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Square Meal: One Show, Three Perspectives

Square Meal: Venues and Events Live, is an expo that brings together 250+ of the best suppliers and venues for two days of workshops, taster sessions, masterclasses, and industry talks, all for free and across three floors. It is a chance for the events industry to get inspired and discover the ideas they need to create the best events for their clients.

As usual, the event took place at Old Billingsgate, 20th and 21st of September, and three members of the drpteam went to the event – but all went with different intentions and came away with varying outcomes. We thought it would be great to share with you three different perspectives of the show, from Olivia Blackstock, drp’s PR and Social Media Executive, Kate Olive, Project Manager, and Rosie Harper, Venue Co-ordinator for drp’s venuepot.

  • How did you find the show?

Olivia: I thought the event was great for companies that specialise in venue sourcing, or companies looking to showcase their product or event. There was a large variety of exhibition stands from all over the U.K. It was a great opportunity to see how our venue sourcing team go about trying to secure venues for their clients, and the processes behind it.

Kate: I went early on Thursday morning when the show was still fairly quiet, but the organisation of the show is always well thought out with easy registration through pre-event badge printing, and once you arrive lots of access to refreshments. The show was traditionally aimed at the PA’s and in-house event planners. Although in recent years this focus has been revised with the highest attendance now being Managers and Executive Co-ordinators. From my perspective, I would say it is less aimed at agencies, but more individual corporate planners. I would stress, however, that the focus off the show is very much venues – despite there being some suppliers of entertainment, catering and decorations (furniture/flowers) these were far outweighed by the venue presence.

Rosie: I really enjoyed the show, and getting to see a lot of the hotels we put forward. I did find some of the exhibitors irrelevant, such as magician or balloons. This is just for the fact I’m purely a venue finder.

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  • Why do you need to be there, in terms of your role?

Olivia: I attended the event to get a further insight of how the venuepot team source venues for their clients, and to get myself familiar with the venues located within the UK, as these may be venues I will have to attend throughout my role. It was also a great opportunity to network and meet new people as I’m still fairly new to the business, so  it was a great way to build up my own ‘industry network’. Being at the event gave me the opportunity to live tweet and take photos in order to inform our audience of the event I attended, and gain some exposure to the industry.

Kate: As a Project Manager, it is key that we have good venue knowledge in order to be able to advise and recommend the best options to our client, based on a brief, or lack of a brief! I always find it useful at exhibitions to touch base with venue suppliers we have worked with in the past as well, to keep good relations with the teams we end up working with closely on site.

Rosie: I was there to see what was new with venues and to get to see the sales team face to face rather than via email. It was also a good opportunity to ask lots of questions be introduced to venues we would never have thought to use –  Disneyland for example.

  • What were your aims for going to the show and did you achieve them?

Olivia: My aim was to network, see the variety of venues, and promote the event on our social media.  I did achieve those (despite some Wi-Fi issues).

Kate: I wanted to see what’s new – there were lots of venues I hadn’t heard of, but the difficulty being that the average conference drp organises is probably around 500 delegates, and most of the venues I hadn’t heard of before were much smaller, hence why they probably don’t turn up in our venue searches.

Rosie: The real aim for me going to the show was to find new and unique venues that perhaps aren’t on our radar yet. It was also an opportunity to meet up with venues that we deal with on a day to day basis and put a face to a name.

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  • Who was your favourite exhibitor and why?

Olivia: There was many exhibitors that I liked, buy my favourite ones were:

Disneyland Paris – it’s a very unusual venue as people may instantly think kids and a theme park, however after listening to their pitch, I never realised that they have various different venues on site that people can use to host events or conferences. They have a hotel on sight, acres of land, catering and the theme park should this want to be used for the event. It stood out for me, as I never would of thought Disneyland Paris would have private hire spaces.

Carden Park: Rosie was more familiar with this company as she was aware that they do FAM (Familiarisation) trips, one of which I have never been on. What attracted me to the exhibitor, was the description of the acres of land they had to offer and the various different options available. As it’s a country hotel, they have the use of various sized rooms and hotel accommodation for guests of all sizes. There is a FAM trip coming up in October, for which the exhibitor took our names down-  which was a really nice gesture!

Odeon cinema: I often go to the cinema, but never did I think Odeon rented out their screens to clients that would want a cinema showcase. It was interesting to see that they could do that and depending on what the client needs are, they can accommodate! Very cool indeed!

Kate: I had a great conversation with the team at Centre Parcs – their new purpose-built facility at Woburn I think would be a really interesting proposition for a client looking for something different with activities and an overnight stay.

Rosie: My favourite stand had to be The Harry Potter Studios stand. I had no idea that you could put this forward as a venue for a corporate dinner. It was very interactive stand, we were able to put on a robe and have a photo with a life size Hagrid. It was a great way for me to expand my unique venue knowledge, and have some fun at the same time.

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"It was a great opportunity to see how our venue sourcing team go about trying to secure venues for their clients, and the processes behind it."

  • Did you attend any sessions? What did you learn?

Olivia: I attended the social media session at 3pm, in one of the lecture style rooms. I thought the session would have been live, but there was a pre-recorded session playing on a TV monitor which I was a little disappointed by, however, we stayed to watch the recording. The session mainly spoke about how start-up companies should use social media, and what things they should and shouldn’t do. Personally, I didn’t find it that useful as I have used social media for a number of years and there wasn’t anything that stood out for me to say we should use this at  drp.

Kate: Unfortunately, no, I couldn’t attend as sessions as the timings I was there for didn’t coincide with any relevant sessions for me.

Rosie: I went to the social media seminar. However, I  found it was not relevant to our company. It was more based on smaller companies trying to sell event tickets or start up a social media platform.

  • Any other comments!

Olivia: Overall, Square Meal: Venues and Events Live was a really good event as it was great to see so many different companies offering their services to have you use for your event. Companies that I would have never thought of, such as Odeon Cinema, Harry Potter World, and Mercedes Benz can even offer event space!

Kate: Although an interesting show to have a quick whizz around, I think that for an agency organiser a show like Confex is more focussed on the industry learning and a wider breadth of suppliers.

Rosie: Overall it was a very good and interactive exhibition, the only down side was the exit wasn’t sign posted and found ourselves wondering round for half an hour.

Thanks, girls!

Here’s some interesting stats about the show: http://www.venuesandevents.co.uk/exhibit

And a video too….

By Emily Johnson - PR & Social Media Executive