Events are dead. Meaningful experiences, on the other hand, are kicking and screaming their way into our collective psyche because an event is no longer even an event if it doesn't excite everyone who's there whilst simultaneously pissing off those who couldn't be there. Or, even better, those that weren't invited in the first place. Remember, what happens at a great event, stays on Facebook. That's the dream anyway.
Everyone wants to make their event bigger, better, faster and more conspicuous than everyone else's and people used to be sold on the somewhat wishy-washy notion of 'creativity'. The problem is, everyone's creative these days and it's becoming a bit annoying!
So, we've established that an aesthetic venue, fancy, plentiful and delicious bowl food, and a great entertainment act, even when they're combined with an efficient cloakroom and really clean loos aren't enough as individual ingredients for a successful event. No, however meticulous you are, it all amounts to nothing without a dash of magic.
The essence of a magical event is in its fabric, it's DNA - the collective air of excitement it conjures up as soon as the email invitation drops. And that's rare. But not impossible.
Taking things completely out of context (in a good way) is a great start. Taking your guests out of town is a an even greater start. For lots of reasons. Firstly, the cliché that 'it's all about the simple things in life' is only a cliché because it's absolutely right. A change of scene (or even better, a change of scenery) is instantly stimulating. An alien location (again, in a good way) is the perfect way to subconsciously engage, even entice your target audience. Bombarding their senses, heightening their awareness of their new found surroundings and enabling them to bask in the sheer different-ness of it all!
It's clinically proven (probably) that taking your guests on a journey (metaphorically or up the M40 (not a euphemism)) contributes to a heightened sense of enthusiasm, expectation, captivation and, above all else, good old fashioned adventure! Once they're on that train, bus, plane, helicopter, rickshaw, broomstick or unicorn, they're sold on your magical mystery tour.
Just make damn sure it's amazing when you get there!
And, just like that, with wanderlust suitably inseminated, here are our top ten great reasons to get outta town:
1. Cliveden House. This majestic, quintessentially British Berkshire icon, set in 376 acres, is a magnificent events destination that oozes grandeur from the moment your guests receive their invitation! It is said that nobody could resist the lure of Cliveden from Churchill to Chaplin and that fortunes have been made, plots hatched and history changed at this recently restored and impeccably run Country House hotel.
2. Osea Island. Imagine discovering a secret Island in the beautiful Blackwater Estuary, where your guests arrive by boat and are taken back in time almost a hundred years to a beautifully maintained colonial style village and magnificent beach-front Manor House complete with its own salt water swimming pool, filled by the tide! There's a brand new state of the art conference centre too, aptly named 'The Bomb Factory' as it used to be a WW2 American torpedo base. You're a million miles away, just beyond the M25 - it's unbelievable!
3. Alladale Wilderness Reserve. An oasis of tranquility, set in the the heart of the majestic rolling Scottish Higlands, Alladale is a truly magical location which will ensure that your delegates (really) get away from it all in awe-inspiring style. It's breathtakingly beautiful setting is matched by its luxurious infrastructure and accommodation from the imposing Victorian Manor House, complete with billiards room and roaring fires to the Eagle's Crag farmhouse set deep in the magnificent and rugged valley and, perhaps the ultimate Highland retreat, the tranquil Ghillie's rest. Of course, a wide variety of activities are on offer from mountain biking and fishing to 4x4 safaris and clay pigeon shooting. Another world.
4. Center Parcs Woburn. If it's a secluded world class conference centre set in a magical forest with engaging group activities you're after then a quick trip up the M1 to Bedfordshire (not the metaphorical one!) is the answer! With facilities and accommodation for up to 600 delegates and tailored team-building packages to enthral and inspire even the most adventurous amongst us, Center Parcs Woburn forest will have you instantly immersed and utterly captivated from the awesome Aerial Adventure to the totally cool tropical pool (Paradise didn't rhyme with 'cool'!)
5. Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa. Widely recognised as one of the UK's finest getaways, Chewton Glen is a luxury country house hotel on the edge of the New Forest National Park and just a few minutes walk from the sea! It's won countless awards and it's no coincidence that every time I go, there's a gaggle of A-listers in residence - from Chris Evans to James Martin (in his beautiful vintage Ferrari). Their tree house suites are nothing short of spellbinding and there's so much for corporate groups to do on site - from team-building in the stunning grounds to woodland adventures and water-based activities on the Solent. All just two hours from Central London...
6. Harrow School. Iconic, magnificent, internationally renowned and brimming with history, Harrow School is a wonderful location, just ten miles outside London, for a truly different and insatiably inspiring event. From the majestic speech room, in the round, to the beautifully appointed Alex Fitch room (where the candle underneath the portrait of the nineteen year old First World War casualty never goes out), Harrow is a real life Hogwarts with the 'Giants of Old' literally inscribed on the walls. From Lord Byron to Winston Churchill, they're all still there....
7. Blenheim Palace. As one of our finest Country Houses and estates, Blenheim is lavishly elegant and totally unforgettable. With its majestic sweeping carriage-way and awe-inspiring Capability Brown parkland, this stunningly beautiful setting will take anyone's breath away. As the new home of the Salon Privé Supercar Show along with concerts, events, weddings, dinners and countless TV and movie appearances, Blenheim Palace is surprisingly accessible as the current Duke of Marlborough welcomes guests into his Great Hall and Long Library for the UK's most stately evening receptions! With loads of corporate away-day options in the Palace Grounds, Belnheim is the ideal country escape for team building in style. Just an hour and a half from London too (or a mere 30 minutes by helicopter, where budgets allow!)
8. West Wycombe Park. As a working estate and as the day to day home of the magnificently named Sir Edward Dashwood and his lovely family, West Wycombe Park is a unique stately home which is exactly as it was generations ago - completely authentic and un-institutionalised. As the film location for the 'below stairs' scenes in Downton Abbey, the House is magnificent and the grounds even more so! What's more, Sir Edward is very accommodating - he once told me that I could paint his house pink if I wanted to. Just as long as it wasn't pink the next morning! Their E.J Curchill Shooting School is one of the best in the world too and a mesmerisingly exciting team-building day out 'smashing plastic' on their clay pigeon drives. You don't have to have shot before and you can even wear hot pants. If you want to!
9. Nazeing Park. As London's latest 'Stately home in miniature' Nazeing Park is a magnificent country residence, set in rolling parkland, just beyond the end of the Central Line! With a wonderful former ménage as an ideal marquee site, excellent transport links and a gloriously eccentric classical house filled with authentic and antique circus memorabilia, Nazeing Park is a magical place that your delegates are unlikely to have ever even heard of - and that's a great thing. A secret out of town events destination, hiding in plain sight...
10. Warner Bros Studio Tour. Ok, so if it's magic you're looking for, then you'll be hard pressed to beat this! The only way this place could be any cooler is if your delegates could get there via actual King's Cross station. It's almost inevitable that at least one of your guests will go to platform 9 and try running through the wall...! Once there though, prepare for all your delegates to magically become twelve years old again. In a good way. They'll be able to marvel at the magic behind the movies and explore the sets from Diagon Alley to Hogwarts itself. There's lots of interactive fun too, of course, and a unique opportunity to cast a lasting spell over your guests...
11. Powderham Castle. As one of the last Great Houses to still be occupied by the original family who built it, in this case the Earls of Devon (six hundred years and counting), Powderham is stuffed with amazing history and tantalising stories of stately debauchery (one ancestor is alleged to be buried in the same coffin as a King in Westminster Abbey as they were gay lovers, for example!) and is available for a wide variety of corporate events. Set in three thousand magnificent acres, Powederham has recently been taken over by the latest generation of the Courtenay family (Charlie being the 19th Earl) and is a classic example of a modern Stately Home, offering access on an unprecedented level, whether it's a rock concert (Muse recently did a gig there), a conference, or activity days...The family are happy to give historical tours too...
Check out our out of town venue section and go somewhere magical in 2016...