Inside the NATO Summit

Event: The NATO Summit
Date: 4 -5 September
Venue: Celtic Manor Resort, Newport
World leaders: 60
Spaces used at the venue: Convention Centre, 100 bedrooms changed into offices, 300 rooms used for bedrooms
Staff: 800
Security: 9,000
Meals served: 34,260

Matthew Lewis, Operations Director
:

What was your main responsibility during the event?
To oversee the day-to-day running of the whole resort. During NATO, I had a strong team of senior management, looking after their key areas, just keeping the whole event together, delivering what we needed to deliver, when we needed to deliver it, keeping an eye on it and coordinating all of the operations within the resort.
 
Overall how did the event go from your perspective? Did it go as planned?

It was fantastic, but first and foremost it was a surreal experience. Being so close to technically the most powerful people in the world was very bizarre at times. It was a great platform for us as a business, to show what we can do. We’ve been very lucky to showcase what we can do at a world level; we’ve had the Ryder Cup previously, the foreign ministers conference before that, and, interestingly, once you’ve hosted the Ryder Cup, which is one of the world’s biggest sporting events, you look at what else you can do, and it’s massive. And now on the back of NATO, we sat down and said what else can we do, what’s bigger than this?
 
How many staff worked across the summit?

As a resort, we had around 800 staff who worked across, and in the lead up to the summit. With the build-up as well, everyone had their part to play, whether that was HR looking after the accreditation, whether it was the corporate relations sales team who were out meeting clients, gifting, saying look what’s happening at the resort and then the team on site here – we all pulled together. It was all hands on deck. It was a real team achievement. I was locked in the steel fence for the week, sleep was… well not a lot of it happened. I was running on adrenaline.

What did you enjoy most during the summit?
I think from a personal perspective, just being in that environment was wholly inspiring, it was emotional at times, to think and really appreciate the people that you were rubbing shoulders with. It makes you realise that while you work at a very senior level in the business, your role is very small compared with the people there that week, whose decisions don’t just affect 500 people, but millions and countries and people’s lives. It’s very grounding.
 
What advice would you give to someone else in your position hosting the next NATO summit?
Plan, plan, plan as much as you can but never think you can plan it all. At the end of the day you’ve got to be flexible and be ready to adapt. Sometimes things can change at 1am in in the morning.

Nancy Mollett, Conference & Banqueting Director:

What was the greatest challenge?
There were lots of different challenges along the way, as you would expect. We had to enable the building of a structure on our rooftop garden that was the equivalent of our main conference room, so as you can imagine there were various building challenges especially with managing the weight load. There were also the logistics of managing how to deliver tea to the tables while meetings were going on, which requires a whole different level of guidance and support from the hospitality team.

Were there any technical difficulties?
No, there were none, which is a huge credit to our staff and their level of ability. I think    there may have been one blown light bulb during the event.

How did this compare on an event scale to the Ryder Cup?

It was very different, the Ryder Cup was a big event but in a different situation. We had 45,000 people coming through the gates every day to watch the golf and the golf was quite remote, away from the hotel. The only activity at the resort was when the teams needed to eat. The difference with NATO was that it involved everybody; every area of the resort was in use, every meeting room, every function room. Every area of space that we could possible give them was taken up. We had people moved out of offices, we had chair stores turned into meeting rooms, every space was required and every space was used.
 
What were the main changes in your daily routine?
The main change would have been the hours. I was one of the small team that lived on the resort and we were the crisis team who were constantly on call in case anything was required and needed our expertise. We were in for around five nights and I was up at 5am every morning. My latest night was 2.30am.

Any key stats?
We got through 28,000 bottles of water and 20,000 cups of coffee. We served 15,000 meals and it took 50 people to go in and serve tea to a table of 70 leaders in under two minutes. There were around 600 production teams involved and the build took five weeks.

This was first published in the November issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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