How did you decide on the venue and destination? Was there any set criteria?
We were very keen to run our event in the UK, but not to do the obvious London event. Edinburgh is a world capital and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – it was decided as pretty much as soon as our Board stepped off the plane, that Edinburgh was the city for the event.
- Faith in the staff and management teams – established during the site visit. We knew we would be in good hands from the walk around
- Size and flexibility of conference spaces
- Great guest rooms – size, quality of décor, bathroom, technology
- Immaculate public areas
- Size of bar and restaurant
- Quality and reputation
- Excellent location
What were the main objectives for the event – e.g. communicating brand strategies/rebrand, launching new products to partners/dealers, increasing sales?
- To give the delegates great value for money, an unsurpassed networking and knowledge sharing opportunity in a great venue in a city they’ll enjoy.
- To provide our sponsors and exhibitors with a space and event that will increase their visibility to delegates.
- To ensure the delegates have a great time and a memorable experience.
- To build and maintain loyalty from the members.
Was there any pre-event research with the audience to decide themes/topics?
Yes masses! We spend a year planning the content from our accredited training programmes to the open and plenary sessions. This is based on consultation with members but driven by the Board and management teams.
Were there any other pre-event communications to build excitement for the event?
Yes – we market the conference from the first day after the last one, via email, website and social media. As deadlines approach we mailshot members and delegates via email, LinkedIn and Twitter.
If it’s an annual event, did you do anything differently?
The event changes each year, in subtle ways according to the venues we’re using. This year lunch on Thursday in the Sheraton Grand was included for all delegates at no increased fee. We had more opportunities for larger open sessions, and made full use of the fantastic and flexible meeting rooms for ad-hoc meetings.
Why were Edinburgh / Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa selected?
Edinburgh – because we knew delegates would love it and that many would never have been to the city before, which is something we factor into our choice of host city.
The Sheraton Grand was chosen for the reasons set out above. For us and our needs, the hotel had all the space, flexibility and style that sets it apart as a perfect venue. On top of that, it has the best staff and management teams we’ve worked with in the 17 years we’ve been running this event.
Were there any key challenges – e.g. logistics, special needs - or did anything unexpected happen that had to be addressed (bad weather, accidents, illnesses etc)?
There are always key challenges - for us this year, it was the huge jump in delegate numbers which had stayed static at 550 for five years and suddenly rose to 660 and counting. We could have gone to 700 but didn’t want to fundamentally alter the tone and scale of the event, as it’s known in our industry as an excellent networking opportunity – probably the best in the world because of the quality of delegates and the fact that at less than 600, it’s much simpler to network than the big US conference which hosts 1200 delegates.
Did the event match the original brief?
Yes and no – we changed specific things across the year, and when we were on site with the venue because of the increase in numbers, but that was all dealt with brilliantly by the Sheraton Grand’s team.
How did the destination and venue fare?
Edinburgh – everyone loved the city. People were excited to come but were surprised by just how beautiful it is and what an easy place it is to fully explore.
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa – unbelievable. This is the best venue we have used in 17 years of the event. It’s difficult to pick out why but here goes:
- Superb staff team – delegates were constantly commenting on how helpful and friendly everyone was, from concierge to front desk to F&B in the conference spaces and restaurant
- Carron Webster – every need was anticipated and solutions found to any challenges before we had even thought of them. A kind and calming presence right the way through from event design to delivery. Carron is a total professional and gave us total confidence,
- Blair Riddell – attention to detail beyond brilliant. Has a great team (Patrick, Mike and Melchoir – could not be better) and works seamlessly to deliver true excellence.
- F&B conference floor – best we’ve had. Food at every turn was superb – lunches delivered to 600 delegates hot, fresh, delicious. Comments have never been so positive. Coffee and tea stations were always fully stocked –this is something that has been an issue in the past but never was at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa – quality of coffee break snacks was wonderful – carrot cake and flapjacks get particular attention! Great to have Irn Bru brought in – delegates really enjoyed the fact it’s Scotland’s national soda.
- F&B Party Night – first class, 5-star meal. A great menu, delivered perfectly. Again, delegate comments have never been so favorable
- Spaces – some of the best meeting space we’ve ever had access to and the staff team turned layouts around with impressive speed and an attention to detail that we have simply not encountered before.
- Pre event brief – every minute of the event mapped out in our briefing packs meant that it ran perfectly. Every room layout, AV and F&B requirement was correct and again, this is a first and made the event so stress free. Knowing this was all going to be right, was a huge benefit to us.
What post-event feedback/analysis/measurement is taking or has taken place e.g. delegate questionnaires?
We sent out a survey monkey online evaluation to all 660 delegates.
What impact did it have on sales, behaviour of staff etc? Will you use Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa again?
We will definitely use Starwood Hotels & Resorts again – next year we will be in the Sheraton Porto and we will be following up leads for Le Méridien and W Hotels Paris, and the Westin Palace Madrid. Unfortunately for us, the association is currently not repeating conference locations. If we were, the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa would be used in rotation every four years. We will be revisiting the idea at the next Board meeting.
Case study supplied by Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa