I was recently involved in an event which took place at the Imago Burleigh Court Conference Centre at Loughborough Uni. An excellent conference centre, Burleigh Court ticks many of the boxes when searching for a good all-rounder quality residential conference venue. It also benefits from first rate sports facilities, which attracts top athletes who train and stay there as well as associations such as the FA and ECB for training and meetings.
It is not cheap; day delegate rates being close to London rates, but it is a good quality venue, with excellent standard accommodation. No pokey student halls, where your delegates have to suffer miniature single sized beds and shared bathrooms! My two nights were spent in a very pleasant, 4 star standard room in a ridiculously big and very comfortable bed. Was very impressed with the tea and coffee tray, all fairtrade (although missed my hippy teas, was looking forward to a nice cup of peppermint tea when I finally got to my room, but alas only normal tea, must be a Midlands thing!) including the sugar and even a couple of sachets of really delicious fairtrade hot chocolate and really yummy ginger biscuits, again, fairtrade.
I had high hopes for Burleigh Court but unfortunately it made a number of fatal mistakes, that in my opinion are completely unforgiveable and just down right sloppy. It makes me sad because it could so easily be avoided and we could leave with a smile on our face, a sparkle in our eyes not to mention one less grey hair and one less long-winded feedback email to write when you get back to the office. Come on venues, lets get it right! It would make our job, the long suffering Event Managers, a lot easier. I felt the need to blog about this, even if it is picking on Imago, as I feel so strongly about this kind of sloppiness from venues, particularly ones which you pay good money for. Here are some of things that happened to us which just make you want to bang your head against a brick repeatedly until you wake up to find its all a dream, or better still just pass out:
1) No sign of our so-called ‘on site event manager’ from the venue, who would be contactable at any time. Couldn’t tell you what their name was, or what they looked like as we never saw them. The AV guy seemed to be our contact, including setting up the rooms and all the AV, changing the water, clearing coffee cups and generally doing everything! (Thanks Stuart!)
2) The sales office did not give the correct information to the guys setting up the rooms on the first day and there was therefore a lot of messing about around 1 hour before the conference was due to start, because a room wasn’t set up which they insisted that we said that we weren’t using – even though it was clearly on our contract, we had discussed all room setups on a previous site visit and we had email correspondence about it. Bad communication between sales office and operations, and they never came down to apologise or explain what went wrong.
3) The lunch was excellent, a selection of cold meats, fish and salad and a great selection of hot dishes, including good veggie options (confirmed by many of the veggies attending the event). The banquet dinner however was quite frankly pants. What happened I do not know, but it certainly plummeted to depths of crapness which were really surprising because of how good breakfast and lunch were. Vegetable pasta and tofu casserole with bruschetta turned out to be pasta twists with tofu tossed through it and a few salad leaves. They forgot the bruschetta and had to be reminded. Finally the bruschetta arrived after most of the people having the veggie option had finished, and looked questionably like garlic gread…? The kind of garlic bread, that looked like the chef had just wacked in the oven after quickly nipping down to the local Spar and grabbing a couple of bags out of the freezer. Have you ever been in a room with lots of hungry and unhappy vegetarians, who have had to watch meat-eaters eat a honking great plate of food?
4) Wifi was hair-tearingly unrealiable! Kept dropping out every 10 minutes or so and regularly thought I was going to go completely insane.
I know what you are thinking: these are only a couple of things, but to me these few things are each cardinal sins for a venue. They have very much tarnished my view of Imago Burleigh Court as they are things which I think are important, especially if the venue wants repeat business.
My lessons from this are, always always take all your venue contract and documentation with you on site and keep all email correspondence with the venue until after the venue, and make sure you can access it on site. It can prove priceless.
Don’t be afraid to be a royal pain in the arse to the venue if you are not getting what you paid for. If its not doing what it said on the tin, take it back to the shop and complain! It is up to us the Event Managers to set the standards that we want and make sure we get them.