Event and centre management is a popular and competitive field so work experience in the hotel, catering or travel industry is essential

In this role you'll be responsible for the day-to-day management of a conference centre. This includes managing all staff and centre services such as:

  • accommodation
  • catering
  • finances
  • marketing, advertising and PR
  • reception/front of house
  • sales.

Depending on the size, location and range of services offered, you'll lead the business by coordinating the involvement of the business's operational management team, such as the catering manager and accommodation manager. Or, if it is a smaller centre, you may subcontract services, such as catering and entertainment, out.

You'll ensure that all services provided meet the clients' needs and events are run efficiently, which may require liaising with an event organiser.

You must strike a balance between customer satisfaction and effective business management, which often means dealing with last-minute changes or solving problems as they arise.

It is also your responsibility to develop the business by effectively planning ahead, managing future sales/marketing and budgeting efficiently to maximise income generated.

Responsibilities

As a conference centre manager, you'll need to:

  • communicate daily with the management team, planning work schedules and checking client requirements
  • deal with customer complaints, comments and enquiries
  • ensure all events run smoothly
  • manage budgets and financial plans
  • take responsibility for the recruitment, training, organisation and monitoring of staff
  • supervise maintenance, supplies and equipment
  • achieve profit targets
  • take responsibility for the sales and marketing of the conference centre, including pricing, promotions and promotional materials, image and brand and profile
  • lead by example in maintaining service standards
  • apply current legal and in-house HR procedures to ensure the retention of good staff and the provision of high-quality services
  • research markets to identify new business
  • negotiate with external service providers and suppliers as required
  • purchase equipment necessary for the conference centre to operate
  • ensure compliance with health and safety, licensing laws and other legal regulations
  • carry out day-to-day troubleshooting and address problems as they arise.

Salary

  • You are likely to enter this career as an assistant manager, with a starting salary of £20,000.
  • Typical conference centre manager starting salaries range from £25,000 to £35,000.
  • With a few years' experience, salaries tend to reach £45,000.
  • Salaries at senior level can rise to £60,000.

Salaries vary, depending on your experience and the sector and can be significantly higher if you become an experienced conference manager.

Accommodation may occasionally be offered as part of the remuneration package.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Conference centre managers regularly work unsocial hours. A shift system usually operates to ensure adequate management staffing, involving early morning starts, late night finishes and evening and weekend work.

You may have to work additional hours and be on call, in case of an emergency or urgent problem.

Part-time work is possible but career breaks are rare.

What to expect

  • The job involves both office-based administration and liaison with clients, internal and external service providers and suppliers outside the office environment.
  • Self-employment is unusual but if, as an experienced manager, you have the financial backing to open your own conference centre, it is possible.
  • Vacancies occur throughout the UK.
  • This occupation can be very stressful. Conference centre managers are expected to deal with a range of coexisting problems and meet tight deadlines to the satisfaction of clients, while paying constant attention to detail.
  • Travel within a working day and absence from home overnight are occasional. Overseas work or travel is rare.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to graduates of any discipline, a degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business and management studies
  • events management
  • hospitality management
  • international business
  • marketing
  • travel and tourism.

Entry without a degree or HND is common as many people work their way up to management through on-the-job training and external qualifications.

However, if you are a graduate with suitable skills, qualities and relevant work experience, you are likely to have an advantage.

Although postgraduate qualifications are not specifically required, a relevant course, such as those provided by the Institute of Hospitality, could be advantageous, particularly if your first degree is not connected to the hospitality industry. Search for postgraduate courses in events management and hospitality management.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • strong customer service skills
  • knowledge of sales and marketing
  • a high level of organisational and planning ability
  • budgeting experience, accountancy skills and a general financial awareness
  • team working skills, including the ability to manage and lead a team
  • ability to remain calm under pressure
  • adaptability and flexibility
  • an efficient and organised approach with excellent timekeeping skills
  • influencing and negotiation skills
  • administrative skills
  • attention to detail
  • problem-solving skills
  • IT skills
  • the ability to think on your feet and make quick decisions.

You may be required to have a full driving licence if travel during the working day is involved.

Foreign language skills may be useful, depending on the sector and employer.

Work experience

Prior work experience is essential. Most entrants have experience in the hotel, catering or travel industry, but sales, marketing and customer service experience is also valued.

Employers

Specialist conference centres are located throughout the UK. You can find a list of conference venues, searchable by region or city, at Conferences-UK.

Increasingly, many large hotels offer conference facilities in addition to their traditional business. Some chains employ a specialist conference manager. Smaller budget hotels may provide rooms for meetings.

Conference centre managers can also be found in higher education, as many universities and colleges utilise their space during vacations by hosting events. Some universities operate purpose-built conference centres throughout the year to provide a dedicated facility for external organisations.

Many large sporting venues have also diversified and are now offering conference and corporate event space and accommodation.

Look for job vacancies at:

There are a number of specialist conference agencies, which may offer job opportunities.

Recruitment agencies sometimes handle vacancies.

Professional development

Most conference centre managers will already have relevant experience in the hotel, catering or travel industry and will have moved into this role from a more junior or related position.

Your training is usually provided in-house and mostly involves on-the-job training. This enables employers to gauge the level of training required so that it can be tailored to your individual needs. You will be expected to learn from experienced colleagues and managers. External courses are also offered by private training providers.

It is important that you keep up to date with relevant skills and training. The Institute of Hospitality offers its own programme of hospitality and tourism management qualifications, which provide continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to all managers and aspiring managers in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries.

Topics covered include:

  • business management
  • financial and business planning
  • professional development.

If you have management experience, you may choose to undertake an MBA specialising in hospitality management.

Career prospects

Progress in this area is limited, as a conference centre manager tends to be the most senior role within a conference centre.

However, conference centres based within hotels will have a hotel general manager who is normally more senior than a conference centre manager.

Larger organisations or 'groups' will employ an area manager or director. There are only a few of these roles available, so competition is likely to be fierce. There is a tendency for senior management positions to be filled internally.

Self-employed consultancy work may be another option once you have gained experience.

Due to the varied nature of the work and the high level of experience gained in this role, as well as the range of transferable skills acquired, there are many opportunities to develop your career by moving into other related work.

This could be in hotel management or in other roles within the leisure and tourism sector; or in a different area such as public relations, sales, marketing, training or events management.

Membership services to conference and event organisers, including networking, events and industry information is offered by the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO).