Q&A with Sandra Wilson - Conference Centre Manager at 99 City Road
Q&A with Sandra Wilson - Conference Centre Manager at 99 City Roadin Shoreditch.
What’s the best thing about working at your venue?
I really like the variety of events we hold and the fact that no two days are the same. We’re lucky enough to have worked with some clients for several years and have seen their events change and evolve. We also love working with new clients to see their events come to life. 99 City Road Conference Centre is based in the headquarters of global satellite communication company, Inmarsat, so there are always exciting internal events happening, including a visit from British astronaut Tim Peake last year!
How did you get into the industry?
I started my career here at 99 City Road as an event coordinator and I’ve worked my up to be conference centre manager. I have developed a really good understanding of the business as a whole by rising through the ranks here.
What’s the history of the venue?
Originally designed as an in-house event space for Inmarsat, 99 City Road opened to the public in 2001. Since then it has re-branded, gone through extensive refurbishments and has become a key player in the London conference scene. It has 14 flexible event spaces and can cater for 20-300 delegates.
Tell us something we wouldn’t know about 99 City Road?
We’re really well placed to deal with international conferences as we have an interpreter’s booth that can simultaneously translate conference speeches to give all delegates the same experience. Our talented team of event professionals speak a number of languages between them including Greek, Polish, Serbian, Portuguese and English.
What’s the most interesting event you’ve worked on, and how did the venue cope with it?
We’ve worked with rail innovation company, Hack Train for a number of years on a range of conferences and events. One of the most interesting events they’ve held with us was a 24 hour ‘Hackathon’ in which software programmers, developers, designers and academics gather to create a new piece of software to address a particular issue. The concentrated time period of the event is intended to focus their minds and produce something truly creative.
As a venue, hackathons are totally different from a normal conference. There’s more interaction between delegates and there aren’t set breaks throughout the day so delegates tend to re-fuel as and when they need. Although the event was a challenge for us, it created a great energy and buzz in the conference centre which built as each team made a breakthrough in their project.
What events work best at the 99 City Road?
We’re an ideal venue for larger scale conferences that require breakout rooms and exhibition space. Our extendable lounge area can accommodate up to 20 exhibition stands and we have breakout areas and meeting rooms for both large and small gatherings. Being situated in the heart of Tech City we’re a popular venue for technology and innovation events. We’re also favoured by trade bodies and charities for their annual conferences and events.
Why do clients choose to host events at your venue?
We’re often praised by clients for our customer service approach and our ability to deal with unusual and last-minute requests. We love helping our clients make their vision a reality and so we consistently go the extra mile to make sure this happens. Whether that involves changes to presentations and speaker schedules, dietary requirements or room set ups, we react quickly and always get the job done.
What are your venue’s top 3 USPs that separate you from other venues?
Our top USP is our enviable location, right in the heart of Tech City, on Silicon Roundabout and directly outside Old Street tube station. We’re easy to find and located within a building that benefits from robust security.
Another factor that sets us apart from other venues is our inclusive DDR. Unlike other venues, AV and the hands-on support of an AV technician is included within the DDR. Our highly competitive DDR offers transparent pricing options and there are no hidden charges.
Our high-quality offering also separates us from our competitors. In the last five years we’ve invested more than £400k in new furnishings, decoration, AV equipment and most recently a lighting overhaul in the Constellation Suite. Our experienced team offer the best standards of customer service. From the moment a client contacts 99 City Road the team strives to offer exemplary customer service, through the booking process, the planning of the event and in servicing the event on the day. In addition to creating an operations schedule which outlines every small detail of the event day, the team have also produced a downloadable Organisers Manual which serves as a compact guide to everything from room dimensions, security procedures and branding options.
Our food offering is also of exceptional quality and is provided by award-winning caterers, Elior UK. Head chef, Adam Davenport, listens to the needs and requirements of conference organisers and has developed menus that allow for maximum networking opportunities and less queueing at food stations. Menu tastings are offered for event bookings of more than 100 delegates and site visits are encouraged.
What changes or exciting plans are coming up in 2019 for 99 City Road?
We’re on track for a busy and exciting year at 99 City Road which has already started with our busiest March on record.
We are focussing on our sustainability and reducing our food waste which is why we’ve partnered with Olio, an online platform that allows us to share our surplus food with neighbours who need it.
We will be marketing the venue at Venues and Events Live in September and hope to meet with lots of event professionals to showcase our venue while we’re there.
Our assistant manager, Charlotte Kain, has been recognised as a winner in The Meetings Show Tomorrow’s Talent awards as one of the leading lights in the event industry under the age of 30.