Conferencing & Events blogC&E's 2021 Highlights

It’s snowing, blowing a gale and freezing, and that can mean just one thing: it’s time for our traditional round-up of the year’s highlights! Although the past few months have seen us splitting our weeks between campus and home, who among us could have envisaged that working from home would still be such a big part of our lives almost two years later?  We’re hoping to settle into more of a routine in 2022 but with COVID-19 still posing a challenge for us all, the most important thing is to keep our people, our clients and our delegates safe and well.

Two conference delegates taking part in discussion using virtual event platform OnAIR

2022 has been a tale of two (almost) halves for our team.  From January right through to August, our focus was on supporting academic colleagues hosting events in our new virtual venue, as well as working with all of our clients to reschedule bookings postponed because of the pandemic. Then, from September until now, we shifted our attention to getting back up-and-running on campus, preparing for one of the busiest periods in the Technology and Innovation Centre  to-date, thanks to the arrival of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (better-known as COP26), held in Glasgow over the first two weeks of November.

Looking at our performance in the first half of the match, 2021 saw the team support a number of events across the ‘virtual campus’ including DATA.SPACE 2021, Strathclyde Inspire100, R&D Management 2021, the launch of Strathclyde’s Strategic Research Clusters, Lean HE International Conference 2021 and most recently the ETP Annual Showcase 2021. Each and every team member has played their role in supporting these events; from Jose, Liam (who recently moved on to pastures new) and Aimee (the newest member of our team), our wonderful technicians who have risen beautifully to the challenge; to our Operations team who have tackled a number of roles including live delegate support and the configuration and management of the platform itself. We couldn’t have done it without Katherine, our Conference Services Manager and OnAIR ‘guru’, who’s been leading on the development of the platform for more than 18 months, nor our Business Development team, the resident guinea pigs for virtual test events!

Conferencing and Events staff stand outside the Technology and Innovation Centre

We were thrilled (and not a little terrified) to welcome clients and delegates back to the campus for face-to-face events at the start of September, having closed our doors some 532 days previously.  When the day finally arrived, it was like we’d never been away! Of course, the way we deliver events has changed but the underlying purpose of them is still the same; to bring people together and help them create memorable experiences.  Looking at the feedback we received over our first few months back, it seems like we’ve succeeded in doing this despite ongoing uncertainty. We started gradually with smaller events on campus, building up until the end of October/November when we experienced a tsunami of events activity! It was a mad few weeks, with all hands on deck to deliver a large number of events with exceptionally short lead times but we did it by pulling together, communicating in new ways and supporting one another. We firmly believe that the last twenty months has brought us closer as a team, and this was demonstrated by the way we worked as such a tight unit over this challenging period.

November 2021 graduation ceremony at the Barony

On a more personal note, Monika Maitles, our Conference Operations Co-ordinator, left the fold to welcome a beautiful baby girl and Nicola Hyne, our Conference Operations Manager, announced the safe arrival of her son: such happy news in the midst of a global pandemic! We welcomed the lovely Sarah McLeary as our new Conference and Events Officer in September, when she was plopped gently in at the deep end to deliver both European Space Weather Week and a slew of COP26 events.  Fortunately, Sarah is a seasoned professional, so no armbands were required - she coped swimmingly and is still here to tell the tale! Phew! Our new Conference Host Michael Sharp also joined us from the University’s Hospitality Catering team, and it’s been great getting to know him better over the last few months. In our Corporate Events team, we were sad to say goodbye to Peg Rourke who left to enjoy retirement after more than 30 years at the University. Nadia Mitchell took over the reins and has done a sterling job supporting and delivering a number of University events, not to mention our recent socially-distanced graduation ceremonies.  We clearly like to give new recruits a challenge to get their teeth into!

It’s been another year of tumultuous emotions.  Whilst there have definitely been highlights, the majority of us will once again be pleased to see the back of a tough 12 months. All we can do now is heed advice, keeping ourselves and others as safe as possible, in the hope that 2022 brings with it more certainty. 2021 has maybe not ended quite as we would have wished but it’s important to focus on the positive elements of the year, not least the progress that we’ve all made in comparison to where we were this time last year. It’s time to enjoy the next few weeks with loved ones, switch off from work and make the most of this year’s festivities.

Merry Christmas from Conferencing and Events

We wish all of our clients, colleagues, friends and delegates a wonderful Christmas and would like to thank you for the support, patience and loyalty you’ve shown us over the last year. We can’t tell you how much it’s meant to us having you all back in the venue again and we can’t wait to see you all in 2022! Take care, stay safe and we’ll see what the New Year brings!