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Natural History Museum looks forward to exciting 2010


Jan 07, 2010 | Editors

Conferencing and events is not the image usually conjured up by the Natural History Museum.

Most people would probably associate it more with the fascinating collections of animal and marine life and the imposing skeleton of a diplodocus that dominates the entrance way.

But the museum has a vibrant events offering, receiving a silver prize at the Visit London Awards for Business Venue of the Year in 2009.

Nevertheless, it has been a challenging year for the Natural History Museum, as it has for many venues, but there has still been plenty to celebrate, according to Paolo Bastiani, events manager at the museum.

"It has been positive in the fact that we had the loyalty of a lot of our core clients, so people that have been with us for many years have kept coming to us even in these difficult times," he said.

The venue also enjoyed a lot of repeat business in December, with around 50 per cent of clients rebooking.

"I think this is very important, especially when the main slice of our business is done with financial institutions," Mr Bastiani commented, pointing to the slashing of budgets that these companies have been forced carry out.

A £78 million project to open a brand new venue, the Darwin Centre, has also been a highlight of the year for the Natural History Museum.

"It's nice to be able to do something positive in this particular time and create new businesses and opportunities, not just for us of course, because we work with 50 different companies at the museum and each one of those will have a benefit out of this," Mr Bastiani added.

"In the past we only had two venues - and we were doing quite a lot of business with them because they were very famous - but recently we had to think quite hard about a new strategy," he explained.

"It's about refreshing your offers and ideas and listening to clients, because it's very important to get good feedback from them and find out what they want. Because we can't be right all the time.

"We obviously have a fantastic service, a fantastic venue but you need to get the communications right, need to get to know what the clients want, need to talk to our suppliers," he continued.

The venue has been working very closely with suppliers to understand more about clients' needs.

"It's quite an exclusive venue, because of the offering, but in terms of the product we do we can give the client a great choice of contractors that can focus on their budget," Mr Bastiani stressed.

As for the coming year, he suggested that the market is still fragile, with companies still being cautious about spending, however there are some green shoots of recovery emerging.

"I think there's a positive outlook out there, I think people want to do events and let's be honest, events are a necessity for any business. There's nothing better than having a face to face meeting with a fantastic surrounding to discuss the business in a different way," he commented.

The Natural History Museum has a new outdoor space opening which will provide another exciting venue. The events team is also looking to make the most of the academic prowess associated with the institution, as there are 350 scientific staff working behind the scenes.

One idea is to get these professionals involved in events, talking about what they do and how the museum contributes to research.

"It's about tapping into the fantastic knowledge that we have there and really being more proactive," he said.

"That's a key word at this particular time, be proactive, try to look around at what is there, what kind of market, how it moves, what kind of clients are looking for events and trying to adapt to the situation and be flexible," Mr Bastiani concluded.
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