QEII Centre: team talent proves to be the key to success

London’s leading large event venue

QEII Centre won the award for Best Venue Team of the Year at The Drum UK Event Awards 2017. Here, the agency explains the strategy used to make this award-winning event happen.

Executive Summary

Since 1986, the QEII Centre has been the trusted destination for hundreds of high profile events annually, spanning press conferences, meetings and global conventions for up to 2,500 delegates. More than 450 national and international events are hosted here each year.

QEII employs 48 permanent staff. The centre’s recent rebranding and refurbishment project has been steered by chief executive Mark Taylor, with the support of directors Anna Clover (operations and customer experience), Raj Pragji (personnel and development), Diane Waldron (sales and marketing) and John French (finance).

The team structure at QEII includes sub-brands QEII Taste (catering) and QEII Live (AV), a sales and marketing team of 10, a team of 7 event managers, a front of house team including concierge, security and the business centre, and an operations team incorporating IT services.

Our team is at the heart of QEII’s success – we pride ourselves on delivering the highest levels of customer service to every event, this is only possible because of our passionate, skilled and driven team.

We are continually looking for ways to innovate and improve our services, and a £12m capital investment programme has helped us to do that, injecting the wow-factor back into a venue that’s a long-established beacon of British excellence. The latest phase of upgrades, completed in September 2016, has seen our sixth floor transformed into a flexible events space with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of the London city skyline, which combined with the renovated fifth floor is ideally suited to banqueting events and drinks receptions.

Over the past year, we’ve focused on elevating our F&B offering far beyond that of a standard venue. In 2016 we employed Jean-Michel Viala as head chef, bringing five-star experience from The Dorchester to create innovative new conference menus and further our ability to host exciting banqueting events.

Jean-Michel has recently unveiled his new menus for 2017 which reflect Leith’s commitment to innovative, fresh, uncomplicated food, made with fantastic ingredients. A new bowl food menu gives event planners a flexible option, while all menus now include more vegetarian and healthy choices, having seen an increasing client interest in lighter options. He recently worked with our client QCon to deliver gluten-free and vegan menus as well as high energy break options to suit their week-long, 2,000 delegate event.

Our balanced choice menus feature information including guideline daily allowances and nutritional analysis and we operate an allergen log at all our events, so should any clients wish to see a full list of ingredients they are able to do so. Team members have gained NCFE qualifications in food and nutrition.

We have an expert in-house AV team, QEII Live, which offers clients industry leading facilities and a wealth of expertise to support their event. Whether it’s streaming a seminar throughout the building, creating a live stream viewable worldwide or having 40 gamers simultaneously playing online on separate devices, we have the technology to implement events seamlessly.

Clients are increasing coming to QEII looking for a turnkey solution for their events. The creation of an in-house digital services team has helped us to do that, being able to create graphics, animations, and most recently a bespoke mobile app which was created for the RNIB to give blind and partially-sighted event attendees full access to all event materials.

Strategy

Staff training is key to QEII’s success. All new staff undergo a robust induction programme, focusing on the standards of behaviour and management styles required to deliver the centre’s mission, vision and values.

Training programmes are individually tailored as part of the staff’s personal development plans to ensure they’re fully equipped to deliver their roles. The centre actively supports CPD; for example, our AV technicians are members of InfoComm International, the association representing professional AV industries worldwide.

We’ve maintained our IIP accreditation for over 15 years, using the IIP framework to assess leadership and management style, learning and development, culture and communications and other core people activities to ensure they are aligned with the business objectives. In February 2017, we were awarded the IIP Silver Award.

We hold an annual showcase event, which this year was bigger and better than ever as it was our 30th birthday party -

This gives the team a chance to show off all their creativity and event management skills, and is an exceptionally proud moment as they see their hard work come to fruition.

Long-standing staff show how we’re a family business in some respects, with several who’ve been with us for the best part of their careers such as a head of security Dan Blyghton, who has been here right from the start in 1986.

We receive constant positive feedback about our dynamic reception duo, father and son team Robbie and Roberto Goncalves. Roberto, our reception manager, has been with us since 1989. He worked for Leith’s for 18 years, became a porter and now works at reception. He has even appeared as the face of QEII customer service in a recent print advertising campaign – a celebration of his dedication to the centre.

Results

The achievements of our venue team are evidenced not only through client feedback and satisfaction surveys, but through client loyalty, new bookings and against financial targets.

  • As an Executive Agency of DCLG we have a target of £15 million to pay in dividends. We have also contributed £122 million to the London economy in the past year.
  • Over the past two years, we have achieved an occupancy growth of 20.1% and a total revenue growth of 20.07%, with occupancy at an all-time high.
  • More than 500 events were hosted in 2016/17 and we have increased non-core business (including awards ceremonies, banqueting events and fashion shows).
  • Client feedback continues to be impressive with many positive comments and high satisfaction ratings. Our target is 90% overall satisfaction - we excelled in this area achieving 97%. We also achieved 91.1% satisfaction in catering, 96.5% satisfaction for QEII Live and 98.3% satisfaction for friendliness and helpfulness of staff.
  • Repeat business has accounted for 78.5% of all business in 2016/17, showing the loyalty of our customers and the effectiveness of our customer service.

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