There’s a spring in the conference step

Emily King says goodbye to the harsh winter weather and hello to the fresh start-over feeling and spring seasonal winds blowing through the UK events marketplace.

The change in seasons, and hopefully temperature, is also seeing the business barometer rise for the conference and meetings industry.

Organisers and delegates are always more keen to embrace the longer daylight hours, the warmer weather, and the outside.

“Clients appear to want to get closer to nature,” suggests Mollie Powles, sales and marketing executive at Inntel.

Each venue shapes its approach and focus to meet the specific changes its customers traditionally demand.

While some venues choose to focus on lightening and brightening their menus, others have turned to their outside spaces to let in more daylight to their conferences and events.

Victoria Grantham, operations at Inntel, noted that BBQs and roasted meats are increasingly popular choices for Spring meeting menus.

The Mermaid, London has recently unveiled a spring menu for 2016 based on traditional British cuisine with ‘modern’ twists.

Head chef at The Mermaid, James Humphrey, explains: “Our spring/summer menus have been inspired by classic British dishes. However, for 2016 we have given the traditional British offering a fresh twist.”

Alicia Duncan, general manager at The Mermaid adds: “This year we are increasing our sustainable efforts and have used locally sourced produce for our menus. By sourcing ingredients at their best time of consumption from nearby suppliers we have created a nutritious menu that is inspired by our local community.”

The Mermaid is not alone in providing plenty of options for healthy lighter bites as well as the more indulgent treats.

The spring menu at this venue also allows working lunches, or buffets for those that have time to stop and have a leisurely bite with colleagues.

Tom’s Kitchen, the group of restaurants and delis founded by chef Tom Aiken, has just launched a new deli and bar at the HMS Belfast on the Thames.

The deli offers a signature range of sandwiches, fresh salads and platters, bakery and beverages for the spring/summer event season.

“The opportunity to create a Tom’s Kitchen Deli and Bar in such an extraordinary space is a real privilege, and one that we are very excited about,” says Aiken.

Outdoor spaces
When it comes to getting out and into the fresh air, Historic Royal Palaces is able to offer
a range of outdoor event space across its heritage sites including Kensington Palace, the Sunken Garden, and Hampton Court Palace.

Kensington Palace is certainly a royal breath of fresh air for clients looking to host that special outdoor event.

The palace’s Orangery has hosted spring events, such as outdoor cinemas, and Glorious George’s Family Festival, for hundreds of years. Its Portland stone terrace and expansive lawns can accommodate larger events and enable guests to enjoy some evening sunshine against a famous backdrop.

If you’re looking for more intimate spring drinks receptions, the Sunken Garden offers a tranquil space, on the palace’s roof terrace, with space for up to 80 guests.

With VisitEngland celebrating 2016 as the Year of the English Garden, Hampton Court Palace fits the spring venues bill to a tee. It will be opening its 20th Century Garden for daytime and evening events from April following the installation of a bridge over the canal that separates the garden from the East Front of the palace.

This quiet and secluded corner of Hampton Court is planted with ornamental trees, shrubs and hornbeam hedges and can host events for up to 1,500 guests.

Rachael Cotton, head of corporate events at Center Parcs, stresses the importance of getting outside: “Spending time outdoors is vital for mental and physical wellbeing, and numerous studies have shown that there are significant health benefits from spending time in parkland and forests engaged in physical activity.”

When you think of Center Parcs the outdoors certainly comes into the equation, and with each of its Villages offering up to 400 acres of forest landscapes, which can be used for events and/or teambuilding activities, it’s easy to see why.

“It’s inspiring for us to see delegates arrive at Center Parcs heavy with the stresses and strains of city life and instantly be put at ease by the natural charm of our lodges and woodlands,” says Cotton.

RIBA Venues is another place offering outdoor space for the spring season.

This venue can host up to 150 people on its green roof terrace where guests can enjoy cold drinks, a BBQ and watch the sun go down over London. It also has a “wet weather plan” in the Florence Hall, for the notoriously unpredictable British weather.

“Bookers seem to rediscover their inner child in the warmer months. Requests for ‘It’s a Knock Out’ activities and teambuilding exercises have certainly increased,” says Sophie Webster, an M&E consultant at Inntel.

Exercise and teambuilding
Moving on from the beginning of the year blues, spring can be the time to restart the New Year resolutions you ditched when the cold weather increased.

The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) has embraced its commitment to healthy living with the introduction of three new shows at the venue this spring.

They will play host to the Scottish Cycling, Running and Outdoor Pursuits Show, 11-13 March; The Allergy and Free From Show, 19-20 March; and the OM Yoga Show, 2-3 April.

“We are delighted to be welcoming three brand new shows to the SECC this spring. A healthy ethos is something that is very important to the SECC.

“The venue recently became the first in the world to be accredited under the World Obesity Federation’s Healthy Venue Awards programme, achieving silver status,” says Dan Thurlow, director of exhibition sales at the SECC.

A whole host of outdoor teambuilding activities are blossoming at venues this spring.
Companies looking for a unique teambuilding experience can inspire their employees with a climb to the roof of London’s O2.

Exclusive-use teambuilding packages include the sunrise and twilight sessions that give corporate leaders the opportunity to bring a different perspective to a unique teambuilding activity. All sessions include a team video along with breakfast, or dinner and drinks on the roof.

Of course, with their extensive outdoor space, Center Parcs offer a range of spring teambuilding activities.

One event held at Center Parcs recently was a three-day event for 250 guests which featured a Caribbean beach party complete with a surf simulator, beach volleyball court, pedaloes, canoes and rowing boats for guests to venture onto the lake.

Rachael Cotton suggests that teambuilding has become a much more competitive market within the corporate industry and adds: “It is fantastic to see providers and venues offering more immersive experiences that not only provide return on investment for clients by taking delegates out of their comfort zone and creating stimulating challenges that encourage team work, but allow delegates to escape the ‘four walls’ of the conference room and engage in activities that can help reduce stress and increase motivation.”

Emily King


Emily King

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