Much more than just talking shops
Party conferences: big events to organise - and big business is there
Sunday 12 October 1997
Each of the major political parties - even the Green Party - has established a separate organisation to run the party conference. CCO Conferences Ltd, standing for Conservative Central Office, runs not only the annual conference, held this year in Blackpool, but other party events as well.
It is a formidable task to organise a political conference. CCO has to sell space on 100 exhibition stands, accredit 11,000 delegates and other visitors, arrange accommodation for 600 senior party officials, and cater for international media visitors, not just by hosting a press centre but also by organising broadcast centres and editing suites. It also produces a handbook for the conference containing details of the main conference speeches and the plethora of fringe events.
But the most difficult challenge, and the biggest difference from most other conferences, especially since the bombing of Brighton's Grand Hotel in 1984, is security. "The security is massive, it is like an island site around the conference," says Sarah Pilch, in charge of marketing for CCO Conferences. "Everything from florist deliveries to every courier who arrives has to be checked."
CCO has a permanent staff of six but employs hundreds more in conference week. It has already sold much of next year's exhibition space to this year's exhibitors. The commercial stands make the party's conferences, like Labour's, self-financing.
Many of the top 100 firms attend each conference. Eurostar had exhibitions at the Labour and Conservative events. "We are getting our name up," says a spokesman. "Our parent company is raising a large amount of money, and getting political support for that is very important. We can answer questions about our service, and the new high speed line."
The events are equally useful for pressure groups. Shelter, the housing charity, had stands at all three this year. Standing out from the other exhibitors can help an organisation get the most benefit. "We have an interactive exhibition that looks like a spaceship, with a control panel with lights," says Olly Grender of Shelter. "You are asked to say how much the cost of housing benefit has increased by, and it lights up when you get the answer right, which means that lots of people visit to play the game, and then learn about the issue.
"Dinners are also an important way of meeting people, as are fringe meetings, which we have had at all the party conferences. And we are approached by companies that want to give Shelter money."
The benefits of attending conferences are so great that exhibitors need to book early. Tesco, for instance, had a stand at the Conservative conference, but found all the space at Labour's had been fully booked months beforehand.
Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientists who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 3 Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
- 4 Meet Thea, Norway's 12-year-old child bride
- 5 Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans
Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Olympic star must serve 10 years, prosecutor urges
Isis fighters 'crucify' 17-year-old boy in Syria
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
iJobs Money & Business
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...
£50000 - £55000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Relationship M...
Highly Attractive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - BRILLIANT FIRM - You wil...