Adrian Evans, Account Director for Conferences and Live Events at The NEC, Birmingham tells about his strategy to grow the venue’s conference business.
My role was born out of the NEC’s commitment to conferences and live events, so when I joined in February 2013, conferencing had already been identified as a major part of its business plan moving forward. I started to develop the strategy with the core objective of offering the best possible service to more clients, and that was more important than ever due to tougher competition, tighter budgets and increased demands from clients to ensure we were doing things right.
The only place to start was to undertake a total 360-degree evaluation of what we did and how we did it, and the important thing was that we didn’t just ask ourselves, but we asked some key clients what they thought.
Internally, we evaluated our performance over the last five years, assessed trends and benchmarked those trends against our competitors and other external factors such as the economy and industry climate. We then asked all internal departments about their own opinions of what does and doesn’t work, and how as a department we service our internal clients.
Externally, we looked at our clients and suppliers for feedback. How did we perform against our competitor set? We looked at every touch point we have with our clients during the sales process, where we could add value and make it easier and more straightforward.
Ultimately, we wanted to start from scratch, break everything down and evaluate our performance at every level.
NEC’s product offering
Much of the feedback was hugely positive, however people did say that business, and the industry, had changed and clients were demanding more transparency and more value. As a result, the challenge was, and still is, to educate the client on the actual costs of putting on a complex event.
The options offered by such a flexible venue often cause the agency the best type of problem: the ability to put on an amazing event within budget.
From this, we’ve now developed new packages across all conferences and we’ve adopted a new way of thinking, working with our clients to ensure total transparency to build a package that is as inclusive as possible, making it as easy as possible for our agency clients to produce a refined pitch.
It’s not difficult; we’ve just listened to our clients about how they want to buy, and taken on board what would make their life easier. We aim to make it easy for people to understand what is needed and how much it will cost, and where possible we have tried to add value. We’ve identified opportunities to become a partner and input into the event.
We found that our clients who run smaller meetings also wanted to benefit from a day delegate rate. Traditionally this is something we would never have done, but we knew that we’d have to do it to be competitive, so we changed and reacted to our clients’ needs.
In addition, we offer 20,000 car parking spaces, a lake, woodland and a soon-to-open designer shopping, multi-screen cinema and casino complex offering accommodation and numerous bars and restaurants.
Not without a challenge
My main challenge is trying to educate the market on the possibilities that the NEC can offer for the conference and event buyer. For most people, their venue experiences have likely come from iconic shows like The Clothes Show or Spring Fair International or even a concert.
The majority are not aware that we host over 400 conferences and live events every year. This could be anything from an AGM, a product launch or a sales briefing in one of our 34 suites, to our more experiential live events where clients can use one of our 20 halls to produce an event that is not restricted by auditorium seating and can deliver something to wow their audience.
Spreading the message
With so much good news, from new packages, a new commitment to work in partnership and even the refurbishment/ upgrading of our conference suites, all we have to do now is tell people; a simple but much needed part of the strategy.
The NEC Group has given its total support to the Conference and Live Events team, and so now, rather than just react to the volume of existing business, we have the opportunity to take a much more proactive approach and we feel it is more important than ever to work with our clients and learn more about their businesses and challenges. Only by working in partnership can we develop and augment our own offering.
Want to find out more? I look forward to hearing from you.
Account Director – Conferences and Live Events
NEC Conference & Live Events, The NEC, Birmingham, B40 1NT
T: 0121 767 2782