Adapting for the new normal in meetings and events

Silverstone entrance

Hayley Smith, Head of Sales, Silverstone Circuits Ltd talks us through how they adapted their business in COVID-19 times.

With the coronavirus pandemic having sudden and long-lasting effects on the meetings and events industry, venues are having to adapt to survive. Here we speak to Hayley Smith, Head of Sales at Silverstone Circuits Ltd., to find out how the company has changed its strategy and plans and to encourage the industry to share and showcase innovative and proactive approaches to adapting for the new normal.

Move fast

“When it became clear just how serious the impact of coronavirus would be, we realised that we needed to adapt quickly to ensure the future of our business and, just before lockdown started, we invested some time creating a new mid-term strategy. We realised that the lack of guidance we were receiving in the industry would impact us and we wanted to ensure we remained pro-active in our approach across every aspect of our meetings and events business.

“Despite the challenges it’s really brought out the best in our team and has showed how nimble and focused we are. We’re lucky at Silverstone in that we have a huge amount of space, both indoors and outdoors, which means we’ve been able to get really creative about what we can offer clients going forward and, as a result, have devised a range of new packages and options for meetings.

“We’ve also just come out of the very successful Formula One Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone. This was one of the biggest events to take place behind closed doors and reinforced the fact that were ready to reopen as soon as restrictions allow it.

“We are encouraging all event planners and organisers to be brave, bold and creative – we want to hear what you want to do and work together to achieve this at Silverstone. As an industry, together we are stronger and we want to inspire and encourage others to share best practice, talk more and to work together to achieve really creative and unusual events. We hope the video we’ve created with SomeBrightSpark shows that as a venue and a team, there are no limits to our creativity.”

Commenting on the video, Darren Spragg, Strategy Director for SomeBrightSpark, said: “Any creative loves a blank canvas, so opening up new spaces such as these at Silverstone offers the opportunity to create new and unique experiences. But, most important of all it provides another chance for people to be face to face again, which can only be a good thing.”

Making the most of the venue

“A lot of people don’t realise the extent of the outdoor space available at Silverstone – our site in total extends to a whopping 600 acres. As a result, we’ve been able to adapt from our previous packages and put together a series of new options for outdoor-focused events, including for example motor home shows and camping and glamping exhibitions. We’ve working on several proposals and enquiries for events using the great outdoors, including a woodlands retreat and offering bush craft sessions as breakout meetings – great for mental and physical health and wellbeing.

“We’re also exploring the opportunity for drive-in meetings, which feels very apt given Silverstone’s heritage. We are looking at utilising our Copse Runway to stream the conference to parked participants and would open a drive-thru option for catering.

“Equally, we’re using our garages more than ever – clients love the industrial feel and blank canvas space. The added benefit if these is the ability to open the garage doors to let more air in, which will make our customers feel even more comfortable in the current environment.”

Tying the knot

“We also took a close look at our weddings business, where we’ve refocused. Sadly, many couples have had to cancel their wedding because of the pandemic, and the availability for their dates next year is almost impossible. We have found that many people just want to get married, to make it official, and as a result, we have now expanded our weddings availability to offer them seven days a week in our British Racing Drivers Club.

“We also took the opportunity to re-look at our catering offer for weddings and are now looking at working with a number of outside catering businesses that offer speciality Asian cuisine. Each of these caterers appeals to a different community, allowing us to extend our business with as many possibilities as possible.

“While there’s no denying things have been tough, enquiry levels in the last few weeks have definitely increased. They’re not yet on a par to what we were receiving pre Covid-19 but we’re well on our way back. As a team we’re confident that our adaptability and the sheer size and flexibility of the spaces we have at Silverstone mean that we’re a very attractive proposition for events going forward.”

Hayley Smith is Head of Sales and marketing for meetings and events at The Wing, Silverstone’s dedicated on-site conference and events centre. Hayley has a wealth of experience in organising events at leading sporting venues, from football to horse racing, and now of course motorsports.

Hear from Hayley in this great circuit video