Venues need to start innovating, says Claire Steven

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How did you get into the events industry and what attracted you to it?

I started working in a hotel while I was at school and, over time, became more involved in events and the operational side of the business – an environment that immediately made me feel at home.

What is the USP at Oulton Hall for organisers?

The team here and the service. Our guests can always expect a warm Yorkshire welcome.

Our location is also a huge USP – the combination of being in the countryside surroundings and yet just a few miles from the vibrant city centre of Leeds means our clients have the best of both worlds.

What trends are you seeing in the bookings/ideas brought in by clients?

We’re seeing more and more organisers looking for something completely unique and more importantly, designed specifically for them. Nothing is out of the question, which is what makes our job so exciting!

Are there any other sectors you think the meetings industry can learn from?

We can learn and take inspiration from every industry with a focus on customer service.

We also need to remember that new technology is and will continue to be at the forefront of every organiser’s mind. We can also learn from innovative industries, such as retail and marketing, to explore and utilise emerging technologies in our own industry.

Across the QHotels group, we conducted our ‘brainwaves’ experiment to track the thoughts and feelings of everyone involved in conferences – including organisers, speakers and delegates.

Using the EEG headsets, we monitored brain activity and were able to gather real-time feedback from our guests for the first time. We used our findings to better understand when and how to keep delegates engaged, or when to help speakers and organisers relieve stress or pressure.

What can the industry do better?

The speed at which technology is evolving means that event organisers’ needs are changing at an equally fast pace. Therefore, venues need to start innovating and realising how clients can use technology to enhance their events, rather than simply keeping up with demand. This means continually exploring and investing in tech to ensure the capabilities meet our clients’ needs.

This year, we’ve invested in a Wi-Fi upgrade at the hotel that will allow 500 simultaneous connections and a fair-share approach to Wi-Fi access per device.

What most excites you about your role?

Being involved in such a broad range of events and meeting inspiring people on a daily basis is the most exciting part of my job.

Greatest achievement in your career?

Seeing other people develop.

Bringing someone into the team, developing their skills and nurturing their talent is so rewarding, so helping others shape their career is one of my greatest achievements.

We all remember the best mentors and the best advice we’ve been given along the way.

What single piece of great advice did you receive in your formative years at work?

“What gets measured, gets done”, especially in conferences and events. Working with organisers and setting targets for what we want each event to achieve means we can see if the event has worked for everyone involved.

What has been the most difficult situation you have had to deal with in your career?

In a previous role, I had to re-locate a hotel full of guests after a power cut during a busy festive season, which was particularly challenging given the time of year. But we found every guest alternative accommodation.

Time-saving tip for organisers?

We can never have too much information from our clients. The more we have, the more we understand their needs and expectations.

Prediction for the future?

We may have to rethink how we design and market our event spaces in order to keep up with client needs and changing priorities, as well as the latest technology they want to use.

Service and hospitality will always be the most important factor for organisers however, venues that also offer a blank canvas, giving clients the space and technological capability to create their vision – no matter how big – will be the venues that prosper.

Advice for those looking for a future career in the events industry?

Never underestimate the relevance of work experience, even if it is in a slightly different industry.

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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