YYA Helicopter

Teams from across the University of Leeds Facilities Directorate, which includes MEETinLEEDS, Great Food at Leeds and Deli(very), have nominated the local charity to support for 2016/2017 as the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA).



The YAA is a rapid response air emergency service that serves a population of approximately 5 million people across 4 million acres. The fast medical response that the Air Ambulance service provides is vital to a patient who has received major trauma, especially those with head and spinal injuries, as the Air Ambulance can avoid traffic congestion and uneven road surfaces to get patients to hospital within the “Golden Hour“.

On average, when a patient has been received by the YAA, they will always be only 10 minutes from the nearest hospital and 15 minutes from the most relevant treatment centre, as the 2 helicopters they have can reach speeds of up to 160 mph and cover the whole of the region seven days a week, 365 days a year. To keep both of Yorkshire’s air ambulances in the air they need to raise £12,000 per day, which is equivalent to £4.4 million per year.

Richard-Carrie-WebsiteWe welcomed back our former Sales & Marketing Director Richard Handscombe, who retired from MEETinLEEDS 2 years ago and is now a volunteer for YAA, as he presented information to staff at the University of Leeds about the history, importance and future of the charity.

Richard said:

“The charity was set up in October 2000 with 1 helicopter and a crew of 2 flying from Leeds Bradford Airport. Following Richard Hammond’s drag racing accident while filming Top Gear in 2006, in which he was flown to Leeds General Infirmary by the Air Ambulance, there were a number of generous donations from the public totalling over £250,000 and enabled us to buy a second helicopter. This also led to the BBC commissioning the “Helicopter Heroes” programme, which follows the work of our lifesaving workers.

As demand for the service has increased so have the need for donations. Since 2000 we have made 6583 missions and currently average 3 per day. The YAA is an independent charity and is entirely dependent upon donations: the government funding takes the form of the paramedics that are seconded from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. An annual donation of 80p from every Yorkshire resident would cover the cost of the service. They save lives… One day it could be yours.”

Carrie Cheeseman, now a YAA volunteer, found this out when she and her two young children, Maxwell and Scarlett were hit by a car just a fortnight before she was due to get married. You can read the full remarkable story on the YAA website.

The University of Leeds will be holding a number of events throughout the year to raise money and awareness for the charity, so follow MEETinLEEDS and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance on Twitter (@meetinleeds and @YorkshireAirAmb) for the latest news.



Find out more and donate to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance on their website.

Watch clips of the fantastic “Helicopter Heroes” on the BBC website.

Nat Blog

So the day has finally arrived.

Friday 21st March 2014 is the final day I shall spend with Richard Handscombe as my Head of Sales and Marketing or, in my words, The Boss.

I have been working for Richard and the MEETinLEEDS team for over 4 years now but I can remember my interview like it was only yesterday.

Trotting to the University of Leeds campus in my Sales Executive 4 inch heels, I took my seat in the interview waiting area in University House and calmed my nerves by remembering the interview advice granddad had given me earlier: “Stay calm sweetheart, and crack a few clean jokes if you can”.

Walking into the Cloberry room (where the interview took place), I remember taking one look at Mr Handscombe and thinking: “This guy is way too suave; I’ve got no chance here!”

However, somehow (probably down to granddads advice) Richard decided to give the girl from Castleford a chance and hired me!

Nat-Blog-for-28-03-2014Over the past 4 years Richard has not only put up with my strange childhood stories; my numerous house moves; my constant demands for a cup of tea; but he has also been my personal mentor and role model. To me, Richard displays all the qualities of not only a great manager but a great leader. The way in which he empowers and trusts each member of our small team is what pushes Matt, Lisa, Ryan, Harriet and I to perform the way we do – fantastically! He has created the MEETinLEEDS brand, a brand that sets itself apart from the rest by not being frightened to try new things or to think outside of the box. More importantly, Richard has developed a working culture where I do not only see my team members as colleagues but as great friends. To say the team will miss Richard is an understatement!

Just a few of the things I will miss about Mr Handscombe:

  1. Our in depth chats regarding Henry and Anne – the fact we share a mutual love of all things Tudor and spend at least 10 minutes every Monday morning discussing this
  2. The way he accepts that I make him cups of tea with suspicious looking floaters in
  3. The way he subtly lets me know when I have applied too much fake tan


To be honest, there’s nothing I won’t miss about Richard and I hope he’s ready for the home visits and numerous emails he will be receiving from me after today. He might be retiring but I still have course work that needs checking over! (I’m currently studying towards a degree in Business Management, something again that Richard encourages and supports me with!)

So there’s nothing much left to say apart from on behalf of me and the team, thank you Richard Handscombe, mainly just for being you.

nose picking buddha

Whilst stuck in a traffic jam the other day, the entertainment value of watching other drivers applying make-up and picking their noses slowly wore off, and I began thinking about things I’d like to do before……well, before long.

I’ve actually been fairly adventurous in the past – I’ve flown several aircraft, looped the loop, driven a Ferrari (fast!), and visited plenty of countries. But whilst I’ve still got more to do, most come with a caveat:

  1. Wing-walk. How exciting, soaring around the countryside strapped on the top of a bi-plane! Ideally though, it needs to be in spring to avoid the kind of facial fly-squash my car gets in summer.
  2. Jet Fighter Flight. Another flying one! I’d love to feel the massive acceleration of a flight in a fast jet – ideally from an aircraft carrier. But I know from my previous flight experience, that the kind of sick bags you get on a normal plane would be nowhere near big enough.
  3. Water Skiing. Looks dead easy. It’s obvious that people who fall off are just fooling around. But not in the North Sea – it would have to be in warm waters, somewhere like the Caribbean.
  4. Train Driving. When I was a kid I was supposed to want to do this but the desire only caught up with me recently. On my short train ride into Leeds from Dewsbury, it’s apparent most train drivers get great joy from driving a packed train, breaking hard jerking into motion so everyone falls over. I want some of that!
  5. Visit India. Of all the countries in the world, India is at the top of my visit list. I take hundreds of photos and would love the colour and vibrancy, and meeting the people.
nose-picking-buddhaThen, as the traffic began to pick up, and other drivers threw their make-up bags on the back seat, and their concentration on rhinotillexis gave way to steering their cars, I thought, maybe I should try to combine a few of them – wing walking on an Indian fighter jet for instance……now there’s a thought……
Public transport

photoIt was a fantastic day today. Beautiful sunshine, and blue skies. Travelling through the spring-like countryside into Leeds on the train was a joy.  Not for this bunch, who didn’t look up from their smart phones for a second.  Maybe they have Fascinating Friends, or Riveting Relatives, or maybe they were just playing Candy Crush, but I wanted to shout “Stop it! Look up! Talk to each other!”  Is it just me who finds this so depressing? The irony of me taking a photo of them with my own phone isn’t lost on me by the way….didn’t have a camera.

Then when you arrive at Leeds station, there’s a point where you have to make the massive decision either to take the stairs down, or the escalator, and the number of people shunning the stairs this morning (DOWN!) and heading for the escalator (DOWN!) was unbelievable. I fail to understand the urge to choose the downward escalator, which is 1) slower than the stairs and 2) bone idle!

You may have reached the conclusion that someone moaning about the above issues probably has a problem with other stuff. I do indeed.

How come when I’m in the queue at a supermarket, I always get a person in front of me who seems totally surprised when they find they actually have to pay for their shopping, and then starts rooting about in their bag for a purse that could have already been in their hand in the open mode ready to pay??

And how about the cashiers who treat all card-payers like idiots –  after decades of credit and debit card use, do we really need to be told exactly when to enter our pin code and when to take out the card?

I could go on and on and on.

Oh yes, and what about the snail-pace drivers who always seem to enter a multi-story car-park in front of me, then proceed to drive haltingly up through floor after floor of chocker parking, stopping and hunting for the one elusive empty spot for their rust-bucket, when we could have both been on the totally empty top deck ages ago!

I won’t mention my irritation at gent’s toilet doors always opening inwards…..oops, I mentioned it!

Michael Marks-Venue, Exterior
Michael Marks and Thakray Buildings

Michael Marks and Thakray Buildings

As most colleagues know, I’m shortly to retire and have made a pact with myself, that in the meantime, on the way to and from meetings on campus, I’ll try to walk down a street I’ve never been down before.  It’s proving surprisingly easy.  I guess I have my favourite routes and have rarely deviated from them.  The second part of the pact is to look up and appreciate the University’s architecture.  It’s amazing how we can take our environment for granted, and only a few days into this I am being surprised and delighted by what I find.

Clarendon Way

Clarendon Way

So, as a personal recommendation from me, take a long look at this wonderful, diverse campus and prepare to be amazed.  You’ll find architectural features, artworks, tree-lined streets, cobblestones, plaques, and buildings with real personality.  And as you walk around, you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with people from every culture and ethnicity across the globe.  Just take a look;  what other place of work has this kind of variety and diversity and how lucky are we to work amongst it?

meetinleeds heart

Rumour has it that the recession is over and recovery has begun! This may be so, but in the events market it’s still a fact that there is an over-abundance of suppliers and therefore a massive choice – a buyer’s market.

When retail shopping, we tend not to compare products with products – we compare experiences, and this in the end guides where we shop. As venues, it’s hard to resist bigging up” our décor and audio-visual facilities as state-of-the-art”, but in reality, buyers now simply expect top quality facilities in any venue.

The two main deciders in the conference market have historically been location and price, and the former is often a combination of geographical, micro- and macro-location. At first glance, if a potential customer states that the destination they want is for instance Liverpool, and we are in Leeds, the location seems hard to counter in a sales context. And also, in this over-supplied market, price can be tough to beat. This is where differentiation can play a major part, and there are two key differentiators – innovation and service. The experience.

To work to advantage, innovation needs to be creative and constant, because, given the speed of modern communications and mass connectivity, competitor copying can occur instantly. Overnight change is a reality we have to live with.

Excellent service gives us the edge, and if we get it right, can overcome both location and price challenges. I have even experienced examples myself, where good service has even overcome product quality issues! I gave one particular Leeds restaurant – which shall be nameless – a second chance, due to fantastic service, even though the quality of the meal was dire. Suffice it to say that they won’t be getting a third chance regardless of the service!

meetinleeds-heart2There’s an old adage that people buy people, indeed in some cases people are the ONLY experience, for example many products bought from visits by trusted sales reps. Customers will also buy trusted brands without even trying them first. But service is also a major factor in many successful top brands, eg M&S, Prêt á Manger, John Lewis. Once this close association of service, quality and brand becomes complete you’re flying. The idea behind the marketing of these companies is to induce loyalty beyond reason. The creation of loyal customers who don’t quite realise why.

It’s very similar to LOVE.

Brands that have this have actually been called “Lovemarks” (Saatchi & Saatchi).

At the heart of a strong brand, will be a great experience, and at the heart of that are people.

Success needs people who are committed, creative, engaging, professional, pleasant, caring, competitive, enthusiastic, conscientious, and saleable (phew!). Commitment to providing good service needs to be strong Service delivery needs to be excellent, and the product great. Exactly our goals at MeetInLeeds. No wonder our order books are filling!

email full

“Thou shalt reply to every email” isn’t really the commandment most of us think it is. How many times have you sent an email to someone only to receive a reply saying “thanks”. If you’re a polite and well-brought-up Yorkshire lad like me, the temptation is to write “You’re welcome”. So far, I have resisted this fearing that I’ll receive a reply saying “the pleasure was all mine”, but the temptation remains….

The email inbox is up there with action points from meetings, completing tax returns, and inviting the in-laws to dinner as one of life’s more oppressive monkeys on our back; something to nag away at us, give us indigestion and feed our guilt complex. If you read about strategies for handling email, you’ll find these two rules expounded:
a) If you’re working efficiently, you can read, file and/or respond to every email you read
b) Non-response is unacceptable where an email implicitly or explicitly asks for a response.

emailfullConsidering the first of the above decrees: I first saw email in 1995, and I think it would have been around 1997 when my email inbox reached a volume at which it became largely unmanageable! My inbox is now TB41P (too big for one person), and anyway, work gets in the way.

As for the second of the above statutes, I think it’s a hangover from the pre-email era (PEE), as an acknowledgement that the person who had sent the letter (this is a piece of paper with squiggles written by a pen. A pen is an instrument …. Oh never mind) had actually gone to some trouble and expense writing the letter and envelope, stamping it, and trudging to the post-box! That’s almost heroic and clearly deserves a response. But in order to accomplish this level of courtesy today, we have to give up personal time swatting emails with our smart phones on the train and at home because there’s just not enough time in the working day. And don’t we all love the après-holiday backlog?

I don’t know the answer, so I’ll leave the question out there and you can email me if you do. I promise to respond. But here’s an out-of-office message suggestion I read recently which, although not recommended as it’s probably professionally suicidal, made me smile.

Due to the volume of email I receive, I no longer personally review every message. If you are interested in learning more about why I have decided to set limits on my email time, you can read this [link to their blog post]. If you do not receive a further reply within 72 hours, please assume that I have had to focus on other professional or personal priorities at this time. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Rant over. I won’t even start on why we actually type in our names at the bottom of an email reply when it already has an automatic signature and anyway should be obvious from whom it came…….

The Exhibition Centre-Venue, Exhibition Layout

As 2014 dawns, I have been thinking of how the conference business has changed in the last 20 years….

Back in 1993 when I came into the academic conference sector, computers were few and far between (we had just one in our department), and very basic, with dark screens and green writing, and Windows were things to watch rain drip down. We wrote letters…real letters, with typewriters (typewriters were things with keyboards connected to sort of hammers with letters on…never mind, Google it!). Oh yes, and we had to go to the library to research anything because the World Wide Web was a year or two away!

Back in those days, when we’d only just heard of Bill Clinton, the final episode of Cheers was in the can, and Whitney Houston was topping the charts screeching “I Will Always Love You” (I know these things because I Googled them), I used to exhibit at seven or eight venue shows. These included Venuemasters, EIBTM, Confex, Chase, HRD, and the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD).

making-exhibitionHow times have changed. Although face-to-face discussions are still said to be important to buyers, the years are littered with failed attempts to launch new shows and attendances at exhibitions went into a steep decline. The truth is that the speed, content and usability of the Web means that we can exchange vast amounts of information in a microsecond, and increasingly savvy buyers can comprehensively research venues without leaving their offices. And conversely, venues are able to seek out and target potential buyers without breaking sweat.
These days at MEETinLEEDS we routinely attend only one, very focused exhibition (Venuemasters, 14th May 2014, at the Earl’s Court Ibis) and the rest, like Bill and Whitney, are history.

I actually did tot up the number of exhibitions I’ve done over these twenty years and I reckon it’s an astounding 60 at a cost probably well in excess of £150k! Although this seems a high cost, we did see a lot of business coming from exhibitions when they were at their zenith, and in fact I can remember one single enquiry returning £150k of revenue.

What will the picture be in another 20 years? It’s anybody’s guess, but thinking very positively, One Direction will be no more…..

International Medieval Congress 2013


Largest Academic Event in Europe Comes to Leeds.

MEETinLEEDS played host to almost 2,000 delegates this July as the world’s most knowledgeable medievalists attended the 20th annual International Medieval Congress – this year on the theme of pleasure. Delegates discussed all aspects of medieval studies at the event before the creation of a Medieval Village in the centre of the University.

Director of the Congress, Axel Muller explained:

Experts from around the world discussed everything from the pleasure of food, music and literature to sex and spirituality. Although it was many hundreds of years ago, we can learn a lot from this period that is relevant to today’s society. They certainly knew how to gain pleasure from a variety of activities and it was fantastic to hear and discuss this subject further during the Congress.”

This is the first time that the congress, the largest of its kind in Europe, has been hosted on the main campus but, thanks to MEETinLEEDS’ excellent events team, delegates experienced an exceptionally well-managed event and have already given some excellent feedback.

As well as a comprehensive programme of lectures for visitors, there were also several events that were open to the public for the first time including; musical performances, food workshops and a lecture on the recent discovery of the skeleton of Richard III in Leicester, by the team who found it.

The Medieval Village in University Square featured a range of activities including historical craft demonstrations such as chain mail production, spinning, textile production, dyeing and even an apothecary. There were also samples of medieval food, a falconry display, musicians and a storyteller.

Hosting an event as large as this takes a great deal of planning explains Richard Handscombe, Head of Sales & Marketing for MEETinLEEDS. Thankfully we have an events team at the University who are second to none and have a wealth of experience in organising events such as these. Work has already begun on next year’s Congress and the team are looking forward to seeing them again.

If you would like to find out more about organising a large event at the University then we would be delighted to speak to you. Just call our Conference and Events Team on 0113 343 6100 or email