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March 24, 2009

René Dee:David & Goliath – The Stuff of Legends

The chief executive of the Westminster Collection believes that small is most definitely beautiful when it comes to events.

We know the story and we’ve been brought up to respect the message behind it, but have we experienced the event? For me the event can be retold in the context of what The Westminster Collection has just achieved with its 5th annual showcase that took place at Central Hall Westminster in February this year, and was emphatically declared a great success by exhibitors and visitors alike. Why and who are we comparing ourselves with?

As the David in this story, a resource-poor and still relatively small marketing collective of premier venues and business tourism facilities in Westminster, we have to face up to the fact that we are competing with Goliaths in the exhibition and event industry, such as CONFEX.

But often, when people and organisations are faced with challenging situations, they rise to those challenges with great ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity to produce innovative, focused and well managed events that can hit the nail on the head and do what they say on the tin in ways that large cumbersome and catch-all events cannot always do.

A clear message
Perhaps also, today more than ever, events and exhibitions have to have a clear message that is conveyed to a very specific audience receptive to it.  The less focused an event is, the more confused and mixed the message is, therefore it has less chance of reaching the right people or matching them expertly with a wide-ranging collection of exhibitors that don’t always fit comfortably within the whole.

The Westminster Collection Showcase is, and always has been, an event that is focused solely on offering event planners, meeting organisers and buyers looking for business tourism facilities in Westminster, the very best selection it can from its own members.  To begin with, five years ago, this was just a handful, but this year we were able to present 23 premier properties and facilities together with five of our Associate Members.  Our vision is ‘to become recognised as the leading business tourism marketing collective for venues and events in Westminster’.

Westminster is, without question, an excellent location to do business in.  My view has always been that Westminster itself is equally important as an internationally recognised brand and destination, as our individual members.  Together they portray very strong messages of credibility, quality and professionalism.  So this was our starting point, underpinning everything else we have done and continue to do.  We have not been detracted by it but, rather encouraged by the response we have had to it and continue adding premier venues and facilities to our portfolio that adheres to our principals and criteria to grow in strength, but certainly not simply for growth’s sake.

Capture the imagination
Getting back to the David and Goliath analogy, in my view, is also that it is always far better to capture 450 people, as we did, who have understood what you are asking them to buy into and are prepared to commit their time and effort to attending, with the proportionately higher chance of them finding what they want and being thoroughly satisfied, than to reach 15,000 people who are hoping to find what they want among disparate groups of exhibitors that are not always that representative and are, consequently, not always satisfied. 

Being small also allows you to be more personal in your approach and our ‘Invitation to join us for Afternoon Tea’ hotly followed up by our invitation to enter our Wild Goose Treasure Hunt to win a fabulous array of great prizes donated by our members, captured people’s imagination.

The result was a wonderful atmosphere, a sense of belonging and common purpose and, dare I say it, family.  We live in a cold hard world, therefore, feeling as though you belong, are in the right place sharing a common belief of why you are there, meeting people who know why you have come and who greet you with the same equitable view, has to be the final sling shot that fells Goliath quite easily.

René Dee is CEO The Westminster Collection.

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