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Smiths News reveal 5 key benefits of returning to external venues

Meeting space

In September 2021, Smiths News, the UK’s largest wholesaler of newspapers and magazines returned to a face-to-face setting to host its Leadership Conference. With the aim to bring together over 50 members of the business to discuss and align priorities ahead of 2022, the company worked with Warwick Conferences to host a two-day event which would bring members together for the first time in almost two years. Here, Andrea James, Head of Talent and Communication at Smiths News, explains the benefits of returning to external venues.

  1. Insightful Planning

Returning to face-to-face events after such a long time carrying these out virtually can feel strange so we were grateful for the Warwick Conferences team’s consultation in the planning process. They took the time to discuss our objectives and get to know our ambitions for the conference, producing a range of innovative ideas to maximise engagement. These suggestions included organising a guest speaker suitable for our sustainability theme, workshop ideas with a twist and tapping into local suppliers.

From intriguing spokespeople from the university to generating energy while cycling, each idea suggested was tailored to the theme of our conference. In the end, we worked with a local supplier, Purity, a sustainable beer business who attended and discussed their sustainability initiatives. The group also brought in beer to be paired with different courses at dinner which was brilliant as it got everyone involved and engaged.

  1. Promoting togetherness

Being back in one place together allowed us to reconnect and appreciate how these moments help to shape a more creative and engaging business culture. Hosting this event at Radcliffe, where the bar and lounge area provided delegates with a chance to refuel and refresh, prompted conversations within this social space.

The meeting spaces we booked also allowed us to network in groups and share new ideas face-to-face. These separate areas provided the ideal set-up for smaller team meetings where different sections of the business could discuss relevant topics without voices being drowned out by background noise. The creative décor in the venue also inspired collaborative working, from the bold colour schemes used to the inspirational quotes on the wall.

While space to talk is key, the surroundings play just as vital a role. The hot beverages and snacks laid out paired with the comfortable seating and relaxed atmosphere encouraged attendees to take the time to build those all-important connections. This open space allowed everyone to mix freely and interact in a more personal setting, something that cannot be replicated virtually.

  1. Aligned Values

As with the majority of businesses, sustainability is a real focus for us, so selecting a venue that would align with these values was important. Warwick Conferences was the perfect fit, as they run a number of sustainability initiatives and hold multiple awards and accreditations for operating in a more environmentally way. These include the Green Tourism, IACC Green Star and Ecosmart Gold Venue Award.

We were particularly impressed by the venue’s commitment to reducing the need for heating and artificial lighting through the use of energy efficient windows and district heating system. The food was also locally sourced, which further demonstrated the venue’s dedication to our needs as a business.

  1. Improved Focus

Stepping in right from the word go, Warwick Conferences helped us to design a fully immersive day and book the right combination of spaces. Tailoring the event to our individual needs ensured that we were taking advantage of different elements which would allow delegates to gain the most out of the event.

This combination of spaces, which were grouped together for interactivity but within separate rooms to provide multiple areas colleagues could congregate and network in, removed distractions. Eliminating background noise supported creative and focused thinking, ensuring members were able to concentrate throughout the two-day conference. This was further accommodated for with the introduction of multiple breaks, planned in with the help of the Warwick Conferences team.

The evening entertainment provided by Purity was also very important to ensure the team could switch off after the first day. All attendees enjoyed this discussion and trying the beers which had been specially chosen to pair with the evening meal. The addition of the venue’s overnight accommodation also helped ensure attendees were able to enjoy this experience and were well-rested ahead of the second day.

  1. Flexible Catering

Of course, one thing I think everyone will agree they missed when we went virtual is the catering at external events. It’s a core feature for many and often sticks in people’s minds, not only does the food provided at events energise attendees, it also boosts morale.

Warwick Conferences understood this and played a key role in ensuring the food offering matched the needs of our event and delegates. A variety of options were provided that offered delegates meals that were both delicious and nutritious. We also appreciated the flexibility of the catering packages which included the ability to either enjoy a meal at the Courtyard in Scarman or take it away to beat the traffic on day two, fitting in with our schedule seamlessly.

Final Thoughts

While online events and meetings have their place, nothing will beat the personal touch of face-to-face to reconnect colleagues and align values. Over these two days we were able to collaborate and bounce ideas off one another in the creative, relaxed spaces offered by Warwick Conferences. The expertise of the Warwick Conferences team was invaluable in ensuring we achieved a strong ROI, exceeding expectations and delivering a stimulating conference, from motivational breakout rooms to intriguing partnerships.

The team at Warwick Conferences also ensured all safety precautions were in place, with sanitising stations and clear signage in place throughout to ease any nervousness from delegates. Ultimately, the conference allowed the business to plan for the year ahead, putting in place key actions to drive sustainability, while simultaneously providing a platform to bring the team together under one roof once more.