New appointments at Church House Westminster

Church House Westminster has welcomed three new members of staff to its event and marketing teams.

Nicole Regalario has joined the team as events coordinator, bringing with her a wealth of sales and events experience having previously worked at Richmond Hill Hotel and Warren House.

Church House has also strengthened its marketing team with Gemma Watts taking over the role as marketing executive. Gemma has joined the team from the Roehampton Club, having gained a degree in Marketing Management from Oxford Brookes University.

Hannah Draboczy has been appointed sales and marketing assistant. Having graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in Events Management Hannah previously worked at Centaur Media as an operations assistant.

General manager at Church House Westminster, Robin Parker said: “Nicole, Hannah and Gemma are welcome additions to our dedicated team and bring with them key skills and experience for their roles. I am looking forward to working with our three new recruits to ensure we achieve growth targets by raising our profile though strategic marketing initiatives and maintaining our reputation for providing clients with first class event support and delivery.”

Situated in the heart of London, Church House Westminster has AIM Gold accreditation and is one of the city’s most versatile event venues, accommodating between two and 664 guests. For more information call 0207 390 1590.

8 Northumberland Avenue secures Caterer’s best places to work title

8 Northumberland Avenue of Northumberland Events has been named as one of the best places to work in hospitality by The Caterer.

Committed to providing a positive and productive working environment, the venue has established core values to unify employees in a shared understanding of how to interact and behave. This in-turn has created a co-operative, respectful and productive working environment which helps employees feel part of the business and motivates them to deliver great service.

Each department worked together to develop these core values, captured in a framework called the 31 Practices. A representative from each division was an ambassador for the values, which include: ‘We cheer each other on and remember to say thank you’, and ‘We use positive body language and words’.

The other initiative is the company’s investment in Insights Discovery Profiling – a tool designed to improve self-awareness and development and to support interaction among colleagues.

Most recently the venue introduced a Share incentive plan, the company says it is aware people spend a lot of time at work and it is ‘committed to creating the best environment for employees to enable them to love what they do and in turn deliver excellence’.

To find out more about 8 Northumberland Avenue click here.

5 reasons why entering awards is good for business

What’s the story behind awards? Why do we enter them and what does it actually mean to win them in business terms? Diane Waldron, sales and marketing director at the QEII Centre, reveals all.

Last year was truly glittering for so many reasons, but the spangled stash of gold we’ve claimed from multiple awards ceremonies is worthy of special mention. We’ve triumphed at showing our best face to judges in a catalogue of awards that celebrate all specialisms in our business – people, customer service, marketing, catering and leadership.

One year on from our Gold win for Best Large Venue at the Eventia Awards 2014, we’ve achieved incredible momentum, with the QEII Centre having now won and been shortlisted for multiple awards for work across all areas of the business, including being named Best Venue Events Team at the EVCOM Live Awards 2015 (we were ‘Highly Commended’ in this same category in 2014), Best Venue Customer Service at the London Venue Awards 2015 and AV Service Team of the Year at the AV Awards 2015.

QEII Live AV Project Manager Jo Shore was also shortlisted as AV Professional of the Year. The centre also achieved a high commendation at the C&IT Awards 2015 for Best UK Conference Venue and was a finalist in the UK Event Awards, for Corporate Event of the Year and Event Marketing & PR Strategy of the Year, both in respect of the experiential rebrand launch party held in November 2014.

QEII Taste has achieved wins too, with Tomas Varo, Karolina Lewandowska and Kimberley Powell all nominated for the Compass Be A Star Awards. It was here where Karolina won the Can Do Award.

Leith’s also received Silver recognition as Best Food & Beverage Supplier in the M&IT Awards 2015. Let’s not forget Mark Taylor either, whose commitment and drive to modernise the centre saw him win the miaList Leadership Award 2015, an accolade for which we nominated him.

So what’s the story behind awards? Why do we enter them and what does it actually mean to win them in business terms? Here are my five key reasons:

1) We can’t overlook the exceptional impact these recent award wins have had on our overall morale and productivity. Being rewarded for being wonderful customer service experts for example is a big pat on the back for the hard work you all put in to nurturing relationships with our clients.

2) Awards like these don’t surface from ‘PR puff’ – the criteria for entry is strict and much of the judges’ assessments are made via our demonstrations of the impact we’ve had on our customers’ experiences in hosting events here at the centre. It’s our clients’ testimonials, our ability to relay results, our skills at tackling challenges head on and finding solutions and our customer satisfaction and retention statistics that secure votes.

3) Awards reward innovation and systematic planning. Our written entries have to detail step-by-step processes and really lead judges through logical, very visual storytelling to paint a picture of a campaign and most importantly demonstrate its impact and outcomes. We use photography, video, data, quotes and social media conversation. Our PR and marketing agency Custard Communications has offered terrific support to help us achieve this impactful storytelling.

4) Winning business awards is great PR because it demonstrates externally that our centre is excelling. They’re a benchmarking tool, they increase our credibility and through strategic selection of categories, they can successfully highlight areas of the business of which we are exceptionally proud, such as our customer service and our AV credentials.

5) They can open doors to securing new contracts, finding new supply channels and breaking into new markets. They can help us attract new talent too. Ultimately, they help shape perceptions of what we can be and do as a centre, so we’re still celebrating our fantastic wins in 2015 and are hopeful of more mantelpiece bling in 2016!

Immerse yourself in contagious creativity at new London events space St James Theatre

Come and explore the characterful St James Theatre, newly available to the London corporate and private events venue market, at an exclusive, private tour hosted by event manager Adam and his team. The coffee morning takes place on Wednesday 25 February at 8:30am. If you’d like to be there, please email [email protected] to request a place.

St James Theatre is the first newly-built theatre complex in Central London in 30 years. Located just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, it plays host to cabaret, comedy, music and theatre with current shows including the critically acclaimed Bad Jews.

The theatre is a perfect venue for product launches, private screenings and for more intimate creative workshops. It’s only a few minutes from Victoria station and boasts an intimate 312-seat theatre available for daytime events and a flexible 100-seat studio, a wonderful live entertainment space that lends itself to becoming a flexible and self-contained corporate events venue. The St. James Bar and Brasserie and the Carrara Restaurant offer a range of stylish, informal dining options.

Explore more here and to request a place on the private coffee morning tour, please email [email protected].

St. Ermin’s Hotel all a-buzz over ‘Honey Month’

By Tom Walsh, Director of MICE Sales at St Ermin’s Hotel, London

The plight of the British bee is something we feel passionate about addressing at St Ermin’s Hotel and to celebrate the hard work of our 300,000 Buckfast bees, housed in hives on the roof of our hotel, this September we are hosting ‘Honey Month’.

The initiative gives us the chance to give back to the environment. It also provides us with a delicious, signature honey which we use within our catering. Throughout the month, day delegates will be served a selection of delicious honey themed items as part of their breaks, such as lemon polenta and honey cake, honey and butter flapjacks or sultanas and honey granola bars. Alternatively guests can round off their event with a decadent honey-infused cocktail. Caxton Bar will be serving honey-based cocktails that have been carefully designed to showcase the bees’ hard work, such as ‘G&T for my Honey’ – an ambrosial take on the classic.

Head Chef will also be putting honey centre stage at Caxton Grill, as special dishes will feature on the menu throughout September, from honey parsnip soup, to organic lamb in honey and thyme dressing with honey-infused goat’s cheese.

As well as bees on our roof, we now have three beehives and a ‘bee hotel’ happily ensconced on our third floor walkway, surrounded by a small wildflower garden. This year we are able to offer small groups a special urban bee keeping workshop run at the hotel by our beekeeper, Camilla Goddard of Capital Bee.

Workshops can be individually tailored, but principally are for groups of up to 12 (from £15 per head), they last two hours and they involve active learning about colony establishment and regular care, handling of the honeycombs, plus reference materials. All beekeeper suits and equipment will be supplied and the course is followed by a honey cream tea or cocktail for participants. Give me a call on 0207 227 4816 to discuss your requirements or for full details and prices, please click here.

Get creative whatever your event budget

It’s a misconception that cost limits creativity, says Robin Parker, marketing director for The Westminster Collection (TWC). Venues face this challenge daily but it’s incredible the impact you can make when you deconstruct each stage of the planning process and apply a little imagination.

Not every event organiser has the luxury of large event budgets at their disposal. Fortunately they needn’t panic that they have to work miracles alone. Just because funds aren’t excessive doesn’t mean events have to present any less of a wow-factor.

Venues are used to their clients’ tightened purse strings. In the same way that event organisers feverishly brainstorm for the hook that will snag delegates (who are dubious about whether it will be time well spent), so too do venue event teams and their suppliers. We’ve become extremely resourceful at conjuring up alternative ways of working to deliver maximum value.

The real definition of being creative is being resourceful, practical and (dare I say it) original. At Church House, generally we can be more flexible with our hire prices on Mondays and Fridays. Buying into a package with a fixed day delegate rate (DDR) is not always the most cost-effective option. Sometimes it is worth looking at the breakdown of costs and questioning if you really need everything that is included.

Plan ahead and think about what comes next. Expressing interest in booking a series of events in one go creates great bargaining power, as does trying to negotiate with people face-to-face whenever you can. It’s a lot easier to be shot down with a ‘no’ over the phone.

If entertainment is on your agenda, be smart about how you source your act. Is it really essential to blow so much of your budget on a big-name, high-cost performance? How about unearthing an act that’s less well known? Showcase new talent, introduce something new.

The Westminster Collection will be discussing the challenge of cost versus creativity and bringing practical solutions and advice within a dedicated ‘Unleash Your Creativity’ workshop at Destination Westminster 2013, our annual London venue showcase event, featuring all 50 members of TWC. The event will take place from 8.30 – 11.30am on Friday 13th September, at 8 Northumberland Avenue.

Here’s what some of our venue members have to say about how to marry resourcefulness and creativity:

Anna Peters, marketing director, Evolve Events at Kent House Knightsbridge, says:

“Creativity in the event industry is about bringing a brand or someone’s vision to life. Increasingly we are being asked by our clients how they can make their events more impactful, punchy and memorable.

“Providing an ‘umbrella’ concept, under which all activities fall, helps the event become more focused and effective. Taking 1920s style influences from The Great Gatsby and Bugsy Malone, we recently created a themed conference for our client Pret. Delegates were invited to dress the part with feather boas, spats and headbands galore and they were welcomed into our townhouse with Prosecco served in saucers. After lunch, a flapper girl troupe performed the Charleston and blackjack and roulette tables encouraged team play and socialising.

“Styles and themes are particularly successful for private conferences where we are seeing companies combining their annual conference with an away day, by adding an entertainment element to an information based day. Holding the two events together saves on time and budget and maximises the benefits of having all staff or delegates together.”

Charles Boyd, director of 8 Northumberland Avenue, says:

“Any fool can be creative with a pile of money. It doesn’t matter if it’s £500,000 worth of lights and software or an interesting toilet roll holder, show the client, your staff or your boss that you have engaged your mind positively and have created and tested an imaginative solution that will in turn engage the client and guests.

“But first you need to talk, get into the culture of the company or situation, then ask what do you want to achieve, what are the key concerns, what is the true budget?”

Nikki Hird, events sales coordinator, 41 Portland Place, says:

“It is paramount for us to create an environment that our guests want to spend their time in, whether for corporate meetings and press briefings or dinners and drinks receptions. The finer details really are essential.

“I use a lot of references from Pinterest, where I find ideas for DIY event dressing and creative ways to set up the rooms. The 41 Portland Place summer showcase was no different. The theme was Street.Food.Party which took influence from the fashionable street food culture of East London. Our venue isn’t in the east, nor does it resemble anything like a warehouse that could be found in the east end. It was therefore my job to bring Shoreditch to Marylebone.

“My favourite trick is to use fishbowls which I borrow from our florist, fill them with fruit (chillis, lemons, limes, apples) and top up with water. Instantly you have a centrepiece or room filler. We also made garlands from chillies to hang around the venue and we filled every surface with spice scented tea lights.”

Claire Bowman, sales manager, etc.venues Victoria:

“Creativity is a big focus at etc.venues as we try to have both creative and functional space in the venue. We have lots of contemporary art work and bright colours throughout the venue to provide discussion and stimulate the attendees. We also have a few pieces of art work from one of our members of staff that he created him self from recycled coffee stirrers.

“As we do everything in house at the venue it really gives us the ability to work with clients’ budgets closely. Our chefs can do food challenges and really get involved with the delegates and we work closely with teambuilding companies, which means they know the space well and can offer the best value for money. They’re also always happy to come along for a show-round with the client at our venue which means they can rest secure in knowing they are being looked after and can brainstorm face to face in the space they want to use!”

Feed your imagination with ideas for how and where to hold your next event within London’s most illustrious business and lifestyle destination, Westminster, at our special 10th anniversary venue showcase, taking place at London’s most central venue, 8 Northumberland Avenue.

This is a FREE breakfast networking and educational event for anyone* in the business of booking corporate and private events, meetings and conferences. Click here to REGISTER NOW.

Champagne Gosset & scallop canapés prove hits at St Martin’s wine tasting

Westminster-based venue managers and event coordinators swirled, sniffed and slurped through a line-up of seven quality wines at an enjoyable tasting evening with on- and off-trade supplier McKinley Vintners earlier this week (Weds 19th June), at Trafalgar Square church, café and events venue St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Hosted by Louise du Bosky, marketing and brand manager for McKinley Vintners, guests, who were all from venues within The Westminster Collection (TWC), tasted varieties including Domaine Clavel Régulus rouge 2010, Côtes du Rhône, Château La Mascaronne “Quat’Saisons” rosé 2010, Côtes de Provence and Ca ‘Ongaresca Spumante Rosé Brut within the beautiful oak-panelled surrounds of St Martin’s Hall.

The star of the show was the Champagne Gosset Brut Excellence NV, combining Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Champagne Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne, established in 1584.

Intense, elegant and warm on the nose, with very fresh floral notes of honeysuckle, wisteria, white jasmine and vine blossom, this Champagne rapidly gives way to mature, fruity aromas, from delicately perfumed, melt-in-the-mouth garden pears to the sweet, more identifiable perfumes of exotic fruits like pineapple, guava and mango. Swirling releases subtle hints of butter and caramel, followed by a warm fragrance of gingerbread and cinnamon.

On the palate it has an earthy taste with the subtle fragrance of cinnamon, cardamom and green pepper. Its finish is smooth, with delicious flavours of candied fruit, cinnamon cake and liquorice, making it an ideal accompaniment to saltwater fish, poultry, duck or rabbit.

Canapes by head chef Adam at SMITFSt Martin-in-the-Fields’ in-house head chef Adam Ismael and team excited with carefully crafted canapés, including mini chargrilled venison burgers served in a mini brioche bun with crispy pancetta and blue cheese, seared scallop served on crispy potato cake topped with pickled quail egg and chive hollandaise, and warm smoked salmon profiteroles glazed with paprika parmesan.

Guests were later taken on a tour of the rooms available for hire for weddings, private events, meetings, conferences and dinners at St Martin-in-the-Fields. The intimate, vaulted ceiling and exposed brick Gallery space looked stunning adorned with the vibrant works of artist Mark Weighton’s The One and the Many exhibition, while The Crypt was busy with jazz fans awaiting the sca and Latin funk sounds of 9-piece band Maroon Town.

This weekend, St Martin’s will see its brand new Café in the Courtyard crane-lifted into position in the open terrace directly behind the church. Its grand opening will take place on Monday 24th June, at 10am, when lunch will be available from 11.30am-2pm. In the evening the Café in the Courtyard will be the perfect place to relax with friends over a glass of wine and a meal and to watch the world go by.

Find out more about holding an event at St Martin-in-the-Fields here.

The Westminster Collection brings together the finest meetings, conference and events venues in the City of Westminster, a large area of Zone 1 central London which encompasses major landmarks, world famous shopping streets, beautiful parks and an assortment of restaurants, attractions and entertainment.

Through our free online venue enquiry service, events and marketing communications programme, TWC aims to promote the benefits of doing business in Westminster and be a trusted enquiry mechanism for event organisers, event agencies, corporate and association buyers.

Events staff supplier commits £100k to skills training

Events staff supplier and training provider Off to Work has pledged to invest £100,000 into the training of its casual staff team this year, as announced at the company’s recent Event School.

Inspiring service staff, hospitality and events professionals to be more creative in the way they style, design and market all aspects of their events offering was central to the theme of this year’s Event School, an initiative created and run by Off to Work to deliver a programme of practical skills training to its staff teams, clients and to students and the wider events and hospitality industry.

Event School saw workshops in event photography, wine buying for events and designer cocktail mixing combine with lessons in persuasive copywriting, proposal crafting and effective use of technology and social media, all hosted at Off to Work’s dedicated London training academy, the London Irish Centre, in Camden on 9th and 10th April 2013.

“We understand the huge steps many of our clients have been making in the development of their service product and it is our commitment to provide them with a staffing resource that mirrors their service standards,” said Robert Persson, director of operations for Off to Work.

“We have always been 100% committed to the training and mentoring of our team and this year we’re pleased to pledge a £100,000 investment into training initiatives especially for our casual staff team. While people may work for us on a casual basis, their commitment is far from casual and so we are eager to give these ambitious staff, at all levels, the opportunity to develop their experience and career with Off to Work.”

Workshop speakers included Simon Owen, director of Red Photographic, Miriam Staley, former finalist on The Apprentice and now managing director of speaker sourcing agency MakeWaves, Carlos Blanco of Blanco & Gomez Wine Merchants, David Wise from Wise Productions and events consultant Emma Boardman of The Lovely Party Company. Off to Work was also delighted to have the involvement and support of ISES, with operations manager Toni Griggs leading the workshop on event marketing technology.

Former Off to Work employee Keri Moss, winner of Masterchef: The Professionals and now head chef at The Corner Restaurant at Selfridges, also joined Nick Mead, director of Eden Caterers, Vicky O’Hare, managing director of Party Ingredients and Gerald Aberdeen, executive head chef for Table Talk, in a lively panel discussion about the challenges of designing menus with locally sourced produce when the UK’s seasons are so temperamental. They also discussed the opportunity the events industry has to speed up how quickly it takes lessons and influences from the food and dining trends paved by the fashionable restaurant set.

Sharing positive feedback on her experience at Event School 2013, Jada Johnson, events manager for Eden Caterers, said: “We all found it to be informative and worth our time. I really enjoyed my two classes. The copywriting class was really good, with some good techniques I will be putting into practice in our blog and in my proposals. I’m sure you were all really pleased with the increased turn out on last year. The list of attendees also meant that I met some interesting people.”

The workshop programme was followed on the evening of 10th April by the Off to Work London Staff Awards, a special celebration of the star performers within the Off to Work staff team. Prize categories ranged from Staff Member of the Year – won by Himali Ginige Palihawadana – and Best Event Porter (Peter Korkhill), to Best Supervisor (Vittore Zanardi) and Most Improved (Alessandro Riccarelli).

Thinking Outside the Box for Team Building Events

By the events team at The Royal Institution of Great Britain

Everyone functions in groups, however what makes a group of people a team and furthermore, what makes a team good or bad, successful or unsuccessful? More importantly what can be done to create a better ‘team’ within an organisation?

Have you ever seen the dread in employees faces when they are presented with the latest team building scenario that they will be coerced into ‘throwing themselves into’ with the aim of improving performance through greater and more effective team work at the same time as providing a fun experience? It is very likely that there will be plenty of looks of horror cascading around the office as colleagues picture the ‘trust falls’ and ‘group chanting’ in a secluded field somewhere.

Of course, this might be slightly exaggerated; however, there are a large number of employees that are subjected each year to company team building events which include various pursuits and role-play scenarios. The advantages to an organisation of a team that works well together are clear; greater efficiency, skill specialisation, creativity and reduced staff turnover. Therefore, it is not a surprise that companies invest in team building activities. In fact, so many companies do it that it has developed into a multi-million pound industry catering for everything from a day out at the races to paint balling and gourmet cookery classes. But to what extent do team building events, as we understand them, actually result in the desired objectives?

With a growing number of team building specialist agencies now in operation many are entering their busiest time yet. However there is a shift to more objective focused and thought out events rather than just pure fun or cringeworthyness. Following on from media ridiculing as the Department for Business, Innovation and skills invested £4,700 on a ‘chocolate treat’ team building activity for 40 staff, it seems the pressure is really on for companies to measure the outcomes of team events more closely to prove their benefits.

Carrie from Bluebrick Consulting, who specialise in management consulting, explains how it’s not just the activity that shapes the team building session but more importantly the environment in which it takes place.

‘Being in an historic building is both inspiring and thought provoking for delegates and creates a perfect frame of mind for people when they are in “learning mode.” In the Royal Institution for example there are lots of interesting spaces for delegates to work in when in break-out activities which enable delegates to think differently, something that can be challenging when working in a more conventional conference venue.’

Taking employees out of the office and into a new and positive environment is of crucial importance to a successful team building session. An element of fun or excitement is also important. Individuals will stay focused and learn more if they are engaged in a positive activity. This is why organisations favour a challenge-based session or a life-size table football match over plonking their employees in front of a presentation on ‘How to be a better team player’ in a conference theatre.

In the midst of all this supposed fun and complimentary drink, lie some extensively researched theories mostly within the social psychological field. Social Identity Theory as developed by Tajfel and Turner (1979), states that the individual has not one but rather several selves or perceived identities that correspond to the various groups they belong or feel they belong to. Different social contexts may trigger an individual to feel, think and act on the basis of his personal, relational or national ‘sense of self’. There are many different schools of thought on how and why groups can influence the individual and to what effect, but one thing seems to be clear, is that team building is the process of creating a collaborative enterprise that can perform or effect change.

So as long as thought is given to the team involved, the desired outcome and the implementation a team building event doesn’t need to be dreaded by employees or a fruitless cost to employers. The benefits can be dramatic if the activity is carefully planned and executed.