As a hotspot for corporate meetings and events as well as the host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games cycling event, Lanarkshire certainly knows how to deliver world-class events.
So popular are Lanarkshire’s event spaces that venues have had to increase the number of beds available, with a recent tourism audit, commissioned by North Lanarkshire Council, revealing a 12% increase in the amount of bed-space since 1999. There are now around 8,000 places for weary delegates to rest their heads after a glamorous black tie event or full day conference.
VenuesLanarkshire has decided to tap into this wealth of expertise, and asked the area’s top event managers to share their insider tips on everything from managing media relations, to identifying the best food and drink, and advice on engaging delegates.
For the team at one of Lanarkshire’s most popular events spaces, The Westerwood Hotel & Golf Resort there is no such thing as too much preparation.
According to event manager Katrina Ward, being organised is the key to a smooth event: “have as much detail as possible on hand throughout the day. Knowing your delegate numbers, seating plans and where your guests are traveling from ensures you will be prepared for anything, and will be able to make sensible decisions if running schedules have to be changed at late notice.”
Weddings & special events manager at The Westerwood Hotel & Golf Resort, Fiona White, highlights the benefits of giving your delegates plenty of notice, “send your invitations out eight weeks in advance. For most guests this gives them two paydays to sort their accommodation and more importantly their outfits!”
2. Engaging delegates
While pre-event preparation is key, so is keeping your delegates entertained once they have arrived and event manager Georgia McKay of Hamilton Park Racecourse, has an interesting tactic for keeping your delegates fresh and engaged throughout the day. She said “‘consider asking the venue to incorporate some superfoods into the menu, this will help your delegates stay alert throughout meetings.”
Fatty foods, such as pizza or chips may be tasty but it’s also a quick way to make your delegates feel drowsy and unmotivated. Consider switching the chocolate for carrots, and ensure there is plenty of water on the table keep everyone hydrated and focused.
Touching on the need to pick your venue wisely, Georgia continued “another way to keep your delegates engaged is to host the event in a bright, spacious room with plenty of ventilation. There is no quicker way to lose the attention of attendees than to keep them cooped up in a dark and stuffy room all day. Using a quirky and unique events space is also a great way to encourage excitement prior to the event.”
As Georgia McKay points out, “guests will be telling friends about the unusual place they are heading too and will be encouraged to share pictures of the venue on social media, creating great exposure for your event!”
In today’s market, organisers have a host of digital tools, to help them deliver a spectacular event. Mark Calpin, chair of the Lanarkshire Tourism Association, and general manager of the popular Holiday Inn Express, Hamilton, used his 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry, to provide insight on how best to capitalise on digital technology.
He said “free software such as MailChimp is a great way to create interesting, visually appealing and interactive digital newsletters which can inform delegates about vital information, including location, date, timings and parking facilities. You can even include a map or a photo of the venue so they know what to look for when they arrive.
“Such technology is also a great way to identify how many people have viewed your newsletter, which in turn helps monitor interest in the event.”
4. Media Exposure
Securing media partners, or issuing media releases is a great way to increase excitement ahead of an event. However, prior to initiating any media contact it is important to consider your audience, and target outlets accordingly. By contacting the correct publications, you increase your chances of getting your message to people with a genuine interest in your event.
Make sure to consider social channels, creating hashtags or dedicated Twitter or Facebook pages if appropriate. This is a great way to encourage communication amongst your delegates, all while increasing online exposure for your brand.
David Winpenny from Scotland’s premier visitor attraction, the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway, reflects on the benefits of media coverage especially if you have challenges to overcome. Speaking from personal experience he said “A few weeks prior to our annual Steam event, one of the main roads to the venue was closed. The media coverage gained prior to the big day helped inform our guests of the situation and as a result we secured a great turnout on a day.”
For many event planners, the organisation does not end with the venue, delegate list, or menu. In most cases it is important to consider where your guests are travelling from and whether they need somewhere to rest their head following an event.
Hetty Henderson, owner of Stoury Bothy, Kilsyth said “My advice would be to ensure that you have accommodation for everyone who needs to be accommodated! If it is a special event, you cannot have people sleeping on a couch.”
Consider whether delegates have the best type of accommodation to suit their needs, by checking whether there is disabled access if required, or whether your venue can be reached easily by public transport.