Meet The Creator: Catherine Donaldson, Events Manager
14 February 2020 / Meet the Creator /
Catherine Donaldson is Senior Events Sales Team Manager at The Grove, and works on major events including last year’s NATO Leaders Meeting. With years of experience under her belt in helping clients make the most of our inspiring setting, she shares some observations, anecdotes and top tips about getting the best out of a site visit.
What are the latest innovations and trends in events?
Technology is a major part of event planning. Of course, a few clients will always prefer paper and pencil, but we’re seeing many deploy iPads for everything from registering delegates and subscribing to events, to interactive live polls and bidding in charity auctions. We’re seeing whole wall LED screens and a lot more branding.
Other trends include all-vegan menus and incorporating activities to keep delegates energised in a new focus on health and fitness. We’re organising HIIT workouts, morning walks and runs, Segway trips through the woodland and team events in the lower meadow. There’s also tennis classes and volleyball, too, it’s where our 300-acre country estate comes into its own, we encourage alfresco fitness.
Which past weird and wonderful events at The Grove stand out for you?
The NATO Leaders Meeting was amazing, hosting world leaders, delegates and up to 900 press – there were around 1,800 people in all. The event was focused on the Walled Garden, while the entire hotel and grounds was locked down for security. It was a massive three-day operation, mobilising all our staff.
As for other events, sometimes entertainment can be very unique! We’ve seen singing waiters, rooms turned into ten pin bowling lanes and crazy golf courses, gin bars and wine tastings. The key thing for us as event planners is liaising closely with external suppliers to ensure that everything runs like clockwork.
The Grove in itself is a surprising place to be – you’ll often spot celebrities on the golf course.
Have you ever had to say no?
As a 5 star hotel, we need to look at all areas that could be impacted by an event and ensure all of our guests experiences are long lasting. There may be some occasions where we have to say ‘no’ if the impact was going to be detrimental to other guests, i.e. noise from entertainment disrupting residents. We always try to find the best solution.
What ‘wows’ clients to make them book The Grove?
Definitely the natural daylight that we have in all our event spaces. Many venues in London offer event spaces underground or with paltry windows, whereas here your delegates can enjoy plenty of daylight, beautiful views and fresh air. It’s also a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of London, even though it’s just a short commute by train and close to the airports.
What advice would you give to a potential booker when visiting The Grove?
Know your budget and map out in your mind what you want to get from The Grove and your event. For example, do you want a wow factor or do you want to make the most of natural surroundings? Do you need AV, big sets and screens? Come with a sense of how the event is going to run on the day. This way, we can propose different solutions to meet your needs, which you may not have considered before.
Orientate yourself regarding the hotel and estate layout and consider check in times, so you can plan the timings of your event to create the best experience for delegates. I recommend you leave your site visit with a clear understanding of what’s included and what we need to add to make your event a success.
What are the top 5 things on an event planner’s checklist?
- my client’s agenda
- final numbers
- catering requirements
- entertainment and themes
- what the client really needs from me to make their event a success. For example, for some clients it’s very important to serve a particular table or VIP first, but for others it’s crucial to treat everyone as the same and serve everyone at the same time.