Back in June I was working on an event called Tech Fest 2014, which was held at ExCeL London. The event was for event professionals and as you can imagine they can be a fussy bunch when it comes to venues. We held Tech Fest at ExCeL because London Technology Week was taking place in East London and we thought it would be great to be part of a number of technology related events. We also knew that ExCeL has a fantastic reputation for customer service and their staff really understand the difficult job of organising events.
Most assistants are asked at some point to organise an event for their organisation. Many of us will juggle our event with all our other tasks and we won’t ask for help or guidance from event professionals. We are an organised bunch so why ask for help? Well, organising events can be difficult and time consuming so asking for help from those in the know really does ensure we create the best event we can. The first place we should be looking for help is from the venue. I wanted to talk through my experience of working on Tech Fest and the excellent help we received from ExCeL.
From the outset ExCeL were incredibly flexible. They wanted Tech Fest to be as successful as we did so they went out of their way to ensure the event space had everything we needed. I work with a really creative Events Manager and sometimes his ideas can be somewhat left field. The team at ExCeL were able to keep up with his demands and they offered alternative suggestions when our ideas were a little too wacky. For example, venues are notoriously protective of their pristine white walls. We wanted to stick some things to the walls and you could see the ExCeL staff were nervous that we would reck their space. (if you saw what we had planned you would understand their reservations!) Instead, they suggested we stick our bits and bobs to their windows. This worked for us and we were all happy. This simple compromise did not go unnoticed by the attended who were amazed we were allowed to stick anything to the building!
ExCeL have a dedicated onsite catering company called Leith’s. The food at Tech Fest was fantastic and again we received really good feedback on the catering. I had sole responsibility for the food and had a close working relationship with our contact at Leith’s. She was great, she came up with lots of suggestions based on our theme and she was there on the day to make sure the initial schedule was still on track. I had to rely on the catering team to deliver all of the food because I had a million other jobs to complete over the refreshment breaks. Everything went swimmingly. They had plenty of staff on hand to help the delegates, they were able to circulate the food to all corners of the venue so that none of the delegates missed out and they made sure the event’s staff were looked after too.
During our initial site visit we were bombarded with creative ideas and examples of how the space had been used to great effect. This was really helpful because Tech Fest is not an easy show to organise. We had hundreds of delegates, over 20 exhibitors who were all heavily involved in the show, breakout sessions, a drinks reception and a second start-up exhibition towards the end of the day. There was a lot of stuff happening and we needed the venue to be able to tell us how best to fit all of this activity in the event space. This is where the staff came in to their own. They really listened to our needs and were able to offer creative solutions so that we could do achieve everything that we set out to do.
Fantastic on site support
During the course of Tech Fest we had a dedicated onsite manager who was available to us in case we needed anything from the venue. Most venues offer this service but quite often you will be introduced to the onsite contact and never see them again, or you will spend half your time trying to find them. This was not the case at ExCeL. We had already met our onsite manager during our site visit and she was up to speed on all of the event details. She was very hands on in the morning ensuring that everything was going smoothly and she appeared regularly to check that everything was going well. We also had her direct mobile number in case we needed to call her for anything. She was invaluable and added to the overall success of the event.
Logistical and technical knowledge
Last but not least, all of the ExCeL staff were experts in their particular area of the venue which was incredibly helpful considering we were organising the event from Barcelona. There have been many times that I have been given a tour of a venue by staff that don’t know the venue particularly well. I have asked fairly simple questions only to be told they don’t know the answers. As you can imagine this is quite frustrating! My experience at ExCeL was completely different. The staff knew the venue inside and out. They knew all the finer details – like where all the plug points were, how much furniture they had, the broadband width and all the other boring logistical and technical details you need to run a successful event! It’s not sexy creative stuff but it is essential knowledge that makes events run smoothly.
Tech Fest went really well, we had wonderful feedback and we will almost certainly be taking the event back to ExCeL next year. If you knew my rather demanding Events Manager you would know that was high praise indeed!