Despite Covid-19 closing-down the majority of the events industry overnight last March, work behind the scenes has continued for the venue’s Head of Sales, Jenni Ford.
Nearly a year on from when the pandemic first impacted the UK, the experienced event sales professional reveals how her approach with event organisers has evolved over the past twelve months, and moving forward, considers the long-term impact that the pandemic will have on venues’ sales strategies.
As a sales team, we are responsible for attracting the 1,500-plus conferences and exhibitions that Ricoh Arena hosts every year, so to suddenly have to close the doors with no obvious end in sight was initially devastating for both ourselves and clients alike; as well as for the wider events industry.
Typically, we would be on the road or at the venue hosting current and prospective clients in a bid to retain and grow our customer base - although this working culture came to a prompt end, we have risen to the challenge of adapting.
First and foremost, a core part of our work has been to reassure event organisers, who for large parts of the pandemic have been staring into the unknown until news of a credible vaccine emerged in the final quarter of last year.
This has involved helping existing organisers to move the date of their shows to the following year while we wait to see what unfolds, as well as keeping them updated on the latest Covid rules, and what measures they are likely going to have to put in place ready for when events are allowed to take place once again.
We pride ourselves as a venue on being able to host multiple events simultaneously. This unique selling point has allowed us to adapt, accommodate and retain our loyal customer base, as well as being able to welcome new events and clients to the venue, whilst still adhering to social-distanced guidelines.
It is even more integral today that we offer and promote our existing 30,000 square metres of outdoor space, along with our 10,000 square metres of indoor space.
We have had to review our business strategy overnight. For example, we have adapted our car park spaces over the festive period to successfully host drive-in shows. This is the first time we have hosted events of this nature and hopefully it will not be the last. We have also utilised areas of the site to assist NHS England by using our outdoor space as a drive-in Covid testing centre, as well as providing storage for external logistics companies.
We have launched a new campaign known as the “Ricoh Bubble” which offers an essential service that any visitor would require while in a Covid-safe environment and venue. This serves to highlight the venue’s ability to cater for all of the essentials that a visitor would need without having to go off-site - this includes a hotel, restaurant, and private working spaces with high-speed wi-fi.
This has resulted in us being awarded a number of elite sporting events during the pandemic that have taken place behind closed doors - including the BoyleSports World Grand Prix, the 2020 Unibet Premier League Play-Offs, BetVictor Weber Cup, BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts and the party poker Mosconi Cup.
One of our key attributes is our flexible approach to both customers, visitors and events, which has established us as one of the most sought-after venues and destinations in the UK. My sales team and I are pioneers in the field of short lead booking, as we were the first venue to dedicate a member of staff to this service.
In these unprecedented times my role has broadened significantly. I am now working more remotely, but as always, my main priority is to stay in constant contact with our clients; this has been invaluable as we guide them through Covid compliance now and for the future.
We work in an environment where we are communicating with people every hour of the day. To have face-to-face interaction taken from us over night has been challenging both personally and professionally, like in so many other ways at the venue, we are learning to adapt to a new way of working until normality can resume. If you would like to contact Jenni, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or make an enquiry at https://www.ricoharena.com/contact-us/.