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How location and research facilities provide winning combo for events

Alma Watson, senior events manager at Reed Business Information spoke to M&IT about why she chose Lakeside Conference Centre in York for a Farmer’s Weekly event.

One of the key elements needed was to demonstrate innovation and new technology in action, which this venue was able to facilitate, she explained.

“We like to use a research facility if it’s a science-led conference. The farmers like hands-on experience, they like to have a tour, with practical elements and lectures,” Watson said.

The senior events manager said they were looking for a specific geographical location. “We wanted to have it in the northern region – we sometimes neglect our northern candidates who can’t attend down south. We looked to see what was available in the north and researched what facilities were available.

“We had three months to plan for the conference. Our bookers tend to book last minute, so it was just enough time to get the programme together.”

The event for Farmer’s Weekly, a magazine aimed at the British farming industry meeting, was attended by 120 delegates who took part in demonstrations and lectures exploring the latest developments in farming technology.

The Lakeside Conference Centre, based on the agri-science campus NAFIC in York, gave delegates the opportunity to learn more about the work carried out on site, which is home to the Centre of Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and Fera Science.

The event placed a strong emphasis on interaction and putting applied science into action through practical demonstrations. Watson says she was keen to utilise the 80-acre parkland setting and demonstrate the new technology that would be discussed at the event.

Space for on-site demonstrations. Photo: JIm Varney.

Space for on-site demonstrations. Photo: JIm Varney.

Lectures took place in the Sand Hutton Suite main room, where delegate interaction was through a Slido voting system. Attendees used the platform on their phones to submit questions to speakers and panellists.

Delegates also participated in a tour organised by the anchor tenant at the campus, Fera Science, giving attendees an opportunity to see advanced agri-technology in action. The tour also included a visit to a mobile field laboratory.

“It’s nice coming to a facility that can offer the tour – they had volunteers and also had the expertise to talk about the facility, with guides conducting tours for our delegates,” Watson said.

“It was an ideal venue and a well-attended event. Everyone stayed the whole day, with lots of audience participation. I think the delegates got a lot out of it. The sponsor was delighted with the event and happy to work with us again.”

Liz Cashon, campus manager at the Lakeside Conference Centre, said: “One of the USP’s of our conference centre is having a vast amount of outdoor space, enabling us to showcase a tractor and 36m wide sprayer at the entrance to the site. Through careful planning and ongoing dialogue with our clients, we were able to accommodate the Farmers Weekly event at the same time as a Christmas Craft Fair, with over 20 stallholders which was open to all staff onsite (500+).”