Chris Peacock created Conference Care over twenty-six years ago and today the large and knowledgable team work from four office locations, venue finding for more than 5,000 events and supporting on average 80 live event projects in a year.
In one form or another, Chris has always worked in hospitality and events, since his first experience, aged 14, pot-washing at a local Italian Restaurant, to being his own boss – a move he made in 1995 after working in hotels for ten years. His aim, he tells Melissa Paulden, was to be his own boss and to try and achieve a better work / life balance. Here he talks about career highlights and how Conference Care rose to the challenges brought on by the global pandemic.
It’s true to say that like many agencies, our experience of digital and virtual events before this year was quite limited. But right at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020 we immediately refocused on digital, which has given us a significant head start.
This has put us in a good position to stay relevant to our customers, and opened the door to many new clients.
Delivering events digitally have absolutely become our main focus, until live events return. Specialising in virtual has allowed us to retrain many of our team, bring the expertise in-house and given them new skills as well.
Aside from the move to virtual events, a big learning curve of late has probably been the transition to working from home. Whilst we’ve had offices in the Midlands, Scotland and London for a long time, we’re a very close-knit team who are used to getting together regularly.
With virtual events there are pretty much no limitations on what you can achieve – there are less constraints than you’d have with a physical event. Also, can significantly increase your potential audience – provided you have the right content and format.
In terms of sustainability, they’re also much kinder to the planet particularly when you factor in travel.
With virtual events there can be a lot of potential pitfalls, any of which can impact the overall success. Onboarding for a virtual event is hugely detailed, which some event planners aren’t prepared for. As an event host or a speaker, the technical aspects can be daunting, which is where our project management expertise really shows its value. Feedback from clients has been overwhelmingly supportive – even though there have been some hurdles to jump on the way.
The industry has changed so much in the 25 years since our early days, but I love the unpredictable nature of events - you never know what’s coming next.
I also enjoy that with some good ideas and a great team around you, you can really innovate and make a difference to the industry.
I think that in our business, it takes a really unusual mix of skills to get it right. Our team have the full range of strategic, creative, logistic, communication and problem solving skills, all blended with enthusiasm and arguably the most important asset (if this is actually a word!) – unflappability !
Before Covid-19, our defining moment would have to be PCF9 - the ninth Pan Commonwealth Forum 2019, one of the most prestigious and complex events we’ve delivered. It was led by the Commonwealth of Learning in partnership with The Open University, who brought the event to the UK, Edinburgh, for the first time. The forum brought together 541 policy makers, practitioners and thought leaders from 61 countries with keynote speakers including Lord Puttnam and the President of the Republic of Seychelles.
Our team loved the event because it was so unique; we had the catering team deliver never-been-seen menus inspired by the pop stalls in Covent Garden and accommodating tastes from around the world.
Sustainability was top of the agenda, and many of the delegates had never visited the UK before - so we designed an App to help them navigate the conference and Edinburgh. Finally, we had all of the delegates dancing to the bagpipes pitch-side at Murrayfield on the last day!
Feedback from the event was amazing, but what made this event truly special was the genuine hospitality and kindness of everyone from all over the globe through the whole event.
In business terms, we’re well positioned for a return to relative normality and live events – giving our clients the great service that we’re known for. I believe virtual and hybrid will still feature as a key part of many events.
On a personal level – like most of us – I want a holiday!
I’m always looking for the next challenge and “what’s next?” But I’m very proud of everyone in the Conference Care team and how we’ve overcome the incredible challenges of 2020.