In July 2011, the University hosted the 2011 TUCO (The University Caterers Organisation) annual conference. Hosting an event for your peer group is always a daunting proposition but we were proud to put our facilities and services on the line and deliver an exceptional event for our University colleagues. Over 270 delegates and exhibitors attended the 3 day conference in what turned out to be a very hot and sunny Canterbury
The University handled the delegate registration using KX registration software and delegates registered for the conference online and payment was made via credit/debit cards on the website. Delegates also had the option of their institution being invoiced. There were 2 packages on offer – the Full Package and a One Day Pass for the Wednesday (including the AGM and the Gala Dinner.)
There were a few planned early arrivals on the Sunday so provisions for these delegates were in place for them. Registration on the arrival day was open until 10pm which worked well as there were a few late arrivals. IT services on hand at registration to help with setting internet connection up on laptops and phones etc. is essential and this provision was appreciated by the attendees.
Prior to the conference the exhibitors were required to complete a form detailing (amongst other things) the names of those attending, the type of vehicle they would be bringing to the exhibition, the exhibition equipment they would have on their stand, electrical requirements and equipment requirements.
A traffic management plan was drawn up detailing exactly what would happen on the day of arrival and the processes that would be executed and by whom. From the information gleaned from the forms, the number of cars, vans and Lorries, could be estimated and planned for accordingly. At all points the exhibitors/couriers knew exactly what was going on, where they were in the unloading process and what was happening next. Permits were issued to delegates and exhibitors allowing them to park in any University car park free of charge.
Exhibitors were informed of their stand number in advance but did not see a plan beforehand, so as to avoid any (inevitable) quibbles about their stand location (some positions are deemed better or worse than others.) However, this meant that on the day expo co-ordinators needed to be posted on the entrance to the exhibition at all times informing exhibitors as they arrive where their stand is located. In addition a team consisting of exhibition organisers and porters / electricians / handymen were stationed in the exhibition area during this time to assist with set-up. We also found it very beneficial to have equipment such as trolleys to assist with moving of exhibition materials – this equipment was highly utilised. Having the same team on hand for set-up and break-down worked well as relationships had formed and the feedback from exhibitors is that it was nice to see the same faces.
Delegates and exhibitors stayed on campus, together in the same location. The feedback was that this worked particularly well as all attendees enjoyed this shared experience, whilst the central location being amongst all aspects of the conference was advantageous.
There was a team of staff present at all times during the conference, both on campus and off campus, to act as guides and general helpers. With branded TUCO shirts as uniform, these members of the team were consistent throughout and were with the delegation from first thing in the morning showing them to breakfast, to last thing at night serving in the TUCO bar. Having the same people every day worked very well as faces became recognisable and relationships were formed, and the feedback from this was very positive indeed.
The conference and social programme included: -
Delegates seemed to love the event – Here are just some of their comments: -
“I just wanted to put pen to paper to say a big thank you to you and your teams at Kent for a fantastic event. Both the service and food were impeccable, especially the Gala dinner on Wednesday night, a credit to you all”.
“I genuinely had such a wonderful time and really didn’t want to come home! It was a truly unforgettable event and you and your team did a fantastic job!”
“The Kent team pulled it off in style. I believe that you have set a new benchmark for others to aspire to”.
“We have just got home and just wanted to send you a quick line to say a huge thank you for all your help and hospitality at the Conference. You offered us the most marvellous hospitality and we thoroughly enjoyed the event and our time with you. I know and understand only too well the huge amount of work, stress and effort that goes into organising an event, let alone one the size of the TUCO extravaganza, and you did a brilliant job for all of us, thank you.”
“I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you so very much for the wonderful TUCO 2011 conference. Your team were so friendly, helpful and welcoming. The food, facilities and entertainments were all absolutely wonderful! You should be extremely proud of your achievements and of the wonderful people that make up Kent Hospitality”