ABPCO members met to discuss the responsibility organisers face when planning events to ensure that they are delegate-centric, and the importance of the relationship between organiser, venue and destination.
The event, which was hosted by ABPCO Preferred Partner Manchester Central with support from ABPCO Partner Hilton Hotels - was led by their Chief Executive Shaun Hinds who opened the discussion by stating that “The past couple of years have seen significant changes and innovations within the events industry, and now more than ever, the event experience is all about ‘delegate experience’”.
Key highlights of the discussion included:
- The delegate journey and experience – to and within the destination. Public transport links, choice of carriers, direct flights, accessibility and the welcome at the transport hubs and by the city transport, such as taxis were all discussed. The discussion also included the need for a ‘delegate tool-kit’ to help delegates plan efficient journeys, personalise their agendas and make the most of their time in the destination, such tool-kits can be signposted from delegate apps. There is also more opportunity to educate the city about the specific tailored needs of some delegates attending specific conferences.
- Delegates accommodation expectations – there were discussions around the challenges of delegates booking their own accommodation outwith the allocations (which generally now only account for 30% of expected delegate numbers), and potentially being housed across a city rather than in named ‘conference hotels’. Some Destination Management Organisations are tackling the challenge head on and are developing portals that link to the third-party booking sites, so that the number of delegates being accommodated can be measured. It is important for the City to be upfront about the likely demand during the conference dates, so that the organiser can pass this information onto the delegates, and realistic releasing of allocations to be agreed in advance.
- Social programmes and extended stays – ‘bleisure’ stays are more likely for international delegates. There are ways for organisers to measure take-up through surveys, and by building communities on the conference app that promote social activities away from the main conference and can give real-time information on the city. This could be linked via the hashtag for the conference to help build community awareness. Some activities can be linked to the conference, maybe via donations to a charity for every delegate that takes up a certain offer, and some may even be commissionable and a source of revenue.
- The delegate journey and experience within the venue – it is beneficial if the venue can provide a sense of ‘place’ – this can add to the experience for delegates, for example if there are opportunities for Instagram and social media sharing in particular gathering spaces. This can have a positive impact on awareness of the conference as well as the location of the conference. There is now more demand for health and well-being, which can be accommodated in informal gathering spaces with seating or reflection spaces. It is a fact of life that delegates will have to check e-mails and work whilst they are away, and it is important to build in areas where this can be achieved without perching on the floor! Paid for coffee shops on-site can offer a different environment and are often popular informal meeting spaces.
- Together everyone achieves more – the over-riding message of the day was that it is the people throughout the delegate journey that make the most impact. It is important for all stakeholders to understand the purpose of the conference and to play their part in making it a success. Accessibility, diversity, and other specific needs should be well communicated and supported by a one-team approach.
Shaun Hinds, Chief Executive at Manchester Central said: “The roundtable was the perfect platform for us to delve deeper into the expectations of both organisers and delegates from a venue and destination perspective.
We pride ourselves on delivering outstanding experiences for everyone but we can only do that by listening to our clients and visitors, understanding what they need and transforming that into something that not only meets their expectations but far exceeds them.
The discussion has provided a huge amount of food for thought; one of the main takeaways for us was how crucial it is for the event organiser and the venue staff to become an extension of each other’s teams, working collaboratively to achieve shared goals.”