Finding the perfect venue

There’s a perception that organisers of external conferences, meetings or training events within the health sector have been rather less affected by recent economic constraints than those in other sectors.
    
But whatever the budget that’s available, the challenges are the same. For any organiser, there are so many factors to consider in finding the right location, and such a delicate balance to achieve between cost and effectiveness.
    
So much so, that many planners turn to one or more of the organisations that exist to help with the process of selecting the right venue. But even there, it can be confusing. There are several member organisations for venues, and dozens of professional venue finding agencies that work in different ways.

Focused advice and support
One of the organisations most likely to address the needs of organisers in the health sector successfully is Conference Centres of Excellence. It’s the country’s leading group of dedicated specialist conference and meetings venues, two of which – Scotland’s Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre and London’s Royal College of Physicians – have specific connections with the health sector. But all of its 37 member venues are completely focused on providing high quality, cost-effective meetings that really work, and most have clients within the sector.
    
Recent surveys also show that the most popular types of events organised within the health sector are exactly those in which dedicated venues specialise – education and training, staff conferences, and management meetings. These are all types of events suited specifically by the communications-focused environment provided by specialist venues, where glamour is far less important than the ability to communicate, discuss and meet together effectively.
    
Backing up an outstanding choice of venues, CCE provides a one-stop, fast and completely free venue finding service. It’s a genuinely personal service providing organisers with comprehensive information, including providing quotations and arranging facility visits. It’s also a service that works with the member venues to make sure that there’s flexibility to meet the most limited of organiser budgets.

Challenging times
Totally effective communication and clearly defined costs: with more pressures than ever, those are the priorities of conference organisers. “We see it every day in our discussions and negotiations with organisers – no penny can be wasted and no opportunity ignored in creating an event that truly works,” says CCE’s executive director Anthony Lishman. “The key point about the CCE proposition is that it addresses all the primary concerns that conference organisers have in these demanding times.”
    
Wherever they operate, event organisers across the health and related sectors are looking harder than ever at how to optimise their spend. They have to, because senior managers and even in some cases the media are closely scrutinising the choice of venue and style of event.
    
“Focused conference environments help organisers to demonstrate that they have the right priorities,” adds Anthony Lishman. “They care for the delegate without excess, and of course they have the facilities dedicated to ensuring that the message is effectively delivered,” he added.                

All-inclusive
No organisers can ignore the basic business of negotiating an all inclusive cost that is fully understood on both sides, and eliminates the risk of hidden extras. The venues that make up Conference Centres of Excellence membership all provide exceptional value for money – packages that are genuinely comprehensive, including the main meeting room, a syndicate room, all equipment, refreshments and meals.
    
“Nothing angers or frustrates an organiser more than to find that the final bill is loaded with extras,” says Anthony Lishman. “Our venues offer a uniform, completely transparent package that is clearly stated and comprehensive, and it’s great to be able to communicate that fact with confidence to our clients.”

A dedicated venue

A dedicated venue provides a completely focused meeting environment free of distraction from the transient business that tends to affect hotels and other non-specialist providers. Each member of CCE offers exactly the same set of propositions to organisers – rooms designed and configured specifically for conferences and meeting, with dedicated furnishing and support equipment; staff who are specialists in the meetings business; onsite technical support; and sector-leading standards of support facilities in terms of residential accommodation, food, leisure facilities and business support.
    
Most non-specialist venues have to compromise in some way – perhaps by having to hire in unproven technical equipment which may also add to costs, or by providing conference and syndicate rooms which are otherwise used for dinners or dances, and are not designed for meetings. Conference Centres of Excellence members have comprehensive on-site expertise and all rooms are designed for, and dedicated to, the job.
    
There are many other benefits in using specialist venues, including switched on, committed and friendly staff who make delegates feel welcome throughout the event. “Organisers are telling us of non-specialist venues who can’t wait to get the delegates out of the door!” added Anthony Lishman: “Part of the specialist venue philosophy is that the welcome stays warm throughout the visit.”
    
CCE knows that personal attention must be matched by the right back-up. Support staff are carefully selected to optimise the service. “It’s a fundamental principle across all our members that staff are genuinely supportive, by being trained in the meetings business and fully sympathetic to clients’ and delegates’ conference needs,” says CCE Chairman Steven Crawford. “Their fundamental priority is to make the customer’s event run perfectly,” he added.

One-stop-shop

The consortium offers a pro-active and completely free service for event organisers – whether they’re planning single location events or looking to hold a series in different areas.
    
CCE’s Hotline team is a comprehensive single source of information on each member venue, providing immediate information on facilities, availability and price. It can also organise inspection visits. For organisers who don’t have the time to sift through lots of different venues, the Hotline team acts like an agency, contacting appropriate members and providing a digest of key information.
    
Many venue finding agencies actually have limited understanding of the venues they’re in contact with. Not so the Hotline team: “We know each of our members from personal experience – we visit them all regularly, and that means we also know the key people there. So we can therefore have complete confidence in the quality we can offer to our clients,” says team leader Katharine Armstrong. “Unlike other venue-finding teams, we never have to cross our fingers and hope that the venue will get it right,” she adds.

The Beardmore Hotel & Conference Centre, Clydebank, Scotland

Built in the 1990’s as part of a private initiative, CCE member the Beardmore has been owned by NHS Scotland since 2002. Already a significant residential conference venue, it has since developed to become one of the country’s most established providers, not only for the health, medical and public sectors but increasingly for corporate events. It has 15 conference and syndicate rooms and 168 bedrooms, and recent investment has ensured that its facilities are at the leading edge. The latest developments include new cabaret style meeting space, video conferencing in all rooms, webcasting facilities and currently the installation of Apple Macs in all bedrooms.
    
Health-related organisations such as the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing particularly like the venue because it is connected to one of Scotland’s leading teaching hospitals, whose staff and facilities can be linked in if required. But the venue has a much broader customer base – though the NHS association can initially deter customers from other sectors. “People are inclined to think we might be austere with fairly basic facilities,” explains Business Development Director Bronagh Bell: “But once we get them through the door, any reservations rapidly turn to enthusiasm.”  

The Royal College of Physicians
Earlier this year, CCE member The Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park, London, won the ‘No.1 UK Venue’ award for the second year running in the BDRC ‘Venue Verdict’ awards. Its purpose designed facilities include lecture theatres, modern and historic meeting and seminar rooms, and a range of exhibition spaces.

It’s a very popular venue for national and international health and medical events, helped by its unique heritage. It’s an award winning Grade 1 listed building, giving an added prestige to any event held there. Meeting rooms range from the spectacularly modern Council Chamber to the historic Censor’s Room. Treasures include some of the earliest printed books, a magnificent silver collection, and a unique collection of medical artefacts. It also has a physic garden, where delegates can relax amongst medicinal plants from around the world.

The revenue generated by the RCP’s conference activity actually helps to fund the College’s many significant activities in improving the quality of patient care – including training physicians based at home and abroad and funding important clinical audits.

For more information
Tel: 0845 230 1414
E-mail: info@cceonline.co.uk
Web: www.cceonline.co.uk

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