Alison Griffin: No fixed abode

Listen to this article

Alison Griffin, head of sales and marketing at Harrogate International Centre asks why events move and what can be done to attract them…

Events move and there really is not much we can do about it… or can we? Destinations and venues frequently face both the fear and excitement of an event move. The fear comes from the fact that a “regular” is considering somewhere else, whilst the excitement revolves around the possibility of a new event. The big questions of course are why the event is moving in the first place and what can be done to secure the business.

It is important to recognise the fact that different events move for different reasons. Regular (annual/biennial etc) conferences tend to be more flexible and often work on a rotational system, revisiting the same venue for several years or in a fixed pattern – sometimes because “it is the way they have always done it”, other times because of delegate locations or particular messages to be delivered at particular times. Exhibitions on the other hand tend to stick to one location for longer periods of time and move for “a change” or because the organisers believe a different location will drive up visitor numbers.

However, don’t be fooled into believing that it is the organiser’s decision. More often than not the need for a move comes from a far less controllable and harder to influence group – the audience and delegates.  If they are unhappy, they will make their problems known to the organisers and change starts to take place. With this in mind, destinations and venues need to focus on several key areas to excite and engage the audience. Three of these include:

Marketing of the destination – no matter how little time they spend in a destination, event attendees will prefer to visit somewhere they actually like. Somewhere clean, attractive and benefiting from the facilities they need. The longer the event the more important this becomes, which is why it is vital to engage with the whole community and clearly demonstrate why you are not only capable of holding the event but have a destination-wide desire to.

Location – very different from destination, this is about geographical location and ease of access. Events with delegates countrywide are likely to prefer somewhere central, with good motorway access, train links and an airport within twenty minutes. A regional event on the other hand can afford to have less national links as long as the local infrastructure is in place.  In either case it is still vital to develop the destination-based links to ensure ease of access once the visitors arrive.

Going beyond the request for proposal (RFP) – often the first stage in the planning is the RFP, which is often focused on the venue and essential facilities needed for the event. Whilst it is of course paramount that this is completed correctly – and opportunities for embellishment are challenging – initial impressions count and this is an opportunity to make a difference.  Highlight the extra facilities you can offer: the links with the community, the newly installed equipment, the added value services that are free to organisers.

And finally – great service. Despite the recession, despite this “time of austerity”, events go on and price is not the be all and end all. Organisers still need to hold their events in a great destination that is easy for their audience to reach. They need to know the hidden benefits’ of one venue and town over another and above all they need to be confident that everyone working on their event – from managing director to car-parking assistant will offer the best possible service and friendliest attitude to their visitors.