Phil Roberts, regional director for Cheltenham Racecourse and the South West for Jockey Club Catering, says the most important element of planning any major event is listening.
Cheltenham Racecourse and The Jockey Club are no strangers to hosting sporting and conferencing events of varying degrees in size.
But whether they are a meeting for just two people or a concert for 3,000 people, there is one key component for all involved – listening!
I know that many businesses would say communication as a whole, but we as a venue have to listen to a client and each other to meet and exceed client expectations.
Last year alone, Cheltenham Racecourse hosted 242 non-race day events and together, they attracted nearly 90,000 visitors, so the operations and catering teams at the venue need to ensure that they really focus on what the client wants and needs.
That is a critical element for the planning and staging of any event and should be the mantra for all major venues to produce a seamless function that fulfils all the expectations of the clients and makes it everything they have envisioned and wanted.
The process starts with the sales team securing the booking, then the event is handed over to the ops and catering teams, who work hand-in-hand gathering all of the information required.
But, it isn’t just a one time conversation, as many venues will know you have to have an open dialogue throughout the whole process.
That way you can facilitate a bespoke event – something that Cheltenham is well-known for. But that dialogue is not just with the client, it needs to be kept flowing with everyone within the organisation.
Keeping the channels of communication open means that everyone can do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
Cheltenham Racecourse is a hugely unique and versatile venue, boasting 12 function rooms including the magnificent Panoramic Restaurant and 60 syndicate rooms.
Not only that, there is also The Centaur, the racecourse’s auditorium that has nearly 2,600sqm of flexible space – making it the largest venue of its kind between Birmingham and Bournemouth.
It is a vast area, but one that can be used for everything from formal dinner to concerts and it is extremely adaptable, meaning we can make it feel small and intimate or as spacious as it needs to be.
Over the years we have had everything from fire pits in the Hall of Fame, to hundreds of dogs and owners visiting, fashion events to sit down conferences.
Pretty much anything is possible, but it all comes down to one thing – making sure that everyone is listening to each other!
With a fully flexible venue such as Cheltenham Racecourse, we as a catering team, as well as others are on hand 24/7.
This is vital as we can be transitioning from a race day event to a conferencing event within a matter of hours.
We’re entering our new jump season, and this will mean we need to seamlessly go from one event to another.
We host conventions, art exhibitions, food events, wedding fairs, clothing sales, live events and full-on corporate conferences, alongside race day events taking place at the same time.
A good example of this is the fact that we will be running our Great Gatsby Christmas Party for two days in December, but at the exact same time we will have The International race meeting taking place as well.
This means we have to cater for an estimated 28,000 people during the race day, as well as preparing for the Christmas party and making sure that everything runs smoothly for that.
It is something that the team at Cheltenham is extremely skilled at doing and yes, we make sure that we all listen to each other.
Listening to each other has also made us a well organised team and we have perfected moving from one event to another and made sure that we are continually adaptable.
That is the nature of working within the conferencing and events industry; you have to be able to adapt. But having a plan, communicating with all stakeholders and listening to what they want and need and then making it happen is the way to make any event a success.