Case study: NAPF in Liverpool

Moving an annual conference from Glasgow to Liverpool was a bold but successful move, says Ben Lerwill

The ACC Liverpool had ample space for 1,000 delegates
The ACC Liverpool had ample space for 1,000 delegates

Pre-event planning

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) had for many years held its annual conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

As Edinburgh is the location for the association's other main annual event - an investment conference - the NAPF felt that a venue outside of Scotland should replace Glasgow, given that the majority of members were London-based.

This location review involved a number of site visits to venues that would be able to host a three-day conference and exhibition for upwards of 1,000 delegates. It was eventually decided to alternate the event between Liverpool and Manchester until 2015.

The former hosted the NAPF event for the first time in 2010.

Challenges

"It's always a challenge when you go to a new destination, where you're unfamiliar with the hotels and the dinner venues," says Kate Hadley, the NAPF's event manager.

"There's a bit of apprehension. One of the major things we had to look at was dates. It's a busy time of year for the conference world, and for the benefit of our members we had to make sure we fitted in between the party political conferences and school half-term."

Solution

The convention bureau and the ACC Liverpool itself both helped the association in sorting out the finer details, as well as recommending dinner venues and accommodation.

An early October date was decided on and event- build began two days in advance of the first session on 6 October. Delegates were split between ten hotels in the vicinity.

The event took place over three days. The first and last days hinged on plenary sessions, while the second was given over to break-out meetings, with different talks focusing variously on HR, finance directing and client benefits.

An exhibition featuring around 60 individual stands was held alongside the main conference, and food and drink were laid on in the exhibition hall to allow and encourage delegates to network.

A civic reception was held on the first night, during which the association was formally welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. The following night, the conference gala dinner was held at the city's Anglican Cathedral. Opera singer Lesley Garrett was the after-dinner speaker.

Post-event analysis

"Were we pleased with how it went? Absolutely," says Hadley.

"We did a straw poll of members post-event and there was a clear majority in favour of going back to Liverpool.

I think a lot of people had pre-conceived ideas of the city before we went, not all of which were positive, but it was ideal.

"One aspect that really impressed people was the fact that the whole area - with the Albert Docks, the hotels and the ACC itself - was self-contained and almost had an Olympic Village-type feel. It definitely helped the event."

FACTFILE
Organisation: The National Association of Pension Funds
Event: Annual conference
Group size: 1,000
PCO: n/a
Date: 6-8 October 2010
Venue: ACC Liverpool
Budget: Undisclosed

TIMELINE

October 2009: Liverpool decided on as host destination

May 2010: Invitations sent out to delegates

4 October 2010: Event build begins.

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