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Meet Rob Charlton – CEO of SPACE Group

Our clients are at the heart of everything we do at BeaconHouse Events, and we spend a lot of time understanding their business ambitions so we can build a strategic portfolio of events and work together to achieve those goals. We partner with businesses of all shapes and sizes, in a wide variety of sectors, and one of the things we are most proud of is the long-term relationships that we have formed with our clients along the way.

In our new series, we’ll sit down with our clients to talk about what it is like working with our team and why events form such an important part of their business planning. First up we spoke to Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group, a collective of four different companies working across the built environment, Space Architects, BIM. Technologies, bimstore and Twinview. Headquartered in Newcastle upon Tyne, Space Group operates globally, working with high-profile clients including universities, local authorities, and national names like Vistry Homes, Barratt Developments, and Lidl.

Over to you Rob…

BeaconHouse Events has been working with Space Group for a long time – how did it all start? 

I had to rack my brains a little for this one, it seems like such a long time ago. Space Group had been running an event called BIM Show LIVE in London for quite a few years and it had become huge, with almost 2000 people attending at one point. We’re not events people, we just wanted to use the event to spread a message. In 2017 we decided to move the event back to Newcastle and take back control of it a little but we didn’t really know any event management agencies in the area who could help us to bring it to life. By chance, I met Catherine at a meeting at Northumbria University and agreed to talk through what we were looking to deliver at the event and that was where it all began! BIM Show Live continued to be hugely popular after its return to the North, with 400 national and international delegates joining us over two days. BIM Show Live was one of the most trusted information-sharing platforms for Building Information Modelling (BIM), but we always endeavored to make it fun and engaging for the delegates – and BeaconHouse showed that they can take any brief and make the magic happen.

From there we worked together to create and develop _shift, an annual event that is focused on showcasing the decarbonisation of the built environment and the value of innovation in the industry, which forms a key part of our status as a BCorp. We also work with the team on One Space, our conference which brings together our internal teams.


What makes working with the team at BeaconHouse Events different? 

Since that first event together in 2017, BeaconHouse events have become an extension of our team, not just an external agency – every year we challenge ourselves to do something different and I always throw some challenging  ideas and watch the horror on their faces. The team at BeaconHouse always brings their brand of creativity to every project, but what I value is that they push back if an idea is over the top  and I really value their expertise and opinion on what is going to make the event the best that it can be. Sarah, Catherine, and now Katie always take full ownership of the event and that means that I know all of the detail is taken care of – they just take all of the logistical pain away.

On-site the BeaconHouse team keeps the day moving and you don’t get sidetracked. I’m always looking to Katie for what we should be doing and I know that she has an eye on timings, the AV, and all of those logistics so I just don’t have to worry and can enjoy the day.

Any events we have will always be through BeaconHouse Events.


Is the process collaborative? 

Absolutely. We work on the content for each event together and the team is very talented at finding the best speakers that align with what we are trying to achieve. Both sides will share ideas about people who might be a good fit, but it is always aligned with the budget and what is realistic. Sarah is a spreadsheet queen, our FD likes working with her because they speak the same language so they keep my feet on the ground when it comes to event spend. We work together at the start of the process to set that budget and we discuss each time we meet to make sure we have enough for what we want to do. Their financial management is very strong as an agency and their transparent way of discussing budgets is refreshing and gives me confidence in what they are delivering. There is a lot of trust there, and that’s what happens when you build a long-term relationship.

They liaise with our internal graphics and marketing experts to make the most out of the assets from the events, like video and photography to make it work hard on our social pages, website, and other platforms.


How important was it to you to partner with a North East based event partner? 

We want all of our partners to be based in the North East. It is really important to us as part of our BCorp commitment to maximise the local pound and it is great to find talented businesses that we can work with.

Over the years we have seen the team at BeaconHouse grow and develop; from working closely with Sarah and Catherine back in the BIM Show days, we have now seen Katie move through the business and take on _shift as very much her event, that’s a testament to the strength of the business and the great people they employ. That’s what’s good about working with relatively small businesses, you still have that owner connection that I enjoy, despite the team growing and evolving. Even as they are less hands-on with the events these days. Sarah and Catherine make a considered effort to keep in touch with me and they do that really well – there is nothing transactional about the way that they work and I never feel like it is just someone doing a job.


How have events shaped your strategy as a business? 

I’m a frustrated party planner, and you tend to spend time on the things that you enjoy doing, I love it and it is never a chore. Seriously though, I think we do it well and it is genuine – not just something to tick a box like you sometimes see in our sector. What we learned from BIM Show Live was if you have a level of familiarity then you can build a real rapport with your delegates that continues from year to year – for example, for ten years we had the same two brilliant guys MCing, a standard format that you can then play with and tweak. We’ve taken that learning through to _shift and use the time to bring together fantastic speakers for our clients, it’s not about selling Space Group, and you build a reputation and get people talking. We’ll hear people talking about the conference throughout the year and they look forward to it because it’s different from what other people are doing. Boozy lunches are great for some businesses, but that’s just not us.


Your team is based all over the world, how have events helped you to keep them engaged with business? 

Our One Space event is a quality event for our people. We work with BeaconHouse to make it professional, bringing in paid keynote speakers to inspire and support our learning. We are at our strongest when all of our four businesses are working together because there is absolutely nobody else doing that, so the One Space event is a fantastic opportunity for all of the businesses to come together and present what we are doing.


How important was it to find a partner that operated sustainably in the event space? 

To be honest, it wasn’t always on our agenda, but what has been good is that BeaconHouse has educated me on that during the journey. What I like is that when I have ideas that maybe aren’t sustainable, they push back and they are very innovative in how they approach sustainability. We re-use everything year after year so we limit the amount of waste, we have moved away from printed materials in favour of digital information and most recently our catering has been fully vegetarian, which I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure about at first and had to be convinced. By the time we got to the event I had forgotten that we had made that decision and I didn’t notice that it wasn’t meat, it was just delicious. The team is always challenging what can be done and coming up with new ideas but it never feels like a gimmick – it’s just a core part of how they operate as a business.


As architects, how important is the venue to you? 

Incredibly important, and we work with BeaconHouse to find spaces that align with our brand and what we want to achieve with the event we chose the Henry Daysh building on the Newcastle University campus for the _shift and One Space conferences. That was strategic for a couple of reasons, one because it was a building that we designed and fitted out, but also because it aligned with the sustainability messaging of the event. As an existing building, there is a lot of embodied carbon in it, and it highlights our message that ‘creative reuse’ of buildings is more sustainable from an energy perspective.

Catherine and I visited the venue together to understand how we could work with the space to make it conducive to learning and the team worked with the director of estates at the University to take care of the contracts and logistics.

Choosing the right space is crucial to the success of the event and I know that the team put a lot of thought into how and why certain spaces are chosen over others. I hate events in boring old hotels, we have to keep it interesting.

Thanks Rob!

Find out more about how we bring _shift to life here and to speak to the team about your event ideas email or call 0191 691 3456.