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Life was so much easier for venues in the past. In the days of landlord and tenant relationships all you had to do was hire out your venue to a given organiser, make sure the doors were open on the appropriate day and put the cheque in the bank.
While this may be a somewhat simplistic version of events industry history, the fact nevertheless remains that, like all businesses, the modern venue has to add value for their clients by involving themselves far more in the events they host.
This could appear to be something of a problem, however. How does a venue, which is essentially an empty space, actually give this extra value?
For Jeremy Rees, exhibition sales director at Earls Court and Olympia, the process begins with the very first enquiry.
“It starts right at the beginning when the customer first rings up to ask about staging an event,” he says. “ It goes from the sales team and the service they provide through to the operations people making sure that the space is used in the most effective way. It involves the catering team, the security team, the car park stewards, everyone, in fact, who has a role to play in the running of the event.”
Rees feels that any modern venue that seriously considers it has something to offer has to have two things in place.
“First is the physical structure, it has to be able to be used the way the organiser wants, an obvious thing to say but there are many places which promise this but can’t carry it off. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you need staff that are knowledgeable about events and experienced in what makes them work.”
But why does an organiser need all this help, surely they have a good idea their market and how they want the event to reflect this?
“That’s the point,” says Rees. “The organiser knows their market implicitly but we know the business of hosting and staging events implicitly and it is our job to fit the organiser’s expectation to our halls.”
This is fair, even the most experienced organiser will not have been exposed to the number and variety of events that venue staff see on a daily basis.
“Very often it’s the little things that make the difference,” says Matthew Lambert. He was until last year the commercial director at the Telford International Centre. Now, as a consultant to exhibition and other event organisers, he is well placed to observe the sort of service venues offer.
“At Telford we had a client who was hosting a dinner as part of an event and they wanted to run it in a very particular way,” he says. “We said that we could do it that way for them but suggested a way that we thought would work better, we offered a solution that helped the event run even more successfully than the organiser had envisaged. In a nutshell, with every aspect of a given event the venue should be able to offer informed input that may help the organiser run a better event. This can be ticketing, security, catering, carpeting, every aspect of the experience in fact.”
Rees and Lambert agree that it’s very much a partnership.
“It’s like being a silent partner,” says Lambert. “The organiser doesn’t want you looking over their shoulder all the time but they like to know that you’re available to help with any issues that may arise. You can’t run the event for the client but you can help make their stay a lot more comfortable.”