14th June 2016
What does….. 96 staff, 43 desks, four locations, 11 weddings, six babies, one typewriter, three websites and five logos all add up to? 30 years in business for The Conference People that’s what!
1986 1 June The Conference People was born
1987 Moved to Trinity Trees, first proper office with our first employee!
1988 Our first Event Management contract
1990 Meetings Industry Association formed, Robert was a founding member
1996 Euro’96 – managed all accommodation and hospitality for the FA
1997 Moved to Lismore House – our converted town house
2000 Launched UBook, our very own online delegate management system
2001 We lost Maggie Doyle to Motor Neurone Disease
2002 We renovated our basement to accommodate our growing EM team
2011 Cyprus to Brighton – crisis to success after 9/11
2012 Our own Social Marketing events born
2014 Fuse Event Management created, and we moved to our new home in Upperton Farmhouse
2015 Created the first conference themed game, for both Android and iOS
2016 We celebrate turning 30!
2016 and beyond…. Onwards and upwards as ever!
So, 30 years in this industry, an accomplishment we are rightly very proud of! So much has changed since those early days and we’ve seen some amazing highs and a few lows.
On 1 June 1986 Robert Enefer and Maggie Doyle created The Conference People. One room, one typewriter, two desks and two phones! We had an email account which we only needed to check once a week – yes, once a week! Initially we concentrated on venue finding, and we were part of a very small group of venue finding agencies in those days!
Celebratory champagne in tumblers - so classy....!
Our very first piece of business was a Roadshow around the UK for Matchbox cars. It would be challenging now even with 30 years’ experience as it was a detailed brief with extremely complicated requirements. But it sealed our fate – we were both hooked!
In 1987, we took on our first employee and moved offices, closer to the town centre in a building in Trinity Trees.
We continued to grow and in the following year we established our close link with the local college, in particular their PA Diploma course. Suzanne Tanner was our next employee, and the first who came from the PA course, she wasn’t the last – a further eight followed her over the years! 1988 was an important year for us in terms of growth, not only did we take on more staff – but we also started to provide an Event Management service.
1990 was an important year for the industry because the Meetings Industry Association was formed, and Robert was heavily involved – being a founding member. With the birth of the MIA it gave those in the industry a voice, help and advice on how to move forward in this incredibly fast paced industry.
Euro’96 was a real turning point for The Conference People. We managed all of the accommodation and the hospitality for the Football Association at the Royal Garden Hotel. It became home for Mel and Robert for the duration of the competition.
Our Euro'96 framed picture - takes pride of place in our office
Following on from the success of the project, further expansion meant we had outgrown our Trinity Trees offices and we moved into a lovely townhouse, Lismore House. Our ever growing team fitted perfectly into all four floors.
We had our first wedding in 1998, when Mel married Julian (some of us vaguely remember the wedding party, hic!), we’ve had a few more weddings since, with the next one taking place in September this year. Oh and not to mention we’ve had six TCP babies during our 30 years!
2000 saw the launch of our very own online delegate management service – Ubook. Until that point, most of our delegate management had been paper based (yes, it really had – ask Mel about our hotel booking allocations for the Social Services conferences which dealt with rooms for over 1,200 delegates during the week long events!). We didn’t like the constraints that the off the shelf packages seemed to offer – so we designed our own. It was then, and still is now, totally bespoke and entirely flexible.
In 2001 we experienced our first real low; with the loss of founding partner, Maggie Doyle, to Motor Neurone Disease. Maggie continued to work as long as she could – and losing her was a genuine loss to the industry. But as she would have wanted, we continued to move forward.
2002 saw our basement floor in Lismore House completely renovated from three offices to one large open plan space. It was a lengthy job, made more complicated by one of the smaller offices being lined with steel due to it being a ‘safe’ room from when the building was owned by solicitors. You never could get a mobile reception in that room!!
In September 2011 The Annual Sales Conference for 300 delegates for a major Pharmaceutical company was scheduled to be held for a week in Cyprus, with delegates arriving on Sunday 21 September. Then 9/11 happened and the company implemented an immediate ban on all international travel. TCP were managing the event; a complicated programme involving extensive production, team building, delegates packs and gifts – all of which were already on the island. In just two days an alternative venue had been booked (the Grand Hotel, Brighton) and the entire programme, packs, badges and so on had all been replicated in the new location. Something of a miracle – but we can do that sometimes!
In 2008 we managed the first ever Social Marketing conference on behalf of the National Social Marketing Centre which took place in Brighton. Not being a company to ever stand still, following a lack of funding from the NSMC to run another Social Marketing conference, and seeing a real niche in the market we launched our own programme of events. 2012 was the first UK event, closely followed later that same year with the first European event in Lisbon – and the first ever World Social Marketing event the following year in Toronto in 2013. There have since been events in London, Rotterdam, Finland and Sydney. Future events are planned in Washington and Berlin. Such has been the success of the World events, that next year will see them become an annual event.
Before flying back, we were lucky enough to fly over Niagara Falls.....!
2014 saw a real change for us, not only did we move into our new home in Upperton Farmhouse (co-incidentally a building Robert and Maggie had considered before Trinity Trees!) but we launched Fuse, a stand alone, social enterprise Event Management company to look after the majority of our event management business.
In 2015 we launched the first ever conference game app – where you have to get all your delegates seated before the presenter starts talking – something we’re often doing in real life!
2016 and beyond…. How much easier life would be if we could predict the future – and how boring too! The Meetings Industry has always been unpredictable but never more so than now. One version is of a gloomy future with the Referendum result, tighter budgets, greater demand on ROI and international terrorism. But we have found in the last 30 years that there are always opportunities, it might be harder to find them sometimes, but still there. We have developed a brilliant array of clients across all areas – blue chip, association and third sector and there are always events of some sort being planned. Some of these clients have been with us from the beginning, Penguin Random House is one of those.
At the beginning for us technology was an electric typewriter - now it’s our own programmes to look after venue finding, delegate management and event support all linked to our client database with everything being constantly upgraded and updated; TCP continues to develop support systems as needed. Our industry will always be fascinating, challenging, rewarding and exciting!
The final photo above..... and the process of getting that shot below.....!!!
9th June 2016
Suzanne Tanner was one of our early employees, and was with us from 1988 to 1992; this brilliant hand made card arrived in the post today from New Zealand where she now lives.... what a thoughtful and wonderful surprise....!
Thank you Suzanne!
25th May 2016
That this year we turn 30! Yes, we're 30 (I know it's hard to believe when you look at how young we all are!!) and we're all really excited!
When we started out, back in June 1986 - there were just two people, our current MD, Robert Enefer and his business partner Maggie Doyle. They had one room, two desks and two phones - and that was it! Our first offices were in an old Drill Hall, a Grade I listed building called Pillory Barn.
The company soon grew, and we took on two new members of staff, quickly joined by a third; Mel Arto (or Mel Roberts as she was back in those days!). Mel has now been with us for 24 years - what she doesn't know about our industry isn't worth knowing!
We continued to grow and moved into new offices in the town centre, where we stayed for a few years - but we were soon too big and moved again into a beautiful converted town house in Lismore Road.
(We had a really deep snow fall that year as you can see!)
Lismore House was only a couple of streets back from the seafront. We occupied all four floors and had brilliant views of the annual air show Airbourne. We happily lived there for almost sixteen years.
In 2012, our Event Management department moved to the Midlands, whilst we loved being in Lismore House, with a smaller team we wanted to be more open plan - and in July 2014 we moved to where we are now, Upperton Farmhouse. We take up the first floor - and our offices are now almost entirely open plan which we love!
It's another Grade I listed building and has some fabulous history. It was one of the first farmhouses in Eastbourne, and as you can see - hasn't really changed that much - although the road outside doesn't look like that anymore!
So from small beginnings, we're now approaching our 30th birthday, in our second listed building, with a few more people. a few more phones, a few more desks - and a lot more Clients!