Writing this listening to the wind and rain makes being in sunny Portugal only 3 weeks ago seem hard to believe.
The event was a 4 night long overseas conference for over 300 guests and we were lucky enough to have exclusive use of the gorgeous 5* Anantara Hotel for the whole week, which was a huge plus for many reasons: Firstly, we were able to brand the entire hotel exactly how the client wanted, we had the complete focus of the hotel staff, and last but not least it removed the risk of me offering drinks and directions to the conference centre to any confused members of the public trying to enjoy their summer holiday!
After the first full day of business sessions, we travelled to Quinta de Lago, home of Bovino Steakhouse for our first external dinner of the week.
As our client is in the food and drink industry, we always stress the importance of the food quality to all our venues and suppliers during all site inspections and discussions leading up to the event. The advantage and luxury of working with a client over the years is knowing exactly what they are looking for and what they prioritise, enabling us to deliver on things before they even had to request them.
Following our meal at Bovino, I had a number of guests tell me that it was the best food they had ever had on any conference. Success. It takes a good chef to cook a perfect steak, it takes a brilliant chef to cook 300 perfect steaks.
The journey home from Bovino is an example of one of those times where no matter how meticulously you plan something, sometimes things happen that you have no control of whatsoever. Two of our coaches were pulled over by the police for random searches and did not make it back to the hotel until the early hours of the morning.
This was obviously a nightmare for those desperate to get to bed after a busy day and a very big meal, but even more of a tragedy for those excited to get to our exclusive EMO bar, home of our amazing resident band. Having the same band for all 4 nights of the conference worked brilliantly and the client has already requested they are used in the same way for 2020’s overseas conference!
The next day was my favourite of the whole event. After a morning of business sessions, the guests had the choice of an afternoon at leisure in the hotel and surrounding area, or joining the golf tournament or catamaran excursion we had organised.
I have to admit, I personally have zero interest in golf, but even I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning Victoria golf course overlooked by our hotel and where our tournament took place. The same course is to be used for the Portuguese Masters later in October, so it was a really exciting place for our golf loving guests to play.
Now obviously somebody had to endure the gruelling task of accompanying the guests on the catamaran in the beautiful Portuguese sunshine, so selflessly I volunteered my services.
Guests enjoyed beer and Sangria from the open bar and our incredible photographer brought his drone to get footage of those who were diving into the sea off of the boat. Spontaneous karaoke in the coach back to the hotel was proof enough that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed having an afternoon to let their hair down.
That evening was our second and final dinner around the Palms Pool area in the Anantara, which had been decorated spectacularly. It was another evening of incredible food, great music and priceless networking opportunities for our guests as they mingled with some of the most influential people in their industry.
The final day of the conference was concluded by the reveal video for the location of next year’s conference followed by a few hours of chill and getting ready time before the Gala Dinner. Obviously, the evening had to live up to its title, which is tricky considering the guests had been having beautiful food in beautiful surroundings, enjoying the best of what Portugal had to offer every other night, so we had to make sure to do one better.
We decided to bring some of the best of what the UK has to offer to Portugal and we did this in the form of West End performers performing a bespoke performance of the songs from The Greatest Showman, alongside professional acrobats to create a magical and entirely exclusive performance performed in 3 sets between courses.
This sort of entertainment takes a huge amount of work to bring together – from choosing the right show to match the feel of the venue, to sourcing top quality performers all available for a week long intensive rehearsal in the UK, to risk assessing the use of pyrotechnics!
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better first event. We had engineered a week that was not only an invaluable business and networking opportunity but was enjoyable, memorable, and proof of the magic that bringing groups of individuals together can and should be.
Departures day as the guests were leaving... Believe it or not I am not joking, or being lazy/rude. I was really taken aback by how many of the guests toom the time to find me to thank me for the week and to say a genuine heart felt goodbye – for me, that was proof that I had done myself proud and had made the sort of impact I was hoping to.
Always thinking a few hours ahead. No matter what was going on in the moment, what was happening later that day already needed attention and consideration.
What I have learnt
You are never ever going to be able to please every single person with every single decision that is made. But most people will always appreciate you putting the effort in – it is always worth trying to go above and beyond, you won’t always manage what you wanted, but people will always appreciate the attempt.