By Karen Spencer, conference officer at the ConferenceLeeds
In my role as conference officer at ConferenceLeeds, I’m lucky enough to work with a range of clients from many different industries to help them bring their conference to the city in the most successful way possible. Whether it’s a small-scale regional conference looking for something more unique, or a large international conference that requires a city welcome and walking tour, my job is to support this process from start to finish. This variety means that no two conferences are ever the same and I’m constantly learning something new.
The process starts with meeting the client, which could be at an industry events show, or spending the day taking them around the city. Either way, my first priority is finding out exactly what that client requires and discussing what ConferenceLeeds can offer them, so it’s a completely unique service every time. When the process begins, people are often surprised by what we can offer, which is why that face to face meeting is such an important step right from the start. Sometimes, the client may come to us with little knowledge of the city and need support finding the right venues, or they may also reach us through our ambassador programme and have a good knowledge of the city, but need support in the pitching process.
Of course, to be able to advise people on how to make the most of this city it’s important that I know it inside out myself. I spend a lot of my spare time visiting attractions and attending new openings, to make sure that my finger is always on the pulse. This can involve being the first to sample a new menu at one of the many restaurants cropping up across Leeds, to sampling cocktails, to attending new exhibitions at one of our museums – certainly no complaints from me!
It can take two to three years to bring a conference to Leeds, during which time I spend a substantial amount of time liaising with the client, so the relationship between us is very important. I take the time to learn my clients’ wants and needs and use this to help them find the venues that are best suited to their conference. I’ll often take them on several site visits around the city to showcase what we have to offer and once I’ve spent time getting to know them, I can use my own knowledge of our venue portfolio to find the best match.
Being involved in the process from the very start and then getting to see the end result after years of work is extremely rewarding, and one of the most satisfying parts of my job.