Alongside the Sales and Operations teams, we also spoke with MEETinLEEDS’ Sales and Marketing Manager, Harriet Boatwright, about her career to date and the effects of COVID-19 on the team, the customers and the conferencing and events industry as a whole.
WHAT DOES A DAY IN YOUR POSITION LOOK LIKE?
My role is to promote and position our venues within the industry, locally, nationally and internationally. It is also about surfacing strategically the benefits of conference activity to the University and to the city of Leeds, whilst also highlighting the importance of the events industry overall. I regularly work closely with key stakeholders across both the university and the city, in order to support and collaborate together.
I also spend a lot of my time to identifying and developing messaging across our digital platforms, in order to ensure that we’re enhancing our digital presence, attracting a new audience and communicating with our existing ones. In addition to this, it’s also my responsibility to support and guide the wider team here at MEETinLEEDS, working closely with all departments.
WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO THE CONFERENCE INDUSTRY?
During my time at university, I spent a lot of time integrating into the institution through working in the campus bars and club, and post-degree I also worked with the Marketing team in the Student Union. During my time there, the University invested in a conference floor and I took on the mantle supporting the conference activity, so I suppose you could say I fell into it! Both the opportunities available and the people I’ve met are what initially attracted me into the industry, and what has also kept me there throughout my entire career.
WHAT HAS WORKING IN THE CONFERENCE INDUSTRY TAUGHT YOU?
I have spent much of my working life in the conference industry, having been here at the University of Leeds for 16 years, so you could say the industry has taught me everything I know! The need to flex and adapt is something in the industry that we do every day. This might be in how we work to understand and translate a clients’ needs and expectations at the sale stage or work to deliver it at an operational level.
Our ability to adapt to altered circumstances is, and never more so, a needed skill than now.
What is your favourite thing about working in the conference industry?
In my role, I am privileged to be able to build a great network of peers across the Higher Education piece, as well as across the Events Industry. There is a willingness in this industry to share and collaborate, so every day is a school day!
The industry itself is very supportive, forward thinking and adaptable – something that has already been demonstrated by the likes of Excel in London, Manchester Central, and our very own Harrogate Convention Centre here in Yorkshire as they recently turned into Nightingale hospitals in support of the national efforts to tackle COVID-19.
HOW ARE YOU ADAPTING TO THE CURRENT SITUATION?
Hats off to the University of Leeds’ wider team including IT, Finance and Procurement, who have all done a phenomenal job of getting all our services and processes accessible remotely, so that the job remainsthe job. The context in which we are working is markedly different and the way in which the team are flexing to adjust is testament to their commitment to the university, to our customers and to each other.
My house is currently zoned into two offices and a classroom. The whole household is on a pretty strict timetable and going into week 5 we are still going strong, so go team Boatwright!
WHAT DOES YOUR NEW WAY OF WORKING MEAN FOR THE CUSTOMER?
We are fully operational remotely and we remain in close contact with our customers – those who were due to run events, as well as those with upcoming events. In a situation such as this, there is something very human about us all and there is something extremely grounding about the common intention to stay safe and stay connected. Here at MEETinLEEDS, we remain focused on how we can support our customers through these times, and come through it together and stronger for it.