishment, which includes renovation of the Marlborough and the Maynard Theatre and their adjoining break-out rooms, sees AV upgraded to include state-of-the-art, 55-inch slimline LCD monitors with wall-mounted sound bars. These provide high quality, easy-to-adjust audio without the need for data projectors and screens. Clients connect directly to a floor box for user-friendly, slick presentations.

Popular room The Orangery now boasts multi-colour LED lighting throughout, which can be used to colour match a brand or create a theme. The lighting is controlled from an iPad or via a wall-mounted control panel.

For more information on No.11 Cavendish Square click here, or to discuss your next event, please email Lucy Johnson Brown or call 020 7307 2488.

Mandarin website launches Central Hall’s march on China

Central Hall Westminster has launched a series of sales and marketing initiatives aimed at attracting bookings from China. The drive to target the Chinese market comes as a result of steady growth in this sector in the last two years.

Earlier this month, Central Hall rolled out a Chinese version of its venue website, written entirely in Mandarin. This is bolstered by a portfolio of new marketing collateral, including brochures, banners and case studies specifically highlighting the public and private events held by Chinese delegations in 2012.

Paul Southern, managing director at Central Hall Westminster, said: “During 2011 we were able to generate significant interest for Central Hall Westminster as a key player for hosting conferences and events in the UK. It shows the Asian market is increasingly important in the years ahead and it is vital to take advantage of the growing opportunity.”

Longstanding employee and Chinese culture enthusiast Kevin Blackman, senior sales manager at Central Hall, has been appointed dedicated account manager for the campaign.

The new Chinese website was launched this month at China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market (COTTM), with Blackman present to promote Central Hall to the 4,000 leading, outbound tour operators from all over China. He later travelled for a further 10 days, attending various business meetings with corporate clients in Beijing and other locations.

In-house vs. externally supplied AV: what to choose?

Ian Locke, audio visual manager at Church House Conference Centre, weighs up the pros and cons of external AV suppliers versus the professional teams already embedded in-house at event venues.

In the events industry today there are a wealth of production companies offering creative service expertise and the latest equipment and technology, but there are also many venues which offer high quality audio visual services coupled with the latest technology in-house, constantly updated to meet the changing needs of the events industry. So why do some clients prefer to bring an external production company in to a venue while some will always opt for in-house?

When a client choses to source their AV requirements externally, it is usually because they have worked together for a number of projects and have become a preferred supplier. The client may feel that their events have more continuity, relying on the relationship with their supplier to ensure that content is delivered consistently.

In fact, a venue’s in-house AV team is often just as experienced at interpreting and understanding the client’s needs as specialist external suppliers, delivering as reliable and consistent a service as an independent production company. Often, in a short period of time, they can gain a client’s confidence and build a lasting relationship through their skills and expertise.

One of the main benefits of using an in-house AV team is their knowledge of their venue’s capabilities, from the technology available and the building’s infrastructure, to what services would best suit what a client is looking to deliver to their guests. As the in-house AV team is an integral part of the venue’s event team, there will already be a strong working relationship and good communications between the two.

It is understandable that a client may feel unsure about using a team they have not worked with before, so look for indications of quality such as industry awards and testimonials for reassurance, and attend planning meetings before the event to ensure that the AV team is delivering on your brief.

External production teams and internal AV teams can make an excellent combination. Sometimes due to time constraints and timescales between the venue’s bookings, it is difficult for the production company to provide and install all the refinements their client requires.

In-house AV teams can assist in the provision of major parts of the production such as technical support, sound systems, lighting, stage sets, or a combination of these requirements, in order to help production companies meet the tight deadlines.

At Church House we are always happy to work alongside others and we have great working relationships with several external AV company. Working together on projects provides a great opportunity for all involved to share key industry knowledge and skills.

 

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St Martin’s welcomes sunshine with launch of Café in the Courtyard

This May, St Martin-in-the-Fields is launching Café in the Courtyard, just behind the church. Open from late morning until sunset, Café in the Courtyard caters to both the local work force passing through for a quick coffee and the lunchtime picnicker hoping to catch a few rays of sunshine. In the evening, visitors can enjoy a drink and spot of dinner while catching up with friends and watching the world go by.

The inside will be open as usual, serving great food in the award-winning Café in the Crypt and hosting events from local and international clients. Whether it is a sizzling summer we see, or a bit of a washout, St Martin-in-the-Fields has a solution for both.

For more details on how to book your event at St Martin-in-the-Fields please click here to view the venue’s full profile and to enquire using our simple form.

Three TWC venues named as 2013 CVS Awards finalists

Three venue members of The Westminster Collection have earnt their places on the shortlist on the 2013 Conference Venue & Supplier Awards, a national awards scheme developed to recognise excellence in those providing the wide range of products and services used in the conference industry as a whole. It is run in partnership with ConferenceNews.

Named a finalist in two categories, Cavendish Conference Centre is now in the running to be crowned Best Purpose Built Conference Centre and Best Small Conference Venue (under 300 delegates). Also shortlisted within the Best Small Conference Venue category is No.11 Cavendish Square. In the running for the Best Training Venues in the UK award is etc.venues Victoria.

The winners will be announced on 7th June 2013 at the Conference Awards lunchtime ceremony at the Brewery where 500+ industry professionals will be hosted by BAFTA award-winning comedienne Jo Brand. There will be a further two surprise awards announced on the day for the best overall venue and the best overall supplier.

To view the finalists click here, or for more information visit the Conference Venue & Supplier Awards website.