Happy 1/2 Birthday, Westgate Oxford

I wanted to start with ‘It has been 6 months since the Westgate opened their doors’, but with no doors to open, I thought a better and more accurate sentence would be needed.

Either way, it’s hard to believe, but it has been 6 months since the grand opening of the new modern shopping centre. A grand opening we were extremely happy to have been involved in, and since then we have also been fortunate enough to work a number of other occasions at the site – helping to promote the shopping centre and staffing other events they have organised.

According to figures released last week, the footfall to the shopping centre has been higher than they had forecasted – which is wonderful news. However, reading articles reporting this news has been interesting, and actually other news reporting on the Westgate – as it seems a lot of people have a lot of complaints about the shopping centre. With some reported issues with the centre being completely understood and grounded, like concerns about the death of independent chains in the city centre to issues with temperature and the nature of the open architecture.

But that does seem to point the finger at an easy target. The truth is, the shopping centre has brought a much-needed rejuvenation into the city, providing some high-quality brands that never existed in the city before, and just with the Westgate being a natural draw for people around the county, I’m sure it has positively affected footfall around the city centre as more visitors from further afield have journeyed into the city.

Yes, it’s not perfect. But really, what is.

What happens when you combine nets and work? Or when you combine car factories and light displays

We had a fantastic night at BMW last week, where we played hosts to our very own networking event – Who’s Who in Events Oxford.

We have been putting on networking events from our LinkedIn group for a couple of years now. We have always had rather modest attendances, however, this time around we we had a truly unexpected number of attendees.

The attendees arrived at the new BMW event space (found behind the BMW Mini Shop, at their Cowley Factory) to explore what had been hiding under our noses this whole time. Upon arrival, guests were welcomed with a glass of champagne (or a fizzy cocktail), served by Oxford Fine Dining from their incredible champagne bar – glasses being poured from cocktail draught pumps! Who knew such technology existed.

After initial talks by Linn Bargstedt from BMW, we were shown into the large space. Guests entered through GSMATT’s amazing tunnel, which exhibited curious and wonderful light displays (showcasing logos and other graphics, including a fully playable game). Here everyone marveled at the space available, with more than a few people noting they had no idea such a great space existed. After talks by Duncan Balloch from BMW and Orhan Ertughrul from GSMATT, we were truly spoiled by excellent canapés from Oxford Fine Dining.

It was a great night, and everyone from Boys and Girls Promotions would like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who was involved and an even larger thanks to everyone who attended.

Who’s Who in Events will return again in Spring. Keep your ears and eyes open for future updates on our next networking event.

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Are DIY weddings on the rise?

According to “the UK’s most popular wedding website” hitched.co.uk, back in 2012 the wedding industry in the UK alone was worth £10 billion. With the average wedding worth around £36,000.

More recently, confetti report that the average spend is around £10,000 to £15,000. With around half of people surveyed saying they made their own stationery and invitations (56%) and made their own decorations (49%).

Most interesting only 12% said they did no wedding DIY at all.

If these figures are to be believed (and there is a discussion to be had here, but let’s press on) than that is a large drop in 5 years, suggesting that DYI weddings are definitely on the rise. But what does this mean for people in the wedding industry?

Well certainly it shouldn’t be an issue – sure there is less money being spent – but there is no sudden drop off in demand. Simply put, people are still getting married, and this will undoubtedly continue for a long time. Perhaps it just shows that the wedding industry has become too bloated, or too pricey. So instead the wedding industry should look to innovating to reflect these changes in people’s wants, for example rolling back highly polished production value and creating more rustic and homemade style events. Or even get more creative with smaller budgets.

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Does Price=Value?

Does price equate to value? In other words, should we expect better from more expensive goods. Luxury goods – as described by economists – are products that are perceived as a luxury, and are priced thusly; cars, huge televisions or fancy coffee machines come to mind. Certainly with these products you expect quality – you don’t spend a huge figure on a new Jaguar, and expect to have to trade it in or fix it after just a few thousand miles.

We expect this from our luxury goods, should we not expect it for other elements in our life that we spend money on – namely events.

Understandably the factors that formulate a price for an event are mostly cost related. I get that. However with a price tag you immediately expect a certain quality. With my experiences lately, I’m not sure I’ve been getting that experience from events I’ve paid for.

From a personal anecdote, I had the luck to secure a ticket to Reading festival a number of years ago. The price was rather high, but for me it didn’t matter as I had the chance to see some incredible live music and spend it with great company. However comparing that experience with the times I’ve had at other festivals since, I can see that Reading really is not worth the price or the hassle.

I wonder if other larger events, such as conferences, are guilty of similar sins.

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Cooler Events

We’ve spoken in length about weather affecting events in the past – but almost all of those thoughts have been considering the impact of Britain’s most pesky mainstay; rain.

However after the frankly mad antics of Mother Nature recently, and having suffered it first hand, I think the time has come to discuss the opposite – how does heat affect events?

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to work Venturefest. We had a wonderful time, except for one rather large, sweaty elephant in the room – the heat. You see, like most buildings around Britain, our venue didn’t have air conditioning and were unable to cool the event – resulting in this picture I took at the event:

Unfortunately this created rather unpleasant conditions for some attendees. The organisers and venue did all they could to amend the problem. It’s just such a rare problem that many venues would have never considered investing in air conditioning. But according to this Guardian article, it’s a problem we should get used to.

Perhaps if this is a growing trend, we can begin to have more faith in outdoor events, and the industry will shift further in this direction. That would undoubtedly be wonderful for everyone, except perhaps hayfever sufferers.

Back to the future for your event

Will the future of event organisation also include producing an event app in combination with your event? More and more event organisers are looking at the possibility of providing apps for their delegates. It’s perfect as a tool to give delegates information before, during and after the event instead of having to rely on reading through a program on the day, or keeping up with fiddly hashtags.

Through the use of an app, organisers can feed any important information directly to delegates, instead of through conventional means like Twitter (which aren’t always picked up by delegates). Naturally, however, the delegates will need to have downloaded the app – which might be an issue in and of itself.

But do the apps actually streamline the event? All accounts suggest that it does, through improved downstream communication. Not only this, but it could reduce the environmental impact of your event (by getting rid of physical programs), and potentially even lower costs [in the long run] if you use the same app every year and just tweak and update it.

Before there any suggestions that an app will only needlessly complicate the process, I would counter that according to this article 85% of time people spend on smart phones are on apps, so there is already plenty of prior knowledge and experience here. The only factor to consider here is to design it intuitively for the user.

With more and more people getting attuned to their digital apps, and with more apps being used by people I think it will definitely be the future – if not the present!

I volunteer, I volunteer as tribute

Volunteers have and will always be an important cornerstone to the World. Take Florence Nightingale for example, certainly the most famous volunteer ever. Without the hard work of altruistic people like her, who are willing to give up their free time, many things just wouldn’t have or won’t get done. This is possibly even more prevalent in the events industry.

Volunteer Recognition Day was celebrated recently, and whilst it is a noble cause, it did get me thinking about the usage of volunteers at events. Now naturally you will question my impartiality, so I feel I should defend myself first by saing that I believe volunteers can be absolutely vital to certain events – and most definitely we wouldn’t have some fantastic events without the help of wonderful volunteers (Cowley Road Carnival and the Folk Festival Weekend come to mind). However there is a time and a place to use volunteers.

Not every role benefits from having an unpaid worker. Certain roles require skills that whilst you could find someone who may be able to do the task laid out to him/her, you are more likely to not. It is far easier to hire staff who will have that skillset and be sure the work will get done to the highest value. For example, dealing with VIPs requires a higher attention to detail from the worker(s), front of house staff need to be friendly and welcoming or if you want cocktails at your event, you will need a properly trained bartender.

We throw adages around all the time; but one that I find is almost always accurate “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”, comes to mind here.

Living Streamably

Live streaming has become a huge tool, placed into the hands of the everyday layman. Previously only large organizations had the power and equipment capable of streaming live broadcasts. Social media, the growing behemoth that consumes our data and time, and cheaper technology at our disposal have changed that – the barriers to entry for live-streaming have never been lower.

Whilst it’s all fun and games to live stream yourself and friends doing creative and imaginative things on Facebook, the real power – however (at least as far as I’m concerned) – has been the ability to live stream events.

Engagement is always the intangible everyone is reaching for, and live streaming has certainly shown it hugely benefit this. People who are unable to attend the event suddenly have the ability to watch – wherever the camera is pointed, usually at the stage for keynote talks – whilst the video link can be shared in the right circles reaching a wider audience. Equally the content can be saved, edited and posted later to further drive this engagement after the event.

It really is a powerful tool, that put in the right hands can get your event, and most importantly a message that is core to your event, out to more eyes and ears.

Living Wage

Last week was the Living Wage Week, a great week to raise awareness for something, as employees, we should all take note of – the necessity to pay workers a wage to cover growing living costs. This is a problem we’re more than familiar with in Oxford – a city that has recently topped the list as the least affordable city to live in the UK, along with one of the most expensive cities for students.

The disparity between the national minimum wage and the living wage has grown each year, shown in the chart below.

Source: http://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation

This shows that national minimum wage hasn’t grown fast enough to keep up with inflation. With living costs rising, those on low paid work (ie minimum paid work) have struggled. Whilst minimum rage has finally increased a substantial amount recently, and inflation has slowed over recent years, the real rate is still well below where it should actually be. A study conducted in the United States back in 2012 claimed that their minimum wage should have reached over $20 – if that’s the case in the US, then I can’t imagine it being that different on this side of the pond.

The Living Wage is currently voluntary, so it comes down to the responsibility of employers to pay it. It’s understandable if certain firms aren’t able to shoulder the extra costs – but I reckon more firms can certainly do better.

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Summer Giveth, Summer Taketh

Summer has finally petered out, with great sadness we must accept our fates. Hot days are becoming rarer, as colds become more prevalent (although perhaps that could be coupled with the mass influx of students bringing, and happily sharing, their new and exotic germs) and we put away our summer clothes for another year.

Whilst we say goodbye to our shorts and dresses, we must also say a few more goodbyes; so long sunshine – you are always a great companion during these past few months, goodbye tanned skin – you are always a welcome addition to me, but more importantly for us, goodbye event season.

As the events begin to become fewer and farther between we turn our attentions to planning and organising for next year. What a great year it is going to be. We started this year outlining targets that we wanted to achieve – we absolutely smashed those targets and then some.

Thoughts for next year? I think we should leave it in the hands of Delboy.

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