Ali Gannagé-Stewart, Head of Commercial Events at London’s Southbank Centre, on why every conference needs some downtime.
Every conference should incorporate some downtime: space and time for the delegates to unwind, relax and enjoy the destination.
Many international delegates will also tack on a few days to their trip in order to enjoy the sights and activities of the city too. Being a tourist as a conference delegate or business event attendee can be a deciding factor for event organisers.
Could your delegates walk to the sights of the city from the event venue, or will you have to consider laying on coaches or at the very least help them to find public transport? This is a big consideration, because if you choose a venue that’s in the hubbub of the city your delegates can simply walk out of the venue and explore the city by foot and fully enjoy their free time.
Southbank Centre as Europe’s largest arts centre and one of London’s top five visitor attractions, has everything in one central London location – not just a variety of spaces for hire, a fantastic programme of live music, dance and performance, talks and art, as well as seasonal pop-up bars and restaurants to explore.
Your delegates are individuals with different interests and passions, so choosing a venue with access to a wide variety of activities will be very appealing to them. Some may appreciate the local cuisine, whilst others want to listen to live music. Some will want to hunt out the local art gallery, whilst their peers will delight in exploring the tourist sights. Your ideal venue should have all of this to hand for them.
We have seen clients such as TEDxLondon, who have hired the Royal Festival Hall and utilised various meeting spaces within the building to run smaller events in conjunction with their main event in the outstanding concert hall. They were able to negotiate money-off options at the restaurants and pop-up bars on site so that their delegates could experience a wider part of Southbank Centre as well as their events within the venues.
The UK-France Summit used the newly opened Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer for their delegate registration, networking and catering area whilst clients attended sessions in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room Auditorium. As soon as their delegates stepped out of these venues onto the terraces, they enjoyed views over the river Thames and experienced the bustle of London’s cultural meeting spot. During the summer the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden is an oasis in London and a haven for birds, bees, butterflies and wildflowers; it is a welcome break for conference delegates to enjoy some air and be refreshed in between conference sessions and in the evening it becomes London’s favourite place for drinks.
Most events have a social programme or group activities – for example, the newcomers’ pre-event introduction drinks, or the Chairman’s dinner. These additional events can be easily accommodated within our 17 acre site where delegates can encounter a range of free art with installations and exhibitions across our buildings. Does your venue have some flexible event spaces on offer? Are there suitable restaurants within walking distance? If not, consider the cost of transporting your guests. Being able to walk to these associated events will save you money and your delegates’ time; they can make their own way there at their own pace and in their own time, and latecomers are not a problem – there’s no coach to miss.
Saving time, money and the planet
If your delegates can walk to a series of activities on their doorstep this will also help with your green credentials – not having to supply transport will help your event’s carbon footprint and also save you time and money. Southbank Centre is unique in being able to offer local art galleries, exhibitions, restaurants and tourist sights a stone’s throw away from our location. We are proud to also be home to the Hayward gallery – a world-class art gallery which is ideal for delegates to soak up some culture.
The creation of a more rounded event, with consideration of your delegates’ social needs will help build a more interesting and caring delegate experience. The millennial generation focuses on every experience and what they personally will get from it, so creating an appealing social environment for them is key. Creating an event that appeals to both the educational and social needs of your delegates will reap great rewards and ensure that your event is remembered and spoken about for years to come. Southbank Centre is a place of personal memories, the Centre is home to many unforgettable experiences and performances which in turn will ensure your delegates return home with their own fantastic personal memories of your event.