The official convention bureau for Cambridge and the surrounding area recently held an event to mark its 25th anniversary, focusing on the key challenges and opportunities facing the business meetings industry today.
‘Events: Matters Arising’, organised by Meet Cambridge at King’s College and attended by 99 event professionals – both organisers and venues – included a panel session, with high-profile industry players debating issues facing the sector.
With sustainability, impact and legacy top of the event's agenda, the panel discussed and responded to audience questions on how each saw these goals affecting the meetings industry and those working in it.
Recommendations included: the importance of starting to track event sustainability with plans and goals, possibly using a carbon calculator; the need for greater awareness of career opportunities in the sector among young people to solve the skills gap; and how event organisers should review programme content to ensure greater diversity and inclusion, involving local speakers where possible.
On the panel were: Nick Milne, Domestic Bursar, Robinson College; Chris Skeith, OBE, CEO Association of Event Organisers; Madalina Marincas, Director, Opening Doors & Venues; Martin Fullard, Associate Director, The Business of Events; Sandra Eyre, Director of Business Development, The Meetings Industry Association; and Emma Cutting, Community Manager, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
Meet Cambridge, owned and funded by the Cambridge Colleges, was established firstly as Conference Cambridge in 1998, to offer a single central enquiry point for anyone wishing to host an event at a College. By linking clients with the venues, the service was an immediate success, handling an estimated £9m worth of business in its first nine months.
Today the organisation employs six staff and deals with around 3,500 enquiries each year, worth in the region of £20m to its 53 member venues.
As business has increased, the portfolio has also grown with city centre hotels, museums and other University facilities benefitting from the business and the marketing activity that Meet Cambridge undertakes on a local, national and international level to attract professional business events to the city.
Twenty-five years on, Meet Cambridge is now competing even more strongly on the global stage, attracting large and prestigious conferences to the city and winning bids against other leading destinations.
Gavin Flynn, Senior Bursar at Downing College and Chair of Meet Cambridge said: “Congratulations to the team at Meet Cambridge, not only on achieving 25 successful years but on orchestrating this high-profile event that takes a forensic look at the industry today and how we can adapt our offering going forward.
“After the challenges of the pandemic when the events industry was badly bruised, it’s wonderful to see that Meet Cambridge and its member venues have not only weathered the storm but that interest in Cambridge as a destination for business events has soared to greater levels than pre-COVID.”
Judith Sloane, Head of Meet Cambridge added: “It’s wonderful to see so many people at our anniversary event and I’d like to thank our panel, the Meet Cambridge team and the conference and events team at King’s College who have all made a huge contribution to its success.
“Our role as the convention bureau is constantly evolving and we can’t rest on our laurels. Organisers approaching us today are not only requiring help with finding a venue, but many also need additional support with running their events.
“There’s been a huge change in how conferences are organised. Today they often have a second online audience or remote speakers and the logistics have become more complex so we now offer event management services to complement our existing venue-finding service, which has proved very popular.
“Sustainability is pivotal. As part of the business events industry, we have a responsibility to do all we can to mitigate the negative impacts on our environment that events held in Cambridge can have by encouraging all those involved to create opportunities at their events to deliver a positive impact.”
Meet Cambridge worked closely with the catering team at King’s College; guests were served a selection of vegan canapés, made with local, seasonal produce, and English sparkling wine. The registration process was paperless thanks to oneTap badge technology created by local company Blendology which saved 9kg of paper and enabled 957 connections between delegates. Everyone attending was also asked to bring along an item to be donated to the Cambridge City Foodbank to demonstrate the importance of corporate social responsibility at business events.
‘Events: Matters Arising’ marks Meet Cambridge’s 25th anniversary, the panel left to right: Martin Fullard, Associate Director, The Business of Events; Madalina Marincas, Director, Opening Doors & Venues; Chris Skeith, OBE, CEO Association of Event Organisers; Judith Sloane, Head of Meet Cambridge; Emma Cutting, Community Manager, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership; Sandra Eyre, Director of Business Development, The Meetings Industry Association; and Nick Milne, Domestic Bursar, Robinson College;