As students head home at the end of the University term, the Keele University Events and Conferencing (KUEC) Team reflect on how they have transferred their project management and customer service skills to support the students on Campus and head up the COVID Response Teams.
As the Meetings and Events industry continues to be challenged to host meetings and conferences, it was a natural choice for the KUEC Team back in the summer, to realign team members to be able to support the wider university for the return of the students, combined with the continued support at the frontline for students on Campus. Two key teams were created: the COVID Response Team and the COVID Secure Implementation Team.
Emma Woodcock, Head of Business Development is the lead on the establishment COVID Response Team (CRT) whose primary purpose is to manage and coordinate the data requirements to quickly identify and contain any potential COVID-19 outbreak at Keele University and ensure required actions are implemented. As CRT Manager, Emma is the main point of contact for PHE Health Protection team, in addition to Head of Health and Safety. With her team of 11 they are the key liaison across the campus for both University staff and students in addition to providing regular updates to the UAG/PSG/ASG and UE.
By contrast, the COVID Secure Implementation Team, is led by Head of Events Delivery, Kathryn Cannell, working with a team of 4 who have been instrumental in the ‘technical solutions’ to ensure a COVID secure campus, based on risk assessments and implementation of new measures such as one-way systems, requirement for face coverings, restricted access, provision of hand sanitiser stations and sanitisation kits in rooms etc. The communications campaign seeks to both inform the community about what to expect, how buildings will operate and to promote the behaviours required, and the responsibilities placed on each of us to support the safety of the whole campus community. This team manages the daily communications with students and staff alike from a central point within Chancellors Building as well as working across campus offering guidance.
The KUEC team were best positioned to lead these two important groups as they have such extensive knowledge of the buildings, utilising the facilities to manage over 1,000 events per year. In the initial lockdown back in March, the team consulted hospitality industry guidance to bring together a comprehensive document to encapsulate the key requirements to provide conference and event organisers to have confidence in Keele to deliver their events, with a team fully trained on COVID precautions.
The past few weeks have had the teams leading the asymptomatic testing of students before heading home for the Christmas break, and once again will welcome students back onto campus in the New Year. This was a massive event to lead with 8 days to deliver, reminding the team of their strengths in event management through to successful event delivery.
Alongside their COVID delivery project, 4 team members have continued to work with clients planning events in 2021 and beyond, to ensure a strong sales pipeline for KUEC when the events business returns to the Campus. The team have been innovative and creative during 2020 to bring a range of hybrid packages, new delegate packages as well as working with the team at the Courtyard by Marriott Keele which is due to open in February 2021. The team have worked with their two key consortiums Academic Venue Solutions and Venues of Excellence, who have provided exceptional COVID resources through 2020, alongside webinars enabling the team to gain insight from leading industry experts on how the conference and events sector will shape itself in the future.
Commenting on 2020 for KUEC, Emma Woodcock said; “I am so proud of the team for what we have achieved. This has been unprecedented times, but the team came back from furlough ready to face their new challenges, embraced change and have supported Kathryn and I to deliver our COVID Response teams. The success of the COVID project is tantamount to the exceptional individuals we have, their skills, experience and commitment to the business. Team members will continue to work throughout the festive period to support students who are remaining on campus, providing help and assistance if required. Despite the unusual circumstances of its creation, it is fantastic to work with such a broad range of colleagues across the University to utilise our wide range of skills in order to ensure the safety of the Keele community.
Looking forward to 2021, we will continue to support the University and will welcome getting back to ‘our day jobs’ delivering outstanding meetings, events and conferencing at one of the UK’s leading academic venues.”