Creating the ‘walk-in’ brand experience
Amanda Hoffmeister, head of group events management at global provider of technology solutions to the travel industry, Amadeus, gives some insights into her role and its demands How did you get into the conference world and what was the first big event you were responsible for at Amadeus? I started in the industry nearly 30 years ago after graduating. I fell into it by chance, but soon realised that events were my passion. My background is full service agency starting in the pharmaceutical side. I have worked for Amadeus for 12 years and run many global events for them before becoming head of the division. One of the first ‘big’ events I was involved in was our commercial conference of 1,000 pax. How many conferences/events do you organise per year at Amadeus and which single event is a) the largest and b) the most challenging? We run 40-60 events a year, our largest is our Leadership and R&D events and this year particularly they were challenging as we held them back to back. Under my area we also have an Executive Briefing Centre in Nice with satellites in Bangkok and Miami. The customer centre here in our local offices hosts approx. 900 + meetings and events yearly with 35,000 + visitors. We run it like a hotel really, just thankfully no bedrooms to manage. How do the regional specifics involved in each office affect your strategy for the meetings and events you commission there? Essentially these centres are our venues of choice for any Amadeus-run customer events. We refer to them as the Amadeus walk-in brand experience, where every requirement and technology is catered for. This maximises our budgets and ensures that our customers are engaged in Amadeus products and solutions without the need to source meeting space, build, contract a/v, grapple with Wi-Fi issues etc. Of course not all our events are managed at the centres for a variety of reasons, the primary of which is based on numbers. Can you talk us through your standard venue search policy? Our agencies do all the venue searching for us, unless of course it’s based around where our centres are located, as we have a lot of in-depth experience of the three destinations and good relationships with local providers. The venues researched globally depend on a number of factors which we discuss at length with our internal stakeholders and each event will be reviewed dependent upon attendee, budget and the strategic value of the destination. Does Amadeus use a strategic meetings management programme (SMMP)? We did but found that it became very time consuming and the project managers were spending more time managing this than the strategic part of the jobs. Currently we use those managed by our two agencies. We will be reviewing this. What are the current big issues confronting you? We are very proud of the fact that we are ahead of the curve in terms of our event technology and are very active in the use of mobile and other interactive technologies. The main challenge is to ensure that we consistently deliver state of the art events, always looking at new technologies, but of course this is all budget driven. My team, in conjunction with our agencies, needs to always be thinking the next step and out of the box. Do you have to continually make the case for the power of events internally at Amadeus and in the wider corporate world, often in the face of procurement depts and those looking to cut budgets? Budget cuts are a fact of life for everyone these days, therefore, we need to always show the value of face to face meetings and events. However, with our agency that we recently completed, procurement have now become our ally and this is very powerful within the organisation. We are continually looking at ROI in terms of our events, briefing centres and our event technology. This is the only way to support what we do and our agency model.