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Sharon Olver

Sharon Olver
Business Development Manager (Events) at UniSpace Sunderland

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Sharon Olver - 13 Nov 14
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13 Nov 14

Can the wrong events influence your academic venue branding?

Academic venues can’t exist in isolation. They are, by their very nature, required to work alongside the university. Even those that have entirely separate commercial and academic businesses will need to work with each other, but should the university’s brand be considered when determining the suitability of an event? I think so.

My team and I have spent a considerable amount of time nurturing our relationships with the various faculties at the university, which is a hugely important process as the benefits are mutual. We can advise lecturers and course leaders of the best ways to use the spaces available at the university to host events relevant to their disciplines and supply an experienced events team to ensure the event is top quality. In return, from a commercial perspective, the faculties are filling the booking calendar with significant events.

There are clearly practical advantages to hosting events that complement the university’s offering too. The University of Sunderland, for example, is home to a leading glass and ceramics course, utilising the equipment and exhibition space at the National Glass Centre. This is a ready-made environment for conferences and events in this field, so it makes sense for us to pursue this business.

On the other side of the coin, the university has a brand and reputation to uphold and we are potentially bringing events to the site that are in no way associated. As I’ve demonstrated above, our positive relationships with the whole organisation are essential if the business is to succeed, so we need to consider this when determining the suitability of an event. If we risk diluting the university’s brand with a particular business win, does the short-term benefit to the business outweigh the potential damage caused to the internal relationships? Not really, in my view.

While it may feel un-natural to turn down any type of business, academic venues need to think more strategically than traditional event venues. Even if we think beyond the commercial benefits, maintaining strong relationships with the various faculties creates a more positive working atmosphere for all involved. You’re also much more likely to get a positive response when you ask a course leader if you can move their seminar to a different room so you can set up for an event coming in later that day.

Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

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