Conservative Party Conference – Event Management PerspectiveBlogs | 04 Oct 2018
The ICC has just hosted the Conservative Party Conference for the sixth time. It’s the biggest event on the venues calendar with over 10,000 delegates descending on Birmingham for the four-day conference. Senior Event Manager for the ICC, Ian Hateley, talks us through the planning operation behind the scenes.
What’s your role for the Conservative Party Conference (CPC)?
I take on more of a Project Manager role. We host many meetings with external and internal event teams including the Head of Conferences, CPC Event Production, Media, West Midlands Police, The Hyatt, Symphony Hall and the ICC events team over a 12-month planning process. It’s my job to bring everyone together to make sure the relevant information is fed through to each team.
What has been your biggest challenge in organising the conference?
It’s probably co-ordinating all the different elements. The whole project as a jigsaw puzzle as every minute detail is planned to ensure it all works together and each piece fits together in the right place at the right time as otherwise the whole project is delayed. I manage this by building good relationships with everyone and meeting each team regularly for updates. You have to have eyes everywhere and be the person in the know!
What has been the most exciting part of working on an event of this scale?
Seeing it all come to life. Planning for an event of this scale takes over 12 months and during this time everything is on paper and theoretical. When it goes into build and it physically starts take shape you get a nice sense of accomplishment. I also really enjoy the atmosphere, there’s a real buzz on site and everyone is so positive and upbeat. Everyone involved is working towards the same goal – to make the event the best it can be which really makes me proud of our team.
How do you even go about planning an event like this?
For this conference we started the planning meetings in September 2017 and then meet every three months until July. We then meet monthly until September, then weekly and then daily during the event. The key to making the planning successful is regular good clear communication and organisation.
Can you talk me through how your days have been?
There are three sections to an event – the build, the open and the breakdown. During the build it’s getting in early every day to meet with the contractors, looking at what is being built when and where, such as exhibitions stands, perimeter fencing and marquees, co-ordinating timings and making sure everyone is working together. We plan it by looking at when the event opens then working backwards to see what needs to be done. If something happens off schedule it can delay us and we have such tight timescales we can’t afford for that to happen.
When the event is open more of a reactive role. I’m in early to check nothing has happened from the night before that can have an effect on the day.
I walk the venue and make sure everything is ready to open so the client is walking into a fresh building every day. We then meet with the client to discuss if there is any area of the event that requires extra attention that day.
There is a security meeting each day that’s fed back to me so I can react accordingly and communicate necessary information to the relevant teams. We want to make this a huge success for the client and we become part of their team when they are on site. We are always here and always contactable.
How do you balance the turnover from moving from an event of this scale to the next set of events?
We start having the breakdown meeting for CPC on the Tuesday as the event finishes on the Wednesday and we reverse the build programme. We have other events coming in on the Thursday after so the venue has to be back to normal. It’s about communication and being one step ahead. You always have an eye on the current event but you need to start getting everything in place for what is happening after.
What do you most love about your job?
The team spirit. Without the commitment, dedication and willingness to help each other out on site we simply would not be able to deliver this event. I feel truly proud to work for the NEC Group and at The ICC and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of delivering a successful event is a very special one.