Sheffield’s steely determination

Big investments in the Sheffield venue scene have been made in recent
times, following on major investment in road improvements which have
helped to make the steel city more attractive to conference organisers.

Last
year saw significant developments in Sheffield’s venue offer, with the
opening of a new Hampton by Hilton Hotel complete with Marco Pierre
White restaurant and the reopening of Sheffield Cathedral which has been
modernised following a £4m renovation project, while both of the city’s
universities stepped up their conference offer unveiling new
facilities.

Sheffield Hallam University recently opened its new Heart of the Campus, an energy-efficient
three-storey building with meeting spaces, rooftop garden, 220-seater
lecture theatre and courtroom for mock trials. Hallam has also
refurbished its 450-seater Pennine lecture theatre on its city centre
campus.

Meanwhile The University of Sheffield’s £20m investment
project has created six new meeting spaces for up to 250 delegates and a
flagship restaurant, Inox Dine.

The University will unveil The
Diamond in late 2015. Set to be the jewel in the university’s property
portfolio, this sustainable building will offer six floors of facilities
incorporating learning spaces, lecture theatres, teaching rooms and
independent study spaces.

SIV Events continues to procure and
deliver major events for the SIV venue consortium. SIV has a portfolio
of 20 venues and event spaces in Yorkshire, including Sheffield’s
premier convention centre, Sheffield City Hall, and the largest
exhibition halls in the region, the Motorpoint Arena and iceSheffield.

SIV
Events delivered 2,000 events in 2014 including hosting the Royal
Statistical Society, the Neuroanaesthesia Society of Great Britain and
Ireland and the MADE Entrepreneur International and National
Conferences.

 In 2015 stand out events include the British Elbow
Shoulder Society National Conference, ChemEng 2015 National Conference,
and Society of Independent Brewers Association – Beer X National
Conference and Exhibition.
 
Value by associations

Business
Tourism has maintained a steady year on year increase in Sheffield. The
sector was most recently valued at £117m (Events Market Trends Survey
2013), positioning Sheffield as a regional frontrunner. The Association
sector is increasingly accounting for a larger slice of this value. For
Sheffield this figure was 27 per cent, significantly higher than the
national average of 19 per cent and an indication Marketing Sheffield’s
focus on targeting association business is paying off.

The
Sheffield Conference Ambassador Programme continues to generate event
leads for the Marketing Sheffield team to bid on. The programme has
generated £13.5m worth of conferences and events to the local economy.

Marketing
Sheffield is developing its association targeting to align with the
city’s  key sector strengths. The depth of Sheffield’s reputation for
Medical Research and Technology isn’t always known outside of specialist
circles, yet these associations in particular are presenting an
increasing number of event opportunities for the city.

Sheffield
is also laying claim the title of the UK’s Outdoor Capital City and has
clinched two major events off the back of this – the European Outdoor
Summit and the International Adventure Tourism Conference, both set to
take place in 2015. The profile was also boosted by hosting the Tour de
France and outdoor Associations are set to become a major focus in
Marketing Sheffield’s strategic agenda over the coming year.

Elsewhere,
medical specialisms continue to prove their worth, with the British
Society Paediatric Endocrinology & Diabetes Annual Conference and
the British Scoliosis Society Annual Meeting hosted in Sheffield in
2015.

Big conferences

Although nothing quite
matched the staging of the Yorkshire Grand Depart. Sheffield’s
conferencing and events calendar remained buoyant throughout 2014 with a
varied calendar of both new and returning events.

Doc/Fest
International Documentary Festival continues to be one of the city’s
biggest annual events, bringing 1,000 delegates last June, while the
Children’s Media Conference in July has grown rapidly.

New events
in 2014 included the Royal Statistical Society’s Annual Conference and
FutureBuild sustainability of housing and renewable energy conference,
while the International Sports Engineering Association marked its 10th
annual conference with a Sheffield homecoming.

Market analysis from the bureau

According
to Marketing Sheffield’s recent research, the value of Sheffield’s
business tourism market is increasing to pre-recession levels. The
market remains fiercely competitive, the bureau acknowledges, believing
event organisers that use Sheffield understand how their events can
excel here.

The city centre is compact but offers all the advantages of a major UK city.

You
can walk to more than 2,000 hotels rooms in 10 minutes from the train
station and the central venues are clustered together.

Sheffield claims the No 1 UK City for customer service and Best Value City Break accolades from Trip Advisor.

John
Gallery of Yorkshire-based Great Potential says Sheffield is a
destination with options for event organisers. “Its strengths include a
good choice of city centre venues that can accommodate both small
business meetings and large-scale events.

“It is close to some
dynamic countryside which is ideal for corporate teambuilding and
experiences and also an accessible destination near the M1 motorway and
good rail connections. Travel within the city is good with its modern
tram service. Plus the city has a sports bias that may suit many
planners.”

Challenges for meetings and event organisers are
probably more about perception, Gallery adds. “Fine dining is not huge
and Sheffield has in the past been a public sector destination but that
is changing.”

Helen Davis of Top Banana said Sheffield may not be
a an obvious choice for organisers, “but it does offer good value
options which shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re planning an event in the
north, without heading to the perennially popular Leeds or Manchester”.

“We
have proposed it for clients seeking venues that embody an innovative,
industrial heritage to reflect their own brand aspirations,” says Davis
who picks out the expansive Magna, as well as the three theatres, and
the City Hall and Cathedral complex, as venues the agency has used.

“Each
offers something quite different and with some decent hotels in the
city, delegate accommodation is pretty straightforward too.

“In
our opinion, it’s better placed for a UK based audience than for
international delegates who would need to fly in and then take a
(potentially lengthy) transfer.”

Then again, delegates could always get on their bikes and follow the lead of the maillot jaune.

Case study

Event: MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival  
Organiser: BE Group
Date: 22-26 September 2014
Delegates: 3,000+
Venues: Sheffield
City Hall; Cutlers Hall; Electric Works; Town Hall; Showroom Cinema;
Winter Gardens; Sheffield Central Library; Mercure St Pauls Hotel; The
Great Gatsby (Entrepeneur’s Pub)

Dubbed the Glastonbury for
business, MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival claims to be the UK’s biggest
Festival of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. Taking place in Sheffield
each year, the aim behind MADE is to inspire people to run and develop
their own businesses, learn more about what it is like to be an
entrepreneur and meet others to develop opportunities.

Event
programme: This year’s festival saw the main events take place 24-26
September, with the highlight being the MADE for Success Conference held
at Sheffield City Hall, which welcomed high profile speakers such as
former model and Ultimo boss Michelle Mone, Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae
Sauce fame and self-help expert Paul McKenna.

The festival also
included a gala dinner hosted by the Cutlers Hall, an exhibition in the
City Hall Ballroom and a designated Entrepreneur’s Pub, as well as a
programme of specialist fringe events.

Organiser comment: “We
were pleased with the attendance and quality of the speakers this year,”
said Nicki Clarke, Chief Operating Officer of BE Group. “It was a
valuable festival for so many new and would-be entrepreneurs. We’ve had
some fantastic feedback. Sheffield is a great destination for this sort
of multi-event programme, with a great number of diverse and exciting
venues in close proximity to one another, all with their own
accommodating events teams.

“A big advantage for us was the short
distance between Sheffield Train Station and these venues, which meant
we were able to transport a carriage full of VIPs and journalists from
London into our main events in just over two hours,” she added.

Image credit: Andy Brown

This was first published in the January issue of CN. Any comments? Email Paul Colston

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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