A planner’s journey can be full of emotional highs and lows, from site selection and event planning to event execution and wrap-up. The team at the Halifax Convention Centre collaborated with Canadian event planners to understand more about this journey so they could design an experience that will impress clients in their brand new facility opening December 2017.
Ideas shared through a series of collaborative workshops revealed the need for a primary point-of-contact, a go-to expert who doesn’t just react, but proactively anticipates planners’ needs and expectations well in advance and throughout a conference.
“We spent a lot of time understanding what an event planner goes through when they’re planning, contracting and delivering an event, and how to provide an experience that could alleviate their pain points,” said Suzanne Fougere, senior director of corporate strategy, marketing and communications for the Halifax Convention Centre. “The planners designed the initial concept for primary point-of-contact.”
Once all information was gathered, the entire operations team worked through the process and designed service prototypes. Planners then validated the work and offered feedback once again. The Halifax Convention Centre team is now putting this concept into practice as it gets ready to open the new building.
During the engagement process, planners voiced their concerns and desires. They juggle a lot, and want to build and keep relationships. They also want someone who understands them and their organization well enough to act proactively and solve problems throughout their journey.
This was one key piece of information that shaped how the venue event manager will approach the concept of primary point-of-contact.
“Our clients told us they really value relationships and when they’re working with our venue on planning details, they want someone who is accountable to them from start to finish to help ensure success,” says Genaya Cameron, CMP, CMM, director of event operations at the Halifax Convention Centre.
Another key desire was that clients want a simpler process for working with a sales and event manager. With no sharp transition, the event manager is introduced early on. Beginning at the Request for Proposal or Site Visit phase, the sales manager will facilitate early introduction to the event manager, and they will work with the planner as a team, up until the venue contract is signed. That way, the event manager has all the information needed to support event planning ahead of time.
“We want to provide solutions for planners, simplify their process, understand what their goals are, anticipate needs and really be a partner to them,” adds Cameron. “That keeps us accountable for their success.”
Engaging early with operations staff, from food and beverage to maintenance, also helps a plan come to fruition and essentially be what clients expected when they signed the contract.
Another way this approach alleviates stress is during the pre-conference phase. The event manager will customize an event planning checklist in advance, using information gathered along the way. That way, both the planner and event manager are on the same page as it relates to realistic timelines. Once the conference opens, the event manager will continue to be the primary point-of-contact, available at all times and focused on important periods throughout the event.
When the new Halifax Convention Centre opens, it will offer 120,000 square feet of flexible event space in the heart of downtown, surrounded by local culture, music, art and outdoor coastal experiences. As features were built, like the ballroom overlooking the city, it was also an opportunity to design services that are said to be first-of-its-kind.
“From planners’ feedback, we learned that if we could streamline communication on the front end, make a seamless transition happen between sales and event management and really engage our operations team much earlier in the process, we would be giving them something no other venue in the country is giving them right now,” said Fougere. “For us, it’s a unique opportunity to design something nobody else is doing and create a truly memorable experience.”
To learn more about services at the brand new Halifax Convention Centre, please contact Dawn Baldwin, director of sales at [email protected] or 1-902-421-1302, extension 2144.