THE region’s newest conferencing facility recently played host to the UK’s top conference organisers who chose to hold their autumn event in the North East for the first time.
The University of Sunderland was selected as the ideal venue to host the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) annual autumn seminar, in partnership with the NGI and Marriott Hotel Group.
Securing the high profile event is a major coup for the university which has been steadily building an impressive portfolio of high-profile conferences and events, and recently branded its facilities under ‘UniSpace’.
This month (November), 20 of the UK’s most influential professional conference organisers and events planners headed to the University of Sunderland to hold their autumn meeting for the first time in the North East.
As part of the UniSpace experience, ABPCO delegates stayed at the Marriott Hotel and enjoyed a showcase of The University conference facilities, before visiting Seaham Hall and the Stadium of light which highlighted Sunderland’s diversity as a conference and events destination. Delegates also attended a half-day social media for events training session delivered by Mexia Communications, co-sponsors of the event.
Guests were also treated to showcase of regional hospitality, with an interactive reception and dinner at The National Glass Centre, thanks to the talents of the university’s art and design students and NGC studio team ; from glass blowing demonstrations and pipe music to an exclusive Olympic themed dance performance and the opportunity to interact with artists from the NGC and the performers, guests also enjoyed the sounds of an ensemble of the University Big Band who played them through dinner.
Michael Foreman, ABPCO Chairman, said: “Sunderland offers some unique spaces for conferences and events and provides a rich heritage as a destination. ABPCO members were delighted with the facilities on offer and enjoyed a warm welcome from our hosts for our first event in the North East.”
Assisting with the organisation of the event were be events management students, putting what they have learned in the classroom into practice, offering them practical skills in a real-life conferencing environment.
Sharon Olver, University of Sunderland Commercial Services Manager, said: “The idea is to showcase the conferencing facilities we have at the university to the professionals, it’s a great test of what we can offer as an institution as well as a chance to demonstrate what the region and Sunderland can offer culturally and as a destination.
She added: “We are delighted that ABPCO selected us to hold their first event in the North East. UniSpace recently received accreditation from the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) and was awarded a corporate membership of ABPCO as we have been expanding our portfolio of events for some time now.
“When we realised the word about our success was out, as more requests are coming in from a diverse range of sectors, we felt it was the right time to brand the university’s unique facilities under the UniSpace banner.”
Some of the events held at UniSpace to date include: Sunderland Folk Festival, the BBC North East and Cumbria Sports Awards and BBC North East pre-election debate in 2010, as well as showcasing the latest Dr Who series which introduced actor Matt Smith as the Doctor.
The theme for ABPCO’s autumn event this year was ‘Using social media effectively to promote your Event’.
ABPCO is the UK organisation for Professional Conference & Event Organisers, their industry colleagues and those studying for or pursuing a career in the meetings industry.
Membership of ABPCO is subject to eligibility, based on experience and professionalism, and ABPCO is one of very few conference industry associations to select Full & Associate members based on peer assessment.
Sue Reay, Director of Benchmark Communications, who were organising the event on behalf of ABPCO, said: “This was a great event and many have taken away a very positive feeling about Sunderland. The team did a tremendous job and UniSpace is now on the UK conference map.