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CH&CO in partnership with RSA House delivered their first hybrid ‘safer event’ with Hire Space

Published By Neil Thompson on 21st August 2020

CH&CO in partnership with RSA House delivered their first hybrid ‘safer event’ with Hire Space

Award-winning Central London events venue RSA House, catering specialists CH&CO and event booking platform Hire Space joined forces last week to host their first ‘Safer Event’ together.

The strategy day for Hire Space was an opportunity for their team to get back to business at one of their accredited ‘Safer Venues’ and to catch up on some well overdue team interaction. The purpose for RSA was to put into practise all the new procedures and kick start their events alongside CH&CO launching their new safe menus and RSA their hybrid event offering, in partnership with Radiance Production.

The event was held in accordance with safety guidelines established in the 'Safer Events - A Framework for Action' white paper, in accordance with public health, government and industry body guidance. Twenty of the Hire Space team joined in-person with ten members joining virtually from around the world. In a post-event survey, attendees gave the event a safety score of 9.2 out of 10.

The day began with the staggered arrival of guests and digital contactless temperature checks being taken by a member of the RSA reception team. On entry, guests sanitised their hands and were given a ‘Safer Events’ branded hand sanitising wipe and a device enabling them to open doors throughout the venue without touch - a very well thought through gesture, as one of the Hire Space team comments, “Event measures were plentiful which was reassuring. The sanitiser, masks and brass keys at the entrance set the tone of a safe event from the start”.

Thorough signage has been placed around the venue, to include two meters physical distancing floor markers outside in order to manage queues. Additionally, floor markings, digital and human signage in event spaces and public areas was in place to manage a one-way flow of traffic around the venue, to reduce interaction amongst staff and guests. In a post-event survey sent to the Hire Space team, a score of 9.2 was given by guests with regards to their overall feeling of safety.

During the morning, the Hire Space team were taken on tours of the venue by the RSA sales team, giving them an insight into the 11 unique and versatile event spaces RSA has to offer. This included the newly refurbished Prince Philip Room and Romney Room, the iconic Vaults and the charismatic exposed brick Auditorium. Laura Pearce, Head of Sales, RSA House says, “After weeks of thorough preparation to get the venue ready for re-opening with new and heightened safety procedures in place, it was exciting to host our first Safer Event with Hire Space. This was an opportunity for all of us to experience the ‘new normal’ and to learn from the new processes we have in place”. Laura goes on to say, “It’s incredibly important to reassure our clients and the industry that although times have changed, we can hold events safely whilst following guidelines and maintaining a sense of occasion. Our doors are open and we’re very much looking forward to hosting more of the same in the coming weeks and months!”

Catering was provided by RSA’s in-house caterers, CH&CO, and enjoyed in the surroundings of the contemporary Benjamin Franklin Room under the stunning Troika chandelier, in the very room Sir Winston Churchill was awarded an Albert medal in 1946. Guests were allocated their own poseur table to maintain two-meter physical distancing. With self-service stations a thing of the past, the RSA team managed all catering service from behind Perspex barriers to minimise shared touchpoints. Individual energising breakfast bags included a Greek yoghurt with mixed berry compote, a blueberry muffin, a flapjack and a summer berry and banana smoothie. Spanish Bento boxes were a talking point of the day and included Charcuterie from Brindisa of Borough Market. They proved to be a welcome alternative to the usual lunch buffets, with one guest commenting “I actually preferred how lunch was served. I loved the idea of Bento boxes and the wooden design of the box made them feel high-end”.

CH&CO Director of Food, Jeremy Ford says, “At CH&CO, food is at the heart of what we deliver. We understand the great role food plays in creating a successful event so we’ve developed innovative ways to continue to delight. Now more than ever supporting our supplier communities is integral to our approach. During this time we’ve looked even closer to home to do what we can to support our local suppliers such as Cobble Lane, The Ginger Pig and Knight Frank, known to us as our London Larder. A meal with us supports British farmers and producers”. The venue’s new meeting menus also include breakfast bento boxes, executive sandwich bags, salad jars and Asian inspired noodle pots.

The afternoon session was enjoyed in the striking Great Room which is steeped in history, providing a truly memorable setting for any event. The hybrid element kicked off with a welcome talk from The RSA’s Head of Commercial Development, Charlotte Sumners, about the history of The RSA and the building along with an overview of The RSA’s current areas of work. Profits from events held at the venue fund these current programmes including, ‘Future of Work’, ‘Regenerative Futures/Sustainability’ and ‘Fair Education’. CH&CO’s certified nutritionist, Amanda Ursell, joined virtually from Italy, to talk about 'What You Eat Can Optimise Your Immune System' and gave a useful insight on how to combat screen fatigue.

Ten members of the Hire Space team who were unable to join in person, dialled in remotely for the venue tour and afternoon session. An average score of 8.1 out of 10 was given for overall event enjoyment with one guest commenting, “this felt totally worth it as the experience was mostly great for those attending remotely. Multi shot camera angles and view of the room made me feel like I was actually part of the event and engaged throughout.” All production and audio-visual aspects of the day were managed by Pete Bradbury and his team at Radiance Production.

Pete says, “It was great to be working on a Hybrid Event at RSA House for a company as forward thinking as Hire Space. Hybrid event’s like this are key to reopening the meeting and events industry and giving our audiences confidence. I think we’ll see more of them going forward, they’re much more inclusive for those unable to attend it person and with the right planning, discussion and collaboration from the venue, client and production company they can be really memorable”.

The day was wrapped up with a private cinema experience in the venue’s ultra-comfy and charismatic screening room, Durham Street Auditorium which was built on the last remaining stretch of 18th century cobbled Victorian roadway. Guests had the chance to sensibly socialise sitting two meters apart whilst enjoying a movie of their choice. CH&CO served pre-packed popcorn and pick ‘n’ mix, adding to the authentic cinema experience.

Post-event feedback has been collected by Hire Space and the RSA team, to give an opportunity to learn from the ‘new normal’ of hosting an event in a world where Covid-19 remains, from an organiser and a venue perspective. Key learnings from the day include:

Event safety: people were impressed with the safety measures, but we can’t underestimate how important it is to over-communicate and remember that some people are always likely to break the rules and so there must be processes in place to manage this.

Content delivery and technology: virtual attendees enjoyed the experience and felt included, which makes it a worthwhile investment, but we must think carefully about the more interactive content features and be sure to communicate the agenda in advance to anyone not attending in person.

Catering: Bento boxes work great, and perception is really important where food is concerned. Perhaps this might feel strange, even sterile at times, but it’s worth it for a sensitive touchpoint such as food service.

Benjamin Edmonds, Head of Promotions at Hire Space said: “We had a wonderful time coming to RSA House to host our first Safer Event. Seeing all the measures from our white paper come into fruition and work so effectively was brilliant. Working with Laura and the team couldn’t have been easier. They’ve all worked so hard to put a full range of measures in place which has also seen them become accredited as a Safer Venue, and it was evident in our polling of the team after the event that everyone appreciated the measures and felt safe. Overall it was just amazing to see how events can be done at this time, it’s a little different, but we’re coming together again safely which is the most important thing!”
General Manager of RSA House, Rupert Outram, said, “We had an incredibly constructive day last week hosting our first event of this new era. The team has been working hard over the past weeks to ensure the guest experience was uncompromised whilst keeping everyone in the venue safe, our guests and team alike. The day reassured me that the energy and quality of communication created by face to face meetings is unachievable in a purely screen based meeting, but by being able to offer this style of hybrid event solution it gives businesses (our customers) the option to include those who are unable to attend physically or in cases where companies would like to include a large audiences (beyond room capacity) for part or all of the event. The team and I are really excited to start welcoming people back to the RSA”.

RSA House recently gained the Hire Space ‘Safer Events’ accreditation and Visit England ‘Good to Go’ accreditation. The venue is open to host meetings and weddings for up to 30 guests and all other events from 1st October (pending government guidelines).