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Why venue finding is key: ‘It’s all about the delegate experience’

With Top Banana having just been appointed global venue partner for security firm G4S, we caught up with the Midlands-based agency’s director of venue finding Louise Goalen to talk about the benefits a venue finding partner can bring a business.

We think of ourselves as a boutique offering.

It’s personal. We’re finding clients want that high level touch, and they still want to see the different options. It’s all about the delegate experience – even for small meetings. At Top Banana we’re not transactional, so we’ve got the time to give them three or four best options.

I do understand large corporates want to see savings made day in and day out, but it doesn’t always help high level board meetings, trying to shoehorn people into venues that can’t create that experience that they want.

When I started at Top Banana two years ago venue finding was only a very small bit, but now it’s an integral part of the business.

We do it for direct clients, while on the other side, on the event side clients are more than happy for the venues team to source venues for larger events. The venue does play an enormous part of that delegate experience – and that experience really is key.

When clients go on site inspections they have to have a connection with the venue. That’s where venue finding agents come into play – having relations with the venue.

A venue is not just the bricks and mortar.

It’s the sales staff, the catering, the whole offering. It’s the venue wanting that piece of business, looking at it and saying, “how are we going to add value?”. That’s what I truly believe.

As director of events it’s my job to create the strategy for the whole of the team. The operations manager does quality control and we’re always adding personal touches. It’s having that venue-savvy knowledge. We do such a breadth of different types of meetings, but the small ones are still the majority of what we do.

The market has changed.

You used to see big corporates having three massive sales conferences a year, now they’re breaking them down. They’ll have a kick-off meeting for the managers to cascade the messaging down in a more personable way. I think it’s going to carry on that personal service.

Agencies like the high level of service. They like that we’re there to support them through the whole cycle of the event, the delegate experience, how we’re dealing with the meeting bookers. We’re giving them that confidence.

I don’t see online meeting bookers as a threat.

It does work for transactional pieces of business. Our clients still want us to provide options, even for small team meetings. I think everybody is so busy, they’re chasing their tails, and it’s really important that they get that right venue where they all feel comfortable together. It’s about location, style, catering, look and feel.

We just had a sales rep last week say to us, “I want to make it special, I’ve not seen those guys since January, we want to do something fun in the evening…” It’s that personalisation. Getting people together for a meeting can be a kick up the bum, and it can also be a huge thank you. That’s why people come to us.