BHE: Oot and aboot

My name is Catherine Coulter and I’m a ‘Hosted Buyer’.

When did that happen?  Well, since ‘The Meetings Show’ identified BeaconHouse Events as an organiser of meetings, events, conferences or incentives based in the UK or Europe.

We didn’t think that made us particularly special, but as soon as they confirmed that we met their strict qualification criteria we were quickly whisked into a world of VIP and given access to a premium attendance option to ensure we got all there was to offer at the show.

The Meetings Show’ is the premier event for the inbound and outbound meetings and event industry in the UK, taking place on 27-28 June 2018 at Olympia London.

Since its launch in 2012, The Meetings Show (TMS) has become a must-attend exhibition for event, meeting, conference and incentive planners from the UK and Europe. We’re still quite a young company, only four years in operation and going through a period of ‘scaling up’ TMS was the perfect opportunity to focus on future developments for our ever-growing portfolio (100+ events annually).

NewcastleGateshead Initiative had previously encouraged us to attend through our partnership with them. This year we took the plunge to connect with thousands of industry professionals, to source new suppliers, discover the latest innovations and build new networks.

This is my take on what it meant to my business and myself to be a hosted buyer. Hoping that this post might go some way to influencing you to attend that next “will I – won’t I? “ event.

I live my life by targets, and with having two and half days out of the office I set myself a substantial ‘tick list’ to make the most of my time at the show.

Some of the perks of being a hosted buyer included:

  • Access to a personalised online diary where you can organise your attendance in advance by choosing who you want to meet at times that suit you
  • Complimentary return travel (Newcastle – London), coach transfers in London and accommodation (4* Novotel London West)
  • Exclusive access to onsite lounges with lunch and refreshments throughout the event
  • The opportunity to attend exclusive hosted buyer events and network with 1,000 fellow professionals (including a Welcome Buyer Reception at the Science Museum, London)
  • Access to some VERY attractive post-event fam trips / educational tours – which unfortunately I didn’t have availability to attend.

I hopped off the train at Kings Cross, jumped on the tube and arrived in good time at my hotel. Enough time to freshen up then make way to the ‘Hosted Buyers Reception’ at the Science Museum.

Welcomed by smiling staff and the sultry sounds of a saxophonist we were ushered through a very efficient bag search and registration service. My never-ending glass of prosecco joined me as I explored the history of space travel with Buzz Aldrin and the rest of the hosted buyers. Dubai Business Events, sponsors of TMS made sure no one got peckish with tasty canapés circulating throughout the networking drinks reception. The smart casual crowd were in good spirits as we were whisked upwards to take advantage of some exclusive viewings at the Museum. All whilst enjoying yet more food and drink with a very creative and well-staged ‘street food’ style dining experience. By the time the generous cocktails stopped and the last lobster tail was swept away, I was suitably content and well networked – ready to hop on my chauffeured coach with new friends, back to my temporary London pad next to Hammersmith.

Part of being a hosted buyer means you have an obligation to meet at least 16 exhibitors at the event for a series of 20 minute meetings. This is by no means a small feat – with over 700 of the destinations, hotels, venues, DMC’s and technology providers from the UK and around the world showcasing, you need to choose wisely!

So, up early, quick gym sesh to clear the fuzz from the night before (must’ve been something I ate….). This may not be ‘mention worthy’ to many readers, but my hotel room had two hair dryers, I mean that just NEVER happens, both of which were located…Next. To. Mirrors. I’d been in London for 14 hours and I was already starting to feel like I might move here – I was in some kind of wine me, dine me, hair drying paradise.

Bacon sandwich to-go from the too-much-to-choose-from breakfast buffet, back on my carriage and straight to my oh-so-VIP hosted buyers entrance, again very efficient bag search and registration (is the coach needed? I like walking, gives me a chance to explore and up my step count, my hotel was an 8minute walk from the venue and very easy to navigate).

Thought I was clever and efficient booking all my meetings in the morning – giving me the afternoon to explore sessions and outstanding exhibitors. WRONG. TMS is large. It’s not easy to navigate upon initial arrival (and I did my Duke of Edinburgh…GOLD Award), 15 minutes to get what you need from a meeting and 5 minutes to get to your next appointment is not easy, it’s possible, but by lunch time your mouth is cotton and you’re glazing over giving your elevator pitch. Regardless, this blog post is written retrospectively so (spoiler alert) I survived. Pros, I did indeed have the afternoon to network in the endless opportunities to meet and greet, bask in the balmy VIP aura of the Hosted Buyers Lounge and enjoy a delicious lunch whilst reflecting on what I’d learned that morning.

Part of my tick list was to discover ‘alternate’ venues across the UK and identify new trends in technology to help future proof our event planning. These aims stem from what our clients want, why they stick with us and why we retain our position as event creators and leaders. Exploration, discovery and adoption.

Meeting highlights, starting with a nautical theme…interesting and contender hotels and venue spaces, Liverpool’s ‘Rum Warehouse and Titanic Hotel’ and event space and hotel ‘Titanic Belfast’ – I’m bias being home-grown, but Belfast has LOADS to offer these days, hotels galore and some impressive event space to boot. Watch this space for a Belfast focused post soon…

Learning more about badges, smart wearables and printing tech than I ever thought possible in a few hours, I felt like I’d done a crash course and come out an expert. Thanks to a focused morning I already felt like I had new solutions to offer clients, better systems to introduce to our teams and a great new lease of life on how we can modernise and reduce waste on our events. I felt like Richard Ayoade and Captain Planet at the same time. To pre-emptively celebrate my ecological learning I joined the Titanic Belfast team again for a G&T tipple on their stand advertising favourite street scenes from the Big Smoke (Belfast).

Exhibitors are at TMS to impress. There are so many networking events and hosted dinners that you’re never going to feel at a loose end! Choose wisely and try and get in with a host that you’ll learn something from (new destination, hotel group etc) or forge a meaningful long-term relationship with (national and international DMCs, PCOs, etc).

A full English on day two set me up for more chauffeuring and more meetings. Lots of people seem to only attend one day at TMS but I have no idea how they manage to get everything they want from it in only eight hours. I had another full morning of meetings and was transported from the wonders of Leeds with ‘Conference Leeds’ to the hidden gems of Manchester with ‘Marketing Manager’ planning with their helpful teams on how we could expand many of our events into their impressive city offerings. More badge-making tech and a fantastic chat with our faves at ‘Eventbrite’ set the scene for more back office developments to be established when back in the Toon.

Grabbed a quick lunch in the Hosted Buyers Lounge, took advantage of the chilled out furnishings to catch up on some emails then off to learn about ‘the Death of Traditional Conferences’ at just one of the stages at TMS. Then the end of the show, I couldn’t leave without a friendly catch up with NewcastleGateshead Initiative hosting the giant yellow stand with Sage Gateshead and Hilton NewcastleGateshead  – nor am I sure could anyone who attended TMS! I strolled to collect my luggage from the Buyers Lounge (free of charge cloakroom of course), jumped on my coach to St Pancreas with ample time to catch my scheduled train back to Newcastle.

After 50,000 steps and 28 degree heat I feel like I haven’t touched on even half of the experience that was my first hosted buyer adventure. What I can honestly say was that I had a great time, felt well looked after, learned A LOT and definitely mean to return. Really do your research next time you’re off to an event like TMS; you can’t get the most out of an event unless you read all the information available. Ask questions and take the time to soak up the experience. I’m writing this blog on the way back from the event, sitting in my sun drenched carriage I feel fulfilled and excited about the developments that attending TMS has introduced to BeaconHouse Events.

Thanks TMS!

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