The Meet Cambridge team with keynote speaker Natalia Cohen, left to right: Judith Sloane, Laura Worsley, Natalia Cohen, Kelly Vickers, Leah Gibson, Jo Olivey and Anita Macdonald.

One hundred meetings professionals were given a unique insight into how to elevate their events to exceptional experiences at a one-day showcase held recently.

Organised by Meet Cambridge, the official free venue-finding bureau for meetings and events in Cambridge and beyond, the day was held at Jesus College’s new West Court conference facilities and comprised a packed programme of activities – and some surprises.

A drinks reception was held the evening before at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus Conference Centre to showcase venues ‘beyond’ the city.

After enjoying breakfast canapés served in West Court’s new Dining Room and refurbished Webb Library, delegates were the first to experience the new Auditorium to hear keynote speaker Natalia Cohen who was part of an all-female team to row across the Pacific Ocean and set two new world records.

Describing how often 1,000 miles from land, they encountered adverse weather conditions and extremely cramped living and sleeping conditions, surviving on a 90-minute sleep pattern, Natalia demonstrated the strength of positive thinking and teamwork to overcome challenges – and the importance of enjoying the journey. All of this related back to creating exceptional experiences from which we can learn, be motivated and inspired.

A panel Q&A session followed, led by event professional Richard John who explored what makes an exceptional event with four specialists: Emma Thornton, VisitCambridge & Beyond; Jonathan Brech, Cambridge Network/Cambridge Ahead; Rose Padmore, ABPCO and Ben Cole, Inspired.

Delegates then divided into eight groups – coded by the names of famous Cambridge alumni – to enjoy a walking tour led by a Blue Badge Guide to their surprise destination for lunch. Eight venues from the Meet Cambridge portfolio provided a two-course lunch at which there was a prize draw to win ‘an exceptional experience’.

Kelly Vickers, Director of Meet Cambridge said: “This was our most ambitious showcase event to date and with the title of ‘Exceptional Experiences’, we really had to live up to the title! Feedback from the meetings professionals who attended has been very positive indeed and we are extremely grateful to a huge and supportive team who made it possible. These include Jesus College for hosting the day, the Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre, Natalia Cohen for being truly inspirational, Richard John who led the panel discussion, our panellists, the guides and the eight venues who really pulled out the stops to provide our delegates with a memorable lunch.”

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