Sue Robb of 4Children talks to Julie Laughton and Alison Britton from the Department for Education about the role of childminders in delivering the 30 hours free entitlement.
Events proving lucrative for the UK
The autumn has been a great season for event staging. With the Rugby World Cup fading from the memory, the Meetings Industry Association discusses the growing importance of hosting events.
The England rugby team may have been out‑classed in this year’s Rugby World Cup but there’s no denying that the staging of the sporting event itself has been a spectacular feat of world-class planning and delivery. The UK really does know its stuff when it comes to hosting international events. We’ve proved this before with the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The UK events industry currently ranks in the top five in the world for the number of events held, while London claims a place in the top 10 cities globally. There are over 1.3 million business events held in the UK annually and as a sector, events are worth £39.1 billion to the UK economy, contributing to exports, inward investment, infrastructure development, cultural appreciation and national pride. The spend by those accompanying attendees at business events is worth an additional £7.7 billion.
Events bring communities together, face‑to‑face, to share expertise, create memorable experiences, make change happen, unite thought leaders and fuel innovation. Despite having leading event organising companies based here in the UK, we are still seeing a substantial amount of their business done overseas though, in what is clearly a highly competitive market.
It’s our responsibility to be doing all we can to promote the UK as a pioneering, affordable, entrepreneurial, desirable destination for staging all sorts of events, whether that’s live music and sport, festivals and cultural events, or meetings and conferences, incentive travel, product launches, exhibitions and trade shows.
First class service standards
The Meetings Industry Association (MIA) is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. It’s a proud milestone in our history as the voice of the conference, meetings and events industry, the champion of the Accredited in Meetings (AIM) accreditation scheme and the founder of the annual miaList, which recognises and rewards industry talent and commitment to excellence.
It continues to be our vision to make sure that venues and suppliers in the meetings, conferences and events sector are given the opportunity to reach the absolute pinnacle of operational and service excellence. We do this not just because we want their customers to have an outstanding experience, but because we truly believe that by setting aspirational standards and by encouraging everyone to be the very best they can be, we will help them to compete better on a local, national and international level and, ultimately, ensure the UK is a destination in demand.
We award the AIM standard in recognition of their operational and service excellence. It’s an award of which every achiever can be proud. We believe that one day every venue of worth in the UK will be accredited and that corporate clients will only select AIM accredited venues because it will be those venues and suppliers who can demonstrate clearly that they meet the demands of event professionals and their procurement teams.
As an association, we have had a strong year financially and demonstrated healthy growth in a large number of our membership programmes. Our income for 2014 increased nine per cent on the previous year. Our membership figures also remain very solid. We can see that optimism within the meetings industry is growing, with clients starting to spend money and attendance at events is up on previous years.
Growth of face-to-face events
According to a report from Oxford Economics, 40 per cent of prospects become new customers after a face-to-face meeting vs just 16 per cent without and 27 per cent of current business would be lost if it wasn’t for in-person meetings. It’s those sorts of figures that support our observation of a digitally immersed business world eager to retain that all-important human touch.
Investing in producing more live events and more opportunities for professionals to bond and network in person is where we’ve been focusing our energy for the last 12 months and we’ll be upping the pace for 2016, concentrating on a small handful of key themes, investing in more PR to raise awareness of the events industry and its challenges.
True engagement is about listening. It’s critical to developing and innovating and we recognise that listening is fundamental to building a really robust service that drives the events industry forward. We know from the sell-out attendance at our events this year that people still love standing in front of each other and doing business in a real‑time, one-on-one setting, even in a corporate environment increasingly dominated by big data, algorithms and machine learning. With all the technology in the world, little can replace the long-term-relationship cementing advantages of the real life conversation over a cuppa or a glass of wine.
Accredited in Meetings
Introduced by the MIA in 2007, AIM is the UK’s only nationally recognised quality standard for venues and suppliers to the meetings and events sector. It immediately highlights to professional conference organisers and event planners a venue’s compliance to industry standards. This includes codes of practice, legalities and ethical business operations, in addition to competence, quality of facilities and overall fitness for purpose.
There’s a great deal to consider when securing meetings, events and accommodation spaces and there is a risk that the process can become fragmented. Working with an AIM venue avoids this, giving peace-of‑mind to buyers of meetings and conferences through many different avenues.
Firstly an AIM venue provides accountability, an ethical code of conduct means venues committed to ethical business dealings. Additionally, it provides assurance of legal compliance, especially in health and safety, and a consistent provision of fit‑for-purpose facilities. Furthermore, AIM ensures that quality products result in satisfied organisers and delegates, and incorporates a robust complaints procedure to support meetings and events buyers. Gary Payne, the recently appointed chair of the AIM Development Group, highlighted its importance to public sector procurement.
He said: “Risk management and return on investment are high on the agenda for government institutions and associated services. Placing business with AIM accredited industry suppliers means dealing with organisations they can instantly trust, with proven and effective management of their business from enquiry to completion.”
A recognised accreditation, such as AIM, is a strong indicator of a venue where organisers can expect unrivalled levels of service and facilities when booking their event.
Meeting the highest standards
To attain an AIM accreditation, venues have to undergo a rigorous inspection and examination of their whole site. Inspectors will take into account everything from accessibility, legal compliance and quality of event facilities right through to ethical codes of conduct and standardisation of best practice.
The assessment involves 50 stringent grading criteria and includes: the location and accessibility of the meeting rooms and facilities; the suitability of the lighting and heating in meeting rooms; the levels of security; how often the rooms are cleaned and decorated; whether the space and furniture are adequate and suitable; the provision of in‑room services such as power sockets; what is supplied at no extra charge and how transparent the published prices are.
Compliance with ten separate legal acts are also required by prospective venues in order to become accredited. This includes Health & Safety at Work and Fire Safety; Disability Discrimination; Employers Liability; Data Protection; Sale & Supply of Goods; Trade Descriptions; Consumer Protection; Weights & Measures; Race Relations, Sex Discrimination, Disability Discrimination and Age Discrimination; and Licensing Laws.
To date there are over 500 accredited venues and suppliers across the UK adhering to a tiered system which encourages venues to continually improve, under the AIM Higher scheme. Separate from the entry-level status, AIM Higher comprises of AIM Silver and AIM Gold, applicants to these two accreditations are subject to a higher degree of scrutiny against a much tougher set of criteria.
Venues that have been awarded AIM Higher have completed a much more rigorous process, covering 50 pieces of criteria, a ten‑section self-assessment, produced a portfolio of evidence in support of their application and have been visited by an independent assessor who determines whether the venue is worthy of the accreditation and, if so, whether either of the higher standards should be awarded.
AIM Silver or Gold offers the highest level of credence to support a venue’s claims about its facilities, as assessed by industry experts. Any venue that achieves this standard must be re-assessed every three years, this is to encourage continual improvement and is key to the AIM message of maintaining high standards in the meetings and events industry.
Prospective buyers and bookers
AIM is fast becoming a recognised benchmark across both the public and private sector, ensuring quality and excellence across the board; combining the exceptional service and facilities that all buyers should expect when choosing a venue. The advantages of hiring an AIM accredited venues are tenfold to the book. It ensures business with venues that care and have integrity, as well as events and meetings where delegates are well looked after as commitment to service excellence is paramount.
Additionally, AIM accredited venues ensure hosting an event where the facilities and event spaces are fit for purpose and of high quality standards, and accountability through an ethical code of conduct. AIM accreditation assures clients know every element of the venue’s costs in advance, and establishes industry-approved contracts and terms and conditions.
Doing business with credible, legally compliant venues is of prime importance and the accreditation makes sure that there is a standardisation of best practice, that all procurement boxes ticked, and that a stress-free venue selection is on offer.
AIM’s summer hot venue spots
AIM offers a selection of hand-picked, chosen locations that are recommended for summer conferences and events. The selected best are listed below.
Situated on Brighton’s famous seafront, The Grand Brighton is a luxury Victorian hotel, designed and built in 1864. The historic hotel is only a 10-minute walk from Brighton rail station, with services running into London Victoria in 55 minutes and Gatwick Airport in just 30 minutes. With 13 recently refurbished meeting spaces that can accommodate up to 900 delegates, as well as award-winning catering, state of the art AV technology and luxury bedrooms, The Grand Brighton is an ideal location for both large scale exclusive events, as well as smaller more intimate meetings.
The Brewery has announced its summer events package for 2015, with the return of its secret summer garden. Offering a secluded events space in the heart of the City of London, this year’s idyllic secret garden has been expanded from one to two structures, increasing outdoor capacity to 800 people. It is set to be an even bigger hit with city dwellers this year.
Priced from £80 per person, all inclusive packages include full event management support, gourmet street food, cocktails and Pimms on arrival, unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks as well as access to an after party inside The Brewery.
Center Parcs has first class meetings and events facilities across all its sites – Longleat Forest, Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest and the recently opened Woburn Forest. Each site has The Venue, a dedicated and purpose built conference and event facility which can accommodate up to 600 delegates. For smaller meetings, the Villages also have boardrooms set in the same woodland setting as The Venue. These are suitable for AGM’s, strategic away days and add an extra element of quality for VIP delegates or guests.
Center Parcs specifically tailors its rates for a variety of delegates, and offers both a day delegate rate – including meeting room hire for the day, lunch, access to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise – and a 24 hour rate which adds overnight accommodation, a three course dinner and cycle hire. Center Parcs offers distinctive expertise in conferences and events, presenting solutions for everything from intimate board meetings to large conferences and team building activity days. In fact, Center Parcs is now widely known for its teambuilding options which large number of delegates book as an add on to their meeting, capitalising on its outdoor setting and refreshing environment.
One Great George Street is a premier conference, events and meeting venue in central London close to the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and opposite the Treasury Building. Set in a‑magnificent Grade II‑listed, four-domed, Edwardian building the venue is home to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). It was constructed in 1910 and became an established events venue in 1987.
There are 21 function rooms which offer flexible space for a wide range of events. The stunning Great Hall with marbled columned walls, ornate gold lead and embellished ceiling, can hold up to 400 guests for a reception and 240 people for an awards dinner. There are two lecture theatres, each with tiered seating and capacities of 106 and 204; both are fully equipped with state-of-the-art audio visual technology. In addition to these larger rooms there is also space for more intimate meetings or private dinning events for 18 to 22 people.
The venue has built a well-earned reputation for providing flawless service in impeccable surroundings. The renowned in‑house executive chef, kitchen and catering team have the experience and knowledge to work with you on your specific requirements to produce a bespoke menu for the perfect event. Expertly-trained sommeliers are on hand to suggest suitable wines to complement each dish. The venue has an in-house audio visual team from Eclipse Presentations who are permanently on hand to provide all stage and technical production services. Sustainability and accessibility are extremely important to One Great George Street. The team are always looking at ways to improve and enhance the venue in order to make sure the highest standards are met.