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Spotlight Blog Interview: Samme Allen, Chairman of Judges for CHS Awards 2018

We are counting down the days until the annual CHS Awards on the 31st of May in Manchester.

Now in its fourth year, the glittering awards ceremony is a fun-filled evening celebrating the best of the UK’s hotels, venues and event suppliers.

The CHS Awards 2018 are judged by an independent panel of over 70 senior event professionals from leading agencies through the UK.

We are delighted to announce our newly appointed Chairman, the wonderful Samme Allen, the Managing Director of Sequoia Venue Solutions. With an impressive background in the events industry, Samme is dedicated to helping unique and unusual venues grow their venue.

We had a chat with Samme Allen about what she’s most looking forward to this year at the CHS Awards 2018. Samme gives her take on why every venue, hotel and event supplier will benefit from entering the awards.

Read on to hear what Samme Allen has to say.

What is your background in the events industry?

I’ve been in the events industry for the past 18 years. I worked as an event planner over in Hong Kong. I worked for an association called the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association and the Chamber of Commerce of China. That’s how it used to be to fall into these things. You never had events management degrees. I did do a degree in Hospitality Management but I fell into events over there, came back to the UK and since 2009 I’ve been working in the venue world.

I’ve been Head of Sales for the Barbican Centre in London and the Twickenham Stadium. My last permanent role before I set up my business was the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre which is now the SCC and I started my own venue management consultancy in April 2016.

What attracted you to judge at these awards?

My company works at venues that are often overlooked when it comes to the traditional awards programs. A couple of reasons why – quite often the categories either don’t fit, they’re quite costly to enter and might I say, sometimes they don’t spend enough on advertising with certain organisations. So I feel that in terms of some of the independent and unique venues that we work with, from a Sequoia Venue Solutions point of view, the CHS Awards are open for all.

Lots of venues that have got marketing budget often use outside support, which is great to help write their submission. But I think that because of the type of submission that you [CHS Awards] do and the fact that’s it’s free, I think that those venues that have the real passion and commitment to service their clients that aren’t recognised elsewhere can be recognised and promoted with CHS. This drives excellence and promotes these types of venues and organisations.

You and your fellow judges have the task of choosing the winners. What would be your top tips to potential awards entrants?

Number one – be concise. It’s really important. Please don’t use jargon. Do not assume that all judges will understand or appreciate acronyms. We’ve got far too many acronyms in our industry and we all assume that we know what’s happening with those but with the variety and the breadth of our judging panels, we need to ensure that there isn’t jargon being used.

Number two – really important that any awards entrants demonstrate return on investment from a client perspective. How did the venue or supplier support the client’s objectives in terms of that event? How did delegates think, feel and behave after being in the venue and having the experience of the venue and lastly, having in your head the whole time what demonstrates that success that you want to share with the judges. Please make sure you’ve got evidence that backs up what you’re trying to say in terms of how well you’ve had success with your venue.

What advice would you give to any new judges joining us this year?

From all the judging that I have done, read all the submissions before you start judging because they will vary in how the content is written and how much content there is. I’ve found that in the past where I thought I could start judging on one first submission, I can’t. Read everything before beginning to think about judging and then read again with your judging criteria.

Make sure that you understand and you’ve got those clear objectives for scoring and don’t be swayed by overproduced submissions. Lots of people can put lots of pretty things in but actually make sure that you’re looking for that real content and that return on investment for the venues and the organisations.
Things to think about, what is demonstrating success in that category? And I suppose a really good benchmark for any judge is, could you as a judge explain to somebody on the street why you chose that particular winner? If you could just go out and say the reason why I chose this venue to Joe Bloggs on the street and you can demonstrate why then you’ve obviously got it right in terms of judging.

What do you think are the biggest benefits about entering the CHS awards for all the venues, hotels and event suppliers out there?

Three things – number one is the variety of the categories for venues, hotels and event suppliers. Very different types of venues, different types of spaces. I think that they’ve got something for everyone in these awards, which is something that I am really lucky to promote to my venue clients.

Secondly, it’s free to apply. You’ve got nothing to lose for putting in a submission. Quite often people get swayed by the fact that it’s very costly or that there is a cost to writing an awards entry. Do it! You’ve the opportunity. Have a look at the categories and just do it.

And the last and probably the most important reason why and the biggest benefit is the high calibre of judges. To put your organisation, whether you’re a hotel, venue or events supplier, to put your organisation in front of these people is incredible. To look at it from a business development point of view, you can try and get an appointment to present your product, your service, your venue with these agents and buyers, but you’d be spending five years doing it, so I think it’s a huge opportunity for venues to be able to promote themselves with such a high calibre group of people.

If you are interested in attending or sponsoring the CHS Awards 2018, please visit: https://www.chsawards2018.com.

Samme Allen CHS2018