Pre-event planning: BP holds this networking and knowledge-sharing event twice annually, with one meeting taking place in the UK and one in America. The company liked York for its rail connections and approached the conference bureau for a list of four possible venues, including hotels and non-residential venues. They visited each and chose the Churchill Hotel, a Georgian mansion boasting period features with contemporary touches, for its combination of facilities and competitive pricing. "We were impressed by the quality of the food at the hotel restaurant and the Westminster Room fitted the bill for our needs," says BP Research and Technology mechanical engineer Craig Hodgson, who organised the event. The Churchill Hotel general manager John Wallace says: "The client communicated well what they needed and we worked to respond to that." Delegates were asked to prepare a poster about their work and consider topics for discussion before the event."
Objectives: "We wanted a professional daytime seminar with high-profile guest speakers and a relaxed evening programme of events for networking," explains Hodgson.
Challenges: The biggest challenge was BP's strict health-and-safety policy, as they carry out a stringent series of checks on any potential venue. The client liked the property but, using the Churchill for the first time, needed to complete a full audit. Food was also integral to the event and, given some delegates would be staying several days, BP wanted a variety of menus, plus a more informal opening meal. Finally, the client needed last-minute printing and photocopying of materials for speakers, and break-out space for a poster competition and coffee throughout the event.
Solution: BP worked with the venue to complete the health-and-safety assessment. "We discussed BP's findings and agreed to implement their extra requirements, such as a health-and-safety induction before the event," says Wallace. The client worked with the hotel's team on menus to provide four buffet-style lunches and one dinner. For the more informal opening night, two gazebos were set up for a barbecue on the lawn in front of the hotel, and delegates took part in a table-football tournament. The Westminster suite was set up in cabaret-style for the seminar, with a partition added for break-out sessions and coffee breaks. The hotel printed off extra materials for the event in the management office at no extra cost.
Client verdict: "The venue executed (the event) very successfully. The event built knowledge across departments and we would definitely return," says Hodgson.
Post-event analysis: Delegates received a conference brochure with a breakdown of the event and were asked to score each element on a scale of one to five. The venue scored universally well on food and accommodation. "We had a lot of positive feedback during the week," says Hodgson.
Event: Technology conference
Group size: 26-30 delegates per day over five days
Date: 7-11 June, 2010
Venue: The Churchill Hotel, York
15 March 2010: BP visits four venues in York
17 March: Client reserves all available bedrooms at the Churchill Hotel for the event
12 May: Delegate registration deadline
7 June: Event takes place
14 June: Feedback disseminated to management and speakers