Outdoor events can be a challenge with Britain’s uncertain weather, but event bookers and venues are clearly not deterred. Briony Key reports
As we have learned during this soggy summer, so many of our outdoor plans have to consider a Plan B in case we don’t get the sunny day we hoped for. However, our venues have worked hard to accommodate this with marquees, parasols, portable events and pop ups that can be as easily staged inside as outside.
From cocktail master classes, to teambuilding It’s a Knock Out competitions, pop ups, quizzes, survival academy and themed events, this summer is seeing a host of creative options alongside the always-a-winner barbecue.
Pop ups are a definite trend this season, with lots of fun events planned.
At The Deck at the National Theatre in London the events team is running a week of new British comedy talent in a series of pop-up events this August.
From 24 to 29 August, the rooftop venue, situated above the National Theatre, will showcase a themed event each evening to unite the acts.
This includes LGBT night, with performances from Zoe Lyons and David Morgan, and an All-Star night, which also offers a signer for those hard-of-hearing.
Marc Buxey, director of sales at QHotels Norton Park hotel in Hampshire, credited the combination of old and new for bringing clients and delegates to his venue.
“The traditional manor house and barn, contrasting with all the mod cons of its modern conferencing facility, is really appealing,” said Buxey. “And there’s the option to be flexible with lunch and dinner arrangements as many professionals choose to dine alfresco or opt for a summer barbecue to complete their day outside.”
Tom Woodhead, marketing manager at Team Spirit, is organising a host of summer-themed activities for corporates at the Winchester venue, from outdoor problem-solving challenges, to falconry and It’s a Knockout events – complete with giant costumes, water and foam.
“If you really want to engage, motivate and bond with your delegates take teambuilding outside,” said Woodhead. “These types of summer activities really boost morale. Delegates go away having bonded as a team and having formed lasting relationships.
“It’s key that we work with venues, like Norton Park, which has plenty of indoor meeting and conference space to accommodate large delegate numbers, and the outdoor grounds – boasting 54 acres – for the teambuilding activities.”
Making the most of its outdoor potential, the Sopwell House events team, in Hertfordshire, has been working with the catering service to promote events catering for 30 to 900. These include BBQs, cocktail master classes, drinks and canapés receptions, hog roasts and themed private events.
Owner, Abraham Bejerano, said: “Sopwell House offers acres of space for outdoor activities including the Walled Garden – a large, flat 600sqm walled enclosure, located within our picturesque gardens and grounds.
“Complete with its own power and water supply, the Walled Garden can be used for many activities, including outdoor picnics and parties, location filming, concerts and screenings, exhibitions and wedding receptions.”
Teambuilding events or energetic corporate games can be easily organised and the worst of the British weather kept at bay with the addition of a marquee.
Sopwell House is also offering up to 50% off a two nights summer stay.
Barbecues are always popular at the Royal College of Physicians, in London, where the events team makes use of the venue’s Medicinal Garden, which houses over 1,300 medicinal plants.
Bookers can opt for a four-hour event, with a full BBQ, beers and soft drinks package, or a three-hour version. Garden benches, parasols, garden lighting, picnic blankets come free of charge.
The venue’s sales and marketing manager, Natacha Allen, said: “We recently hosted a Celebration of Forgotten Fare event, in partnership with their contract caterer Fare of London, which welcomed meetings and event planners for a vintage themed evening of forgotten foods and celebration. It was a great success.”
Also in London, the conference and events arm of the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA Venues, is hosting up to 150 people on its three roof terraces, where guests can enjoy cold drinks, sharing platters and watch the sun go down over London.
In addition, RIBA Venues offers historical teambuilding quizzes and summer cocktail making classes with their in-house mixologist – guests can make their own RIBAtinis using secret ingredients, with the best cocktail winning a prize.
Exclusive Hotels and Venues
Keen to add their contribution to the mix, Exclusive Hotels and Venues launched SEASON Cookery School at Lainston House, near Winchester in June.
The independent luxury country house hotel group has adapted the 17th century listed property so that it now houses a new kitchen (with six double-sided work stations), and a private dining area. SEASON offers a range of interactive, educational and entertaining classes run by award-winning chefs. The classes are designed to challenge teams and build relationships in an inspired new teambuilding experience for the corporate sector.
Johanne Holman, group sales and marketing director said: “We are delighted to have expanded our offering at SEASON to include carefully selected master classes for corporate groups that underline our commitment to providing memorable experiences that attract, inspire, motivate and challenge delegates.”
De Vere Venues
Meanwhile De Vere Venues has taken the teambuilding experience to a new level by partnering with event specialist, Chillisauce, to launch the Bear Grylls Survival Academy Ultimate Teambuilding Package.
The package will be run across five key De Vere venues, giving delegates a survival experience of their own, run by Bear’s personal team of experts.
The experience combines high performance teamwork using natural instinct and survival techniques to bring out the best in a delegate’s cohesion, leadership and team building skills.
Participants will take part in activities that include fire lighting, shelter building, wild food cooking, water purification, rope skills, crossing difficult ground, abseiling and traverses.
Ian Conder, group sales director at De Vere Venues, said: “We are committed to constantly improving our corporate offering, and delivering innovative, creative and effective teambuilding packages is a crucial element of this.”
Delegates can combine the teambuilding activities with an eight-hour meeting room hire and an energising lunch to form the half-day package, or three-course dinner and overnight accommodation to form the full-day package.
The summer can also be a time to think about improving your own meetings industry qualifications and competences, as well as a time to take a trip to another country and getting a fresh global perspective.
The European Cities Marketing (ECM) Summer School is one such initiative that gives insight into the structure and functioning of the meetings industry, illustrating it with cutting edge examples of European best practice.
The school could help those starting out in the sector and those who are exploring its potential as a tool of commercial and economic development.
The ECM Summer School is tailored for staff of convention bureaux, hotels, PCOs, DMCs, airlines, conference venues and convention centres. Wherever you get your summer inspiration, make use of the great outdoors.