Lane End Conference Centre celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, long enough to have witnessed some significant changes in how the industry operates.
Site Director, and now European board member of the International Association of Conference Centres, Heni Fourie has been overseeing Lane End for over a decade.
He knows just how much the business has changed through the decades, and recognises the need to evolve. He shares some of his knowledge of Lane End, and offers up some insights on the fast-paced nature of the industry.
A BETTER SPACE
Having started off as the ‘High Wycombe School for Management Studies’, the site soon evolved into the UK’s first purpose-built conference venue - offering businesses space to host their company events.
By increasing the number of buildings available over the years, the site now boasts five self-contained complexes. These are supported with on-site catering and accommodation, and have access to supplementary services such as team building exercises.
Providing a comprehensive offering has made Lane End one of the best conferencing venues in the country.
This continued evolution is nowhere more evident than in technology.
50 years ago it was still pen and paper, diaries, ledgers and posted letters. Telephone conversations were still just as important as they are today - the only difference being the phones were larger and less mobile.
It took until the 80s for the fax machine to arrive and speed up the process of sending documents back and forth, hopefully signed and face up.
The 90s brought the overhead projector, and writing in marker pens on clear cellulose sheets. Lane End was even the first UK venue to have large scale data projectors in its training rooms.
Then the internet changed everything. Suddenly the world had instant communication via email, the ability to transfer documents, shiny websites showing off venues without ever having to visit them first, and then the power of social media. Change doesn’t come much bigger.
Access to the world wide web is now a critical component of just about any business event. Employees may be video calling in from anywhere in the world, and so too will clients - venues had to adapt quickly to provide the means.
HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Despite the increases in productivity technology has provided us, people now have less time than ever. Providing them with some way of looking after their health and wellbeing can make the world of difference.
Whether that be by providing healthier food; encouraging attendees to take time out form their events to relax and recharge; or simply by offering a venue surrounded by spectacular views of peaceful and relaxing countryside. Lane End has done what it can to help those who visit feel better.
It’s a needed advantage Lane End offered so much to its clients, as competition steadily increased. Having had little to rival it during the early years, times have certainly brought that to an end.
Gone are the days when you could rent out space for a minimum of Monday to Friday. There are now many more conferencing centres competing for the same business, as well as other venues such as hotels offering space for hire.
To stay ahead you must keep pace with new trends, and learn to gauge what your clients want.
It can be tempting to dismiss new gadgets and technologies as fads, or the exact opposite, buy into every new development only to see them fail to take off.
This extends to every area of the business, from the menu choices to large investments in facilities.
Keeping everything you do customer focused should ensure you’re providing what they’re demanding, making the investment worth it.
The next 50 years promise to bring ever greater levels of change, and we’re only now just grasping what these could look like. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence could completely transform how company conferences are experienced.
Balancing these changes with your customer needs should keep you ahead of the game.