Late last year, London’s Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) opened for external events following a £30 million redevelopment. BBT caught up with the venue’s senior marketing manager Simon Timmis to discuss how the opening has gone, delivering ROI on meetings and events and trends in booking behaviour…
How is business following the opening? Is it meeting expectations? Types of clients and forward bookings?
Since we re-opened the venue has gone from strength to strength. We’ve already confirmed over 150 events and while Savoy Place continues to remain popular among clients from technology, engineering and the sciences, we’ve also seen a significant rise in enquiries from fashion companies, agents and TV / filming.
During the venue closure we spent the best part of two years acting as a venue finder and resource for our clients, ensuring we continued to support and re-house events that came to us during the refurbishment. We maintained strong relationships with past clients, who have since returned, and the level of enquiries to date has been fairly significant in comparison to where we were in 2013 before we invested in the rebuild.
When Savoy Place re-opened we were conscious that any new building has a settling in period to go through, so we decided not to open the diary at full capacity for the first three months to ensure we gave plenty of attention and a great experience for all our early customers.
Booking behaviour – What trends have you seen emerging from event bookers when looking at venues to hold corporate events? What do businesses want more/less of? And is it becoming harder to meet the demands of buyers?
Clients now want the option to incorporate everything into their event as easily as possible, and as standard. The ability to brand the venue around each event with client logos, lighting schemes and social media feeds is popular. Whilst we would have done this for larger events before, there is now a requirement to do this for all.
When we re-designed the venue, accessibility and connectivity was at the heart of our plans. As the UK headquarters of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and with 167,000 global members, we have an expectation to deliver seamless technical and digital production to our members; these innovations are now accessible and available to delegates.
Where possible we deliver and incorporate our exhibits into events; for instance, from the moment delegates walk into the building we can brand the digital chandelier to welcome guests with personal messages.
By future proofing the venue all technical devices, tablets and the like can be linked and streamed within the venue, meaning future trends and technological developments in the coming years will not affect us.
All events can be simultaneously streamed throughout the venue, and with more than 100 screens in the building delegates can roam the venue and still hear and see events being streamed from the main lecture theatres in other rooms.
ROI – Are buyers asking for different ways to display ROI? And how does IET help them show a return on investment?
Buyers are certainly measuring the success of their events in different ways. Financial measures of course are still prominent, but social media impressions, delegate engagement through apps and voting systems as well as brand impact within the venue itself are now key.
As a venue, collecting delegate (rather than just organiser) feedback is becoming easier as we install touchscreen feedback tablets around the venue.
Spend – Over the past 2 years have you noticed a change in events spend from businesses? Do you expect it to increase over the next few years?
During the refurbishment we continued to market ourselves to ensure we were front of mind, we didn’t want to disappear from the landscape during our refurbishment so we continued to have a presence throughout, and even set up as an agency to help with customers regularly.
Now we have reopened, buyers are still as savvy as they were during the recession; but budgets have increased slightly for enhancing the events. Our ‘added value’ services such as branding options, social media walls and greater personalisation are being used more and more to create impact. Discerning event planners are much more shrewd with what they put their money into and making sure they create impact.
What are your objectives when holding an event? How do you measure success?
Our objective is to provide a flawless service across all aspects from catering to Wi-Fi, as well as to deliver on providing a space that encourages creativity and innovation. We want our clients to feel that when they use us, it is their venue for the day and it is all about them. We put a lot of emphasis on allowing clients to personalise all aspects of the event space. It is great that such a high proportion of our customers are rebooking already for their events next year.
There seems to be an increase in companies offering incentive/team building opportunities to employees. Have you noticed a trend in incentives and does IET: Savoy Place or your other venues offer this sort of thing?
The venue’s flexibility and vast open floor spaces has greatly improved opportunities for companies to utilise it for team building events. The new Johnson Roof Terrace has become a show-stopping finale to events, it also allows companies to accessorise their team building or dinner with a drinks reception or photo call on the roof; this has become very popular, especially during the summer months. Enjoying the panoramic views of London is a reward in itself.
How important is the technology offering for event buyers now? And what are buyers looking for beyond the now-standard free fast Wi-Fi?
Venues pride themselves on their USPs and being able to offer something different. Our advanced digital ‘fibre core’ infrastructure is embedded throughout the venue, meaning that our standard tech offering is superior and, most importantly, well placed to cope with future technology trends and expectations, while also being able to support multiple devices concurrently connecting to our Wi-Fi during an event.
Looking beyond the standard digital offering, we invested in a series of exhibits throughout the building including a digital chandelier in the reception to reinforce this message. In addition, we’ve installed over 100 screens, video walls and lighting systems around the venue so it is really easy for our customers to brand their spaces at little or no additional cost.
What are the business objectives over the next few years at IET London and is there any plans for any other event space openings in the UK or globally?
A big part of our refurbishment was to establish our venue as a ‘Global Engineering Hub’ – a natural destination for technology and engineering events. We want to stretch the boundaries of what our building can do, and we have been amazed by how much appetite there has been by our customers to utilise tech to make their events more engaging. Our newest addition – the Johnson Roof Terrace – which overlooks the River Thames is an exciting space for us, and we are looking forward to its first full season of events this summer.
Read BBT’s feature on new corporate event openings across the UK