In my role at ExCeL, growth is ultimately what I’m here to do. When I first joined, the business had seen huge success in attracting large scale medical congresses to London for the first time, successfully competing against other European destinations, and one of the remits of my role was to replicate the success of that from a corporate blue-chip event point of view. So attracting world-class corporate conventions to come to London, mostly for the first time, and most didn’t even realise ExCeL had a convention centre that could accommodate an event like theirs.
One of the first things I set about to do was to determine a strategy for growth. I did an initial audit of the business to see where we were currently strong, which sectors were performing well for us, and to look for any key trends that came out of that. The next stage of the process was to understand that as a wider piece across London as a city and the UK, linking to government and the business tourism strategy for London, to try and see where we could join the dots. That way when we were talking to prospective clients, we could align a real business requirement for them to come to London specifically, rather than just coming here for the red buses and event facilities.
So in reviewing growth in key industries and sectors and then looking at our strengths and the kind of events that we could facilitate, we ended up producing a list of key sectors that had complete synergy across ExCeL, across London, and across government both international and local. An example of a sector we’ve seen a huge amount of growth from is the technology sector. So we focused on the technology sector and defined which events were going to change the landscape for London’s business tourism scene, what will make a big impact on the destination, and bring about not just a great opportunity for people to meet and network, but also the potential for inward investment and a greater network of that industry in our city. We narrowed it down to the top 10 events that we believed would deliver that, and then for me I had a very clear strategy in that I was going to visit these top 10 events and then speak to these brands, but not just through the voice of ExCeL in square meters etc…I’m actually giving them very key business rationale and business messaging around why they should be in London. So it was about understanding their objectives, what London could deliver, and what we could to do help ensure a highly successful outcome for all parties concerned. From there in the last few years we’ve seen huge amount of growth from tech companies bringing their events to London, and are returning year after year, whereas previously the would have held their events in the usual suspect convention destinations. .
An absolutely brilliant example of this was with Hewlett Packard Enterprise whose major flagship event HPE Discover, held both in the US and Europe, had never been to London. We fought hard to attract them to our destination in 2015 and the success of the event was testimony to London’s ability to deliver on audience figures and in particular seniority. The event saw 2,500 more delegates in London compared to the previous event and they had a double digit growth in Vice President and Senior Director level attendees. Their share price increased overnight by 6% during the event and London enabled them to attract new markets such as Asia-Pacific and the UK’s strong Public Sector demographic. This was down to London’s attractiveness as a business destination but also accessibility from anywhere around the world. They are now committed to running their event with us in December 2016. And that’s just a great example of the strategy aligning and coming together from the city to the venue to the hotels and industry, all working together to achieve great event outcomes and creating a legacy of investment, business networking and confidence in London and ExCeL’s reputation as the home of world leading events.
A phrase we hear a lot now is ‘it’s not about a transactional relationship anymore’ and it’s true – it’s no longer, ‘here’s my rates, here’s my space, how much do you want?’ That’s not how growth works anymore. It’s all about collaboration, a clear strategy and stakeholder engagement to ensure the delivery of all of a client’s objectives, not just leasing them a convention space for a few days.