Robin Parker: Something for the weekend?

Venue owners need to open their minds, and not just their doors. So says Robin Parker, general manager, Church House Conference Centre

Gone are the days when running a conference centre in the centre of London was a five day a week job – if in fact it ever was! As we all turn our hands to replacing the revenue hole left by the fall off in our traditional daytime business, the focus has turned to the evenings and weekends.

For many venues this has proved hugely successful with corporate dinners, drinks receptions, and of course at weekends, weddings all bringing in valuable revenue. But what is the effect of this on the venue? Although the additional revenue is important, have we all become busy fools working up to seven days to produce the results we used to be able to achieve in five?

“But we are in the events industry”, I hear you all cry. An industry where you can’t be successful unless you can live on two hours sleep a night, have a succession of broken relationships and a heavy reliance on all things bad for you. But does it have to be this way? Answers on a postcard please.

I believe the answer is no – it doesn’t. However, it may have taken a while for the penny to drop. With better scheduling and smarter use of freelance staff, seven really can go into five.

In the past venues with the words conference centre in their title have been precisely that and the need to look for business outside “conference hours” was not only unnecessary but even undesirable in some cases. This was not always the fault of the venue, as often the clients’ perception was that they must do what they “say on the tin”. However the truth is that with very little effort most can be turned into excellent venues capable of hosting a wide range of events.

If you ran a shop you wouldn’t open it for half a day and expect to stay in business. And the same applies to venues. As a rough rule, events run from either 9am – 5pm or from 7pm – 11pm so give each equal standing and don’t apply ridiculous surcharges for evenings or put on unnecessary restrictions. If we want to operate a venue instead of a conference centre or be in the events industry and not just the conference industry, we need to open our minds and not just our doors!