29th May 2008
As with most areas of business and the property sector, when it comes to hosting a successful conference, the importance of location can never be underestimated.
Not for nothing is London labelled the "conference capital of the world", with thousands of business leaders and industry experts converging amid the seats of power and financial powerhouses of Europe each and every day, whether to map out their plans for the future or provide the latest training to their employees.
While not the geographic centre of the country, the capital is undoubtedly its business heart and easily accessible from all areas of the UK.
To date some £12 billion has been spent upgrading the east coast mainline railway link alone, with further work expected to be rolled out over the coming years, making for swift and easy access to the city from the Midlands and the north of the country in addition to the long-established links to the West.
However, with business becoming increasingly globalised, it is London's international connections that allow the city to truly stand apart from its rivals on the conferencing map.
Opened last year, the Channel Tunnel rail link to the centrally-located St Pancras station, has cut the journey time between London and Paris to as little as two hours and 15 minutes, while delegates can reach a conference in the city from the European political nerve-centre of Brussels in around one hour 50 minutes.
Furthermore, London's bustling airports, Gatwick, Heathrow and, to a lesser extent Stansted and Luton, welcome millions of domestic and international business travellers every month, with excellent shuttle links round-the-clock to the centre for those not attending an event in one of the specially-built venues in the suburbs.
It could be easy to claim that, in the age of video-conferencing and as businesses look to reduce their carbon footprints and operating overheads, conference organisers should begin to look away from the capital for future events.
Certainly, cities such as Birmingham and Manchester now offer excellent state-of-the-art conferencing facilities for significantly less, while Newcastle or Edinburgh may be the preferred of choice for delegates or employees based in the north or Scotland.
However, such an argument overlooks the two things London offers conference organisers and which money can't buy: a rich vein of talent and expertise and an unrivalled sense of prestige.
As well as being home to the majority of central government departments, London also boasts more than its fair share of universities, with experts carrying out cutting-edge research into all areas of business and more-often-than-not happy to contribute to training seminars or give lectures concerning their field of knowledge.
Likewise, a large proportion of trade bodies, think-tanks and employers' groups are London-based, as are most of the UK's leading researchers - indeed, just recently a number of leading publishing executives were reported to have called for the book industry's annual awards event to be moved from smaller cities such as Brighton and Newcastle in favour of the capital due to the strength of its retail sector representation.
Far harder to quantify, but nevertheless an enduring influence in conference planning, is the pull of London's rich history and global status.
Training seminars held in the shadow of Westminster or AGMs hosted in the City's Square Mile will always appeal to international delegates and more than offset the added cost of hosting an event in the capital.