Since the end of the Olympic Games in 2012, I’ve been working at the showground here in Peterborough, and handling the day-to-day running as a full-timer since December last year.
‘Poacher turned game keeper’ is the phrase I often hear – maybe that’s true, but I truly believe that having been a promoter, organiser, event director and even risking my own house, running my own events in the past, it can only be good for a venue like Peterborough Arena, to have the benefit of those experiences.
I’ve been in the events and exhibitions industry since 1993 – it seems like a very quick 22+ years and thanks to our increasingly complicated and less valuable pension industry, I expect there are more than 22 years left to go.
I love events and I’m not planning to stop; from checking tickets, drawing up plans, selling stands, to advising organising companies which way to take their events business – it’s a wonderful industry where we can all find some way of contributing.
From my own experience, when visiting a site, layout was always my first thought. How will my event work here?
When I ran my own events at this site mostly using the outdoor areas the main arena, being in the middle, meant I could put the exhibition around it giving me a north, south, east and west with entrances at several points and therefore visitors could easily circumnavigate the site and exhibitors would get to a fair crack at selling their goods.
There are stresses and strains with running a venue particularly one with outdoor grass areas. Rain is the devil at times and at other times, your best friend too. Also, organisers do more damage than they realise – yes I was one of them and yes I did the same. The people that hold this place together are the quiet ones.
The guys in the vans and tractors; fixing, painting, seeding, strimming, cleaning, litter picking, in an endless cycle - we only have a small team and they work incredibly hard, but while there is stress and challenges, I take great pleasure in sharing a cup of tea in their canteen, putting the world to rights. It’s only a few minutes out of my day but it helps keep things in perspective.
Most organisers could get more from venue owners. We’re not scary people. Our greatest need is for information about their event, so we can help put on a good event and manage the local authority and regulations. Pre-planning is critical for us, and sadly sometimes we are notified too late, but still expected to deliver – and we usually do.
The event and the venue are intrinsically linked and we always try to have the best and most open relationships with organisers. If the venue is on board then it makes for a better, easier and more successful event.
My advice as someone who has been on both sides of the fence is work with us – you’ll be surprised how much we can help you - we are there to support you as much as we can.
Just make sure the paperwork is right, and that we have all the information. If you do what it says in your plan, we will make sure we do too.
Respect for each other and our objectives, is important. I don’t mind someone bending my grass, I do mind if it’s dug up for want of a few quid’s worth of tracking. I don’t mind things stuck on the walls if it’s removed afterwards and cleaned up.
I don’t mind mark out paint on the grass – but not on the tarmac. Leave it as you found it is my mantra. Your post event bill will be smaller or non-existent.
I love being part of a business that doesn’t shortcut what’s needed. From health and safety, staff training, to replacing and updating equipment. I am pleased to say, as a venue, we are investing and will continue to invest. We are always keen to hear what our clients would like to see.
Organisers and venues need to be on the same page, it’s not us and them. We’re a ‘common sense’ industry and until recently most of us had learned the trade as we went along.
More recently we are seeing people with qualifications coming in and starting to rise up the ranks - this is the future. I did a Masters Degree when I was 37, in Events and Exhibition Management, just to check that I knew what I thought I knew, but as I see the new people coming through I can see a brave new world ahead. I just hope I can keep up.
This article was first published in the November issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne