Paul Bunce, commercial manager, Conference Aston
If there’s one thing that’s affected almost every industry – including ours – since the Brexit vote, it’s uncertainty. The construction sector has seen developments being put on hold; pharmaceutical, financial and the education sectors have hit pause on research projects, and big businesses are working to much shorter time frames when signing off their budgets.
How does this filter down the chain? Well, despite this year giving us our best-ever Q1 results, we’ve seen organisations of all sizes, including some of our biggest clients, making decisions much later than they would usually. The business is still coming through, but shorter planning periods, a reactive need for meetings, and delays in organisations getting budgets signed off has resulted in increasingly shorter lead times for conferences and events.
At the moment, the new business enquiries for the larger day meetings and residentials could arrive within 2-3 weeks of the event, which means adaptability and versatility are key to riding the wave. This isn’t a bad thing. Especially with a central location in Birmingham, where short lead demand is still so strong, it’s a testament to the city’s reputation as a business destination and highlights the increasing number of organisations with operations based in the region.
From a venue perspective, we’re lucky that the spaces we have allow us to accommodate for shorter lead time events for a diverse range of requirements. We may have seen more challenges if our spaces were more restrictive or fixed to a particular size or style. That mix of event space allows us to accommodate those events for 6, 60 or 600 day or residential delegates. With a host of different room sizes and layouts, across two hotel and conference centre venues, on Aston University’s campus, we’re able to provide, quickly, a suitable space for clients.
Our culture and operational setup is driven around business events, so when we’re handling those last minute enquiries that package approach makes life easier for our customers, because they pay one inclusive rate, without worrying about the cost impact of charges appearing for extra servings of coffee or a data projector in the room and that’s vital when considering those budget challenges faced by the market. Clear, transparent pricing is a must in the current climate.
As we continue to journey through uncharted waters, it’s critical that we react to the market, optimise our use of space, offer clear pricing and continue to exceed service delivery expectations, even under additional pressure. Versatility, clarity, adaptability and flexibility, all bundled up into one, are all key to our ongoing success.