Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Conference Organizers Weekend - Part 3


Taking the cork out of a champagne bottle with a great big sword!

Yes we have had a go at that and its easier than it sounds and has a great historical significance between the French and the Russians apparently.

So this morning as part of the Great Escape Weekend from Red Carnation Hotels after a hearty breakfast which was excellent, we headed for the South African themed bbar which is part of the Rubens Hotel. A great dine around option if using the hotel as a conference venue as you can charge anything back to your room number.

Tasting of cocktails and Mrs Balls Chutney is a must in the bbar and the Bobotie spring rolls are to die for. What a great venue with 3 areas for hiring privately and African themed decor makes it an interesting space. Just another option if using the Rubens as a conference venue in London.

Just as we were getting comfortable in the bbar we were told that our transport had arrived to take us to the next destination, The Milestone Hotel. An orginal London bus was waiting and dropped us to the waiting entourage outside the Milestone Hotel.

The flagship of the London Hotels, the Milestone lived up to expectations with its 5 star service and product. Lovely bedrooms, suites and apartments are its draw but also it has great meeting and private dining spaces which we were lucky to experience. The rooms and suites at The Milestone are stunning and at £600.00 a night they have to be special but I think they are value for money from what i have just seen.

After the Sabrage we were treated to canapes and a wine tasting, did we mention that Red Carnation Hotels own vineyards in South Africa?

Having a personal preference for expensive reds, I decided to try the award winning Pinot Noir from the Bouchard Finlayson label and I wasn't disappointed, 3 glasses later and I couldn't face trying the whites that were on offer. Bribery by alcohol is always a good sales technique in my books!

The bus has brought us back to the Rubens Hotel to freshen up for dinner at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel tonight. The progamme or entertainment is yet to be announced but if the last 24 hours is to go by then I know the hospitality and quality of service, food and drink will be first class.

Its still very hard work making sure we experience every aspect of conference venues to ensure we recommend the right one for your next meeting or event!

Watch out for Part 4 shortly.

A Conference Organizers Weekend - Part 2


A conference venue in London gives free WIFI in all areas!!!

Yes you heard it here first, no catches, no hidden charges, its all totally free. Isn't that what all conference organizers dream of. Red Carnation Hotels have got my vote already.

So back to the weekend, we were told to meet in the Palace Lounge which is great for people watching as it looks over the Royal Mews. We were greeted by an Umpa Lumpa and a chocolate martini, not your average corporate drinks reception. The lounge had been been transformed into Willy Wonkas chocolate factory with the GM dressed as 'Mr Wonka'.

There were sweets and chocolate everywhere, canapes have never tasted so good and all washed down with blueberry cocktails and of course a couple more chocolate martinis. Now i have been on a few familiarization trips over the years but chocolate for canapes is a first for me. We bought our Wonka Bars as the promise was a special trip for those lucky 5 that found the golden ticket!

If your expectation of a London conference venue is stuffy and formal then you will be in for a surprise from the Rubens at the Palace. The staff are brilliant, informative and above all friendly but with a professional service.

Mini fish chips, mini Yorkshire puddings & roast beef and mini sausage and mash followed the chocolate canapes again accompanied by a chocolate martini (there is a theme emerging here!). Then it was time for a bit of hard work and the business side of the evening, the showround.

Rubens is a small and compact hotel that is full of character and charm and with 2 smallish meeting rooms its not going to suit every event. The largest meeting room holds 90 people but is tastefully furnished and great for smaller events i would say. I would have no hesitation in recommending the meeting rooms to our clients as coupled with the first class service you know the event will be a success here.

We were then taken into Hotel 41 which is the 5 star hotel on the 5th floor of the Rubens. More a private club this doesn't feel like a hotel at all but exudes elegance, style and privacy. Again facilities and bedrooms were very impressive here.

Back down to the lounge and guess what, my wife found a golden ticket in her wonka bar!!! As her prize she was whisked up in the glass elevator to the roof of the Rubens where she was treated to caviar, Verve Cliquot and a view down to the Royal Mews and up to the stars. Stunning was her description which I have to take her word for as I was stuck downstairs with my chocolate martini.

11.30pm - Time to retire to our stylish bedroom after a very enjoyable, informal evening. I have learnt a lot about the Rubens, got to know the team that run the conference and events and drank a lot of cold chocolate. All in the quest to find that perfect London conference venue for you.

Still being kept in the dark about tomorrow and what they have planned for us, all we have been told is we will be:

Mastering the Art of Sabrage.....

Until tomorrow.

Friday, 1 February 2013

A Conference Organisers Weekend - Part 1

The struggles we have to go through to ensure we always find conference venues that are suitable for you....

This weekend we were kindly invited to experience the facilities at the 4 central London hotels belonging to Red Carnation Hotels. The programme for the weekend is still very much a secret as I write this however I know its going to be educational and fun whatever we get up to.

Just checked into the Rubens at The Palace our home for the next 2 nights and first impressions are very good. As you would expect from a 4 star central London conference hotel, the welcome was warm and the room was traditional with a modern twist.

The welcome letter from the General Manager contained 2 vouchers for a complimentary cocktail in the hotel bar so we are looking forward to choosing from the extensive list shortly! A cryptic message about Willy Wonka's chocolate factory has got us thinking about what else may be in store this evening. Cocktails and chocolate is just about perfect for me though and not sure I need anything else.

The weekend is all about increasing our knowledge of conference venues in London and we are looking forward to seeing the conference facilities at each of the hotels. Without this first hand knowledge we can't recommend venues to our clients so its an important part of a very hard job!!

OK off to the bar now for my cocktail, so watch this space for Part 2 of the weekend.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Conference Venues London

London in Numbers.

The capital can boast some impressive conference & incentive stats and here are just some of the numbers that make up the conference venues in London.

Excel Conference centre
5,000 - Capacity at the largest London conference venue, Excel

100,000 - Hotel bedrooms in the capital and this is rising each week

7 - New permanent sporting venues, created for the Olympics but available for corporate hire as conference venues from 2013.

53 - Michelin starred restaurants which are great for incentives.

800 - Number of people that can be accommodated for a reception on the London Eye

The Wellesley Hotel
36 - Luxury suites at London's first 6* hotel, The Wellesley in Knightsbridge

And finally

1000 - number of conference venues in London to suit every budget, size and sector. From unique historical sites to purpose built business conference venues, London is truly a great conference destination.

Just some of the impressive numbers that London boasts when it comes to conference and events and there is something for everyone and to suit all tastes and budgets.

Source: Conference & Incentive Travel Magazine

Friday, 23 November 2012

Small Meetings Inspire Design Innovations

The entrance to Workspring at Redmond Marriott Town Center near Seattle, Marriott Hotel & Resort’s test property.
 The following is great article about what is happening in the small meetings market and what the future holds for design of conference rooms and business conference venues.


As workers begin to move out of stuffy, formal conference rooms, several hotel companies are following suit by transforming casual public spaces into more collaborative meetings environments.
“The way people work today has changed dramatically,” said Matthew Von Ertfelda, VP of insight, strategy and innovation at Marriott International. “People are completely untethered. They’re looking for collaborative environments, and they’re looking for barrier-less interaction.”

And with a change in workers’ habits—a recent survey sponsored by Wired and Marriott Hotels & Resorts found 48% of respondents are “more productive when they work remotely”—the necessity for hoteliers to adapt is more prevalent than ever.
Matthew Von Ertfelda
Marriott International
David Brudney, a hotel sales and marketing consultant and columnist, echoed that sense of urgency.

“I think the whole trend towards lifestyle hotels, lobbies becoming more networking opportunities, and carrying that over into where the conference venues areas are, will probably play well with the next (generation),” he said.

Many hoteliers have responded to this change in traveler behavior by creating spaces designed specifically for small, casual meetings. Take for example Marriott Hotel & Resorts’ recent partnership with workplace product and furnishings provider Steelcase to launch Workspring at Marriott.
Workspring, a Steelcase brand, consists of five studios of varying sizes that can accommodate meetings from three to 75 attendees in several common areas, many of which feature natural light and outside access. By integrating some of Marriotts food-and-beverage practices and adding Workspring’s strongest elements, John Malnor, VP of growth initiatives for Steelcase, said they were able to come up with a suitable workspace environment that caters to hotels. The first Workspring launched at the Redmond Marriott Town Center near Seattle. It is marketed as the industry’s first purpose-built suite of integrated spaces and common areas designed for small meetings.

The suite offers five studios, each catering to different meetings sizes, in addition to a café, a living room, a library, a resource center, a breakout area and outdoor space where guests can work, relax or refresh.

John Malnor
Other hotel companies are following the trend. Brudney said several properties have undergone renovations to their meetings space, noting the Hilton Chicago, which spent part of its recent $140-million renovation to create small break-out rooms, and the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
“The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas has done some revolutionary things to their meeting rooms that are now two years old,” he said. “They did a focus group with several hundred meeting planners and came up with some innovations with lighting, acoustics, room temperature and audio visual products.”

The rise of small meetings
The demand for small meetings has been around for a long time, according to Del Ross, VP of sales and marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group.

“But the thing that’s changed is people that have led small meetings didn’t realize that’s what they were doing,” he said.
Small meetings can be impromptu or part of a large meeting in which attendees branch out for breakout discussions or a chat over coffee.
Penny Fondy, partner at Wits End Productions, which produces several hundred events per year in the hospitality industry, said she’s seeing demand increase for shorter, focused events.
“People want to learn about things quickly, they want to learn about what’s important to them, and they want to move along,” she said during the ISHC Annual Conference in September.

Another rising source of small meetings business is sports team travel, IHG’s Ross said. “The amateur youth tournament business is about a $1-billion business,” he said. “That’s a massive amount.” “There was a time when meetings were about a one-way push out of info,” Von Ertfelda said. “What we’ve found is that actually a lot of the high-value interactions were happening outside of the meeting.”

Design, tech and service trends
“You want to create charismatic space,” Steelcase’s Malnor said. “You walk into Workspring, and it’s like an open living room/kitchen like a home. It’s not a ‘show me your badge to get in’ kind of space. It’s very welcoming.”

An example of a Workspring studio.
Workspring’s design promotes well-being by leveraging natural light, fresh air and providing healthy food options. Marriott’s Von Ertfelda added that the design of the Workspring program also tries to simplify the meetings process by not having an “a la carte” service list.
“All of the meeting supplies, we provide all that, allowing you to focus on the content,” Von Ertfelda said. “It eliminates the distractions and anxieties and allows you to be exceptionally productive.”
Yet for all their technological advances, smaller meetings workspaces should still address some of the most simple, basic needs that have plagued travelers for years, Brudney said.
A comfortable, ergonomic chair is a must, he said, as are enough outlets for multiple laptops and electronic devices.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Nutritious Foods For Your Conference Menu

One of the key elements of a conference, meeting or event is the food as its what delegates seem to talk about and remember the most long after the content of the presentations!

Hotels and conference venues have picked up on this in recent times and their offerings are a lot more balanced and have a healthy focus which is vital to keeping the delegates in a receptive state of mind. The following list shows 10 basic but nutritious foods that you should include on your conference menus.

Great source of protein

Lower cholesterol and blood pressure

Contains vitamin D and essential omega 3 oils

Full of calcium

Root Vegetables
Full of dietary fibre

Good source of vitamin C

Contains antioxidants

Contain carbohydrates which are good for slow release energy

Contains thiamine which is good for metabolism

Contain flavanoids believed to enhance memory 

 Balance your conference menus with these 10 basic items and your delegates will remain attentive and in good state of mind throughout your meeting or conference

Monday, 9 July 2012

Conference Hotels in Cheltenham

The travels of WPC took us to Cheltenham this weekend where we checked out a few conference hotels to see what the South West has to offer.
Cheltenham is a very accessible location for conference delegates as its just off the M5, A40 and between Birmingham and Bristol do easy to get to. We took the hospitality offered by the Queens Hotel in Cheltenham and we were glad we did. Sitting proudly at the top of the town overlooking the gardens and close to the Montpelier area of the city, the Queens Hotel is a great location.

Easy to find off the ring road and we were able to drive straight into the hotels private car park which although is chargeable is a good feature for security reasons. The hotels reception has lovely Regency features and check in was great, very efficient and friendly which is what we needed. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to the Queen Victoria Suite which was huge and has been sympathetically maintained to include flat screen TV but still retaining its sense of history. The bathroom was a little disappointing bearing in mind the size of the room and is in need of updating with power showers, window coverings and general smartening up.

The central staircase of the hotel makes you feel a bit dizzy with the clash of wallpaper and carpets however the history of the wallpaper is explained and features in the House of Commons as well we understand!

Having settled into our room we ventured downstairs to view the hotel conference rooms which are on the ground floor. Maybe not ideal to have your business conference facilities just off reception on the ground floor but the room was impressive with bags of natural daylight with a sense of character to. Personally I felt the rooms were more suited towards social events, private dinners etc but they do sell themselves as a business conference hotel as well so I am sure they do these well.

The hotel has a lovely restaurant area which opens out onto a small garden with BBQ which is a great space for summer conferences where delegates have a different eating option. We went into town for dinner so didn't experience the restaurant menu but it read very well. The small bar area has a lovely feel to it with large leather sofas and traditional old gentleman's club furnishings.

After a good nights sleep in the four poster bed we went down to breakfast. I have to say that breakfast was excellent, with a good selection and was all very fresh. Proper thick toast and plunger coffee made it feel less of a 'chain hotel' offering which was a nice touch.

Check out was very quick and efficient and overall we found the staff to be very friendly and welcoming. The one major drawback of the hotel was that WIFI was chargeable which is a bit negative for me however for corporates or leisure guest the hotel has many other plus points to outweigh this.

If you are looking for conference venues in a lovely spa town setting, then the Queens Cheltenham has to be worth considering.