What's new for meetings and conventions at your organization that you're most excited about?
Brian Horsburgh We're just about to embark on a complete upgrade of our main plenary conference theater, which is currently called the Fleming Auditorium. We're going to increase the capacity of that room and upgrade it with new programmable, scene-setting lighting and facilities, so it will be a much more attractive and flexible space. We hope to have that up and running ahead of our large oil and gas event in September 2014.
Steve Harris We are a new organization, so everything is new for us! The most exciting thing is that Aberdeen is making a real and focused effort in this market so that VisitAberdeen, along with our partners at the universities and AECC in particular, will be taking all that the city has to offer event organizers to the market in a coordinated way.
What are meeting planners asking for now that they weren't asking for a year or two ago?
Horsburgh What we are very definitely seeing is a massive increase in the demands on our Wi-Fi facilities through the use of mobile devices. We've always had that facility here, but in terms of the last three or four major events we've had here, we've seen the actual volume of these devices and use go up quite dramatically. We're in the process of upgrading and upscaling our Wi-Fi infrastructure to assure we can provide full service to meet that demand.
Harris Shorter lead times is something that we have seen. Content is key, and with the trend for more and shorter meetings, it's crucial to use the expertise of ambassadors to ensure that the technical program really delivers to the delegates attending.
What is your leadership style?
Horsburgh My style has always been a kind of lead-from-the front, open-door policy, and I encourage engagement at all levels within our organization. We have an ethos within the venue here - we say, “It's always the people who make the venue.” We believe that our unique selling proposition is the quality of the people providing the service. I do try, whenever we have new clients in the building, to make time to meet and greet those clients, even if it's only for five minutes.
Harris I have worked in a large number of different industries over my career and my style has developed but not really changed. I work hard with a collegial approach, advising, counseling, and mentoring to build strong teams and individuals. I try and understand the needs of team members, and I am a voracious networker.
What is the biggest challenge - and the biggest opportunity — facing the meetings industry today?
Horsburgh One of the biggest challenges is the total change of style in what we call the Millennial generation - the under-30s. These are people who all communicate all the time by mobile device, and it's certainly going to mean that the way in which meetings are organized and presented going forward is going to have to understand that change and get more engaged with text and social media, rather than just conventional presentations.
Harris Convincing people that face-to-face is still the best way to do business in the face of constant innovations like hybrid meetings, whilst embracing new technologies which allow attendees who don't have the time/budget to attend.
Managing Director, Scotland's Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre (AECC)
Chief Executive, VisitAberdeen