Everyone who works in and around London knows the ExCeL London Exhibition and Conference center. It is a bit of an institution and like most places that seem to be have been around forever most people will associate it with just one thing. In the case of ExCeL it is huge exhibitions and conventions – like the Boat Show, the Wedding Fair and Comic Con. Having recently won Venue of the Year at the AEO Excellence Awards I wanted to find out what ExCeL have to offer besides space for their big events. I sent along Stacy Price, an Executive Assistant with over 15 years experience working in both Canary Wharf and the City to explore and then I grilled her for information.
Have you been to ExCeL London before?
No, I have never been to ExCeL before although I have driven past it many times! It is strange because I worked in Canary Wharf for six years but never hopped on the DLR to ExCeL.
Do you think ExCeL is a convenient location for the type of events and meetings that you organise?
Now I have visited ExCeL I would definitely say that yes it is in a perfect location for the events that I organise. There are two DLR stops that service ExCeL with Prince Regent directly outside the entrance for the event space. I wish I had known about the event space in ExCeL while I was working in Canary Wharf because it is so close by. I am now in St Paul’s but I will still consider ExCeL because I can jump on the DLR from Bank. It is still really convenient.
What were your first impressions entering ExCeL?
ExCeL London is big, as you would expect from a venue that hosts global conferences and exhibitions. I can imagine it gets busy but the up-side is the onsite amenities that might not otherwise be available for delegates. There are plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and pubs all within the campus so guests are very well looked after. The two DLR stops also really help visitors navigate the space. Getting off at Prince Regent means that you can go straight into the conference rooms without walking through the rest of ExCeL.
Once I saw the meeting and conference space my impression of ExCeL completely changed. I always thought ExCeL was used for big events like the Boat Show or Grand Designs Live. It never crossed my mind that they would have smaller meeting spaces that I could use for my events.
What were the ExCeL staff like?
You could tell instantly that the ExCeL staff are very passionate about the space and they really want to let people know that it isn’t just a space for the big shows. They have other more flexible conference spaces that can work really well for corporate events. The staff are really focused on providing a quality events management service. I thought this would be really helpful for me, as an Executive Assistant, because I have so much to manage when it comes to organising my company’s events – and obviously all my other work!
What events and meeting spaces did the staff show you?
During my visit I saw a number of different meeting spaces. Here are the different options I think would work well for corporate events:
I really liked the Auditorium. It has tiered seating for up to 4,000 delegates. This is the only meeting room that comes with audio already available. The other meeting spaces do not have audio visual equipment. This must be hired but ExCeL can help with this and they do have a great preferred supplier called Blitz. This space is really flexible and can be used in lots of different ways – which is unusual for a fixed auditorium.
ICC Capital Hall
This space is big. It can hold a banquet for 2,700 or a reception for up to 5,000 guests. This space can be divided up and made into a bigger or smaller space depending on what you need.
ICC Capital Lounge and Suite
Again the lounge and suite are really flexible. There are 17 individual meeting rooms which can hold between 50 and 1,200 delegates. I thought this was a great space for the types of meetings I organise. I could certainly imagine my Executive Team holding their regular away-day meetings here. All of the rooms are hi-tech and very private. I also really liked the private terraces – which could be used for catering or for guests just to get some fresh air.
ICC London Suite
Similar to the Capital Suite, the London Suite hold between 20 to 200 delegates. All of the rooms are really quiet. Even if there is a massive show going on in the Event Halls guests wouldn’t be able to hear it in the suites.
What did you think of the different spaces?
My overall impression was that the event spaces were really flexible and the staff were also flexible in their approach to the space. They had lots of great ideas and while I was telling them about the different types of events I organise they were able to give me lots of advice and make the best use of the space.
Once you have booked a meeting space at ExCeL you do have to hire catering and AV equipment separately. This could be a bit of a hassle, particularly for assistants that have other duties along side organising an event. The staff at ExCeL did assure me that they would help manage the relationship with the additional suppliers. The two contractors are Leith’s and Blitz – both or which are the preferred supplier at ExCeL.
While you were walking around did you think about the events you would bring to ExCeL and if so how well would they work in the space available?
I normally organise team building events, Christmas Parties, board meetings and Executive away-days. ExCeL could cater for every one of these events. I really liked the outdoors space and I liked that I could book a separate meeting space if my manager wanted to leave their meeting to make a phone call or check their emails.
What was your overall impression of ExCeL?
I was really impressed. I wish I had known about the different meeting spaces in ExCeL years ago! There are hotels, restaurants and bars onsite so my delegates wouldn’t have to venture too far from the meeting space if we hosted a dinner after the meeting or asked them to stay over night. ExCeL has a great relationship with The O2 so they could help me organise client entertainment if I need to add that to the event. ExCeL is also right next to London City Airport so for overseas guests it is a really convenient location.
What were the negatives, if any, using ExCeL?
Educating colleagues that ExCeL actually has the space and it will work. Once you get over that hurdle I think my boss and all of my colleagues would be really pleased with the venue and all of the flexibility that ExCeL can provide.