MICE planning – what PAs in Scotland really want from events companies

Fife-based Conference Care catches up with VisitScotland’s Fiona Macpherson to find out how events management companies and venue finders can help PAs and meetings bookers just like her 

As a venue finding service, the staff at Conference Care regularly find themselves helping PAs, who have often been tasked with booking a venue at short notice. This is either because something has arisen within their business and a conference or event is needed to facilitate this, or simply because their original venue has fallen through.
In order to improve the service which they provide to PAs, Conference Care recently sat down with Fiona Macpherson, PA to Marketing & Digital Director at VisitScotland, to find out more about the types of meetings and events she is involved in, the things she finds most important, the challenges she faces and the benefits of working with a venue finding agency.

An interview with Fiona Macpherson, PA to the Marketing & Digital Director at VisitScotland

Q: What type of meetings or events do you get involved with?
Working within the Marketing and Digital Directorate at VisitScotland, which comprises around 130 people, I am regularly tasked with organising a number of different events. These include regular “away days”, which are designed to aid cross-collaboration on projects and help us to refocus on priorities and reconnect with one another.
Fiona Macpherson, VisitScotland
As part of my role, I am also responsible for arranging ad-hoc meetings and private dinners. In addition to this, I provide assistance with events for our Marketing Academy, which involves sourcing venues, and organising speakers, catering and transportation.
Q: What top 3 things are most important to you and VisitScotland when arranging a meeting or event and why?
When it comes to choosing a venue, it has to be of the right calibre. However as we are in the public sector, we have to be smart with our budget without compromising on quality or overlooking health and safety.
Easy access by public transport, plenty of car parking and a good in-house support team at the venue is essential for any event. Good quality catering is also hugely important – it always seems to be the one thing everyone remembers!
Q: What do you look for in a venue, do you have any particular favourites?
We always look to choose venues which are matched to the event’s purpose. Being in the marketing department, we are always open to trying something different in order to energise our events. Ultimately though, we tend to choose venues which are light, bright and airy though, as we find that this inspires our delegates and encourages positivity and engagement.
On the day, we always find that having event staff and an AV technician on hand is very helpful for those last minute changes or potential hitches with presentations.
In terms of a favourite venue, I’d have to say the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a recent favourite. The events team there were very helpful, enthusiastic and supportive.
Q: What do you find the biggest challenges are when organising meetings or events?
Time is one of the biggest challenges. As a PA, I am used to handling many tasks simultaneously, however organising an event on top of your day-to-day routine really can have an impact on workload. Shortly after joining VisitScotland, I was asked to organise a large event and I was conscious that I needed to make a good first impression. It was whilst organising this event that I learnt the importance of using a good venue finding organisation in order to be provided with a comprehensive list of venues that are not only suitable but also available and in budget.
Q: Do you find yourself being able to plan events well in advance or do you find yourself dealing with last minute requests?
Usually events tend to be planned fairly well in advance. However, nothing is ever set in stone. As a PA, we are used to expecting the unexpected! This is again where I find having a venue finding agency on speed dial helps!
Q: What do you find are the benefits of working with a venue finding agency?
Standard of service, high level of experience and great communication. By working with a venue finding agency, I am able to draw from their extensive knowledge of venues and know that my event is in safe hands. My previous experience of working with a venue finding agency has seen me provided with a fantastic selection of venues, negotiated rates, being accompanied on site visits and assistance with negotiation of venue contracts.

About Conference Care 

Conference Care provides award-winning event management and free venue finding services for external meetings and events, organising more than 15,000 events and delivering over 100 event management projects each year.
Established in 1995, Conference Care launched into the Scottish market in 2005, opening the Sales Hub at Pitreavie Business Park, Fife, in April 2014. Operating from the hub is its dedicated Scotland team led by Pauline Beattie, Head of Sales – Scotland.
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