WOW, where did the first half of 2020 go? I for one had an incredible year planned with five holidays in the Calendar and we were set to have a bumper year for Queen Mary Venues.  2020 was going to be the year, and not least because I joined the business in November ‘19 and so for me; I'd landed my dream role and was excited to hit the ground running with all that I could offer this new venture.

Now, fast-track four months on to July of 2020, one global Pandemic later, I find myself reflecting over what has been the biggest learning curve in my career, and whilst also trying to strategize what the future of events at Queen Mary looks like.

 I won’t be writing about all the measures we’re putting in place to keep you safe because as a trusted venue you know we’ve got those covered.  We’ve risk assessed every step you might take and we’ve got more hand-sani on site than you could ever need.  What I would like to share with you is my view on the bi-product this pandemic has created and how every day during the crisis my absolute focus and priority has been about people. 

Great Hall

In this disrupted landscape it is hard to define what the next 12 months will look like.  As a professional within the events industry it is my nature to plan, pre plan and prepare for the coming months.  And as much as we have all tried to keep face by displaying confidence in predicting how our  business will look in the next 12 months, the reality is, no-one is really quite sure. And so for an events professional, this is unsettling.  Your hands feel  tied as you can’t plan as normal and you’re not quite sure what to prepare for. 

What happens is that you find yourself trying to seek answers   that aren’t    yet available and running through all of the possible   scenarios that may impact you and your clients.  You’re holding off on taking leave because of international travel bans and you don’t have the social interaction and water cooler moments you would have by being in the office. You’re heading for burn-out. And so amongst all of this uncertainty one thing is certain; it has never been more important for self care and effective management of one’s own wellbeing. 

 Because the Pandemic has had huge implications on the economy we’re spending more of our time strategising on how we get through it and what the ‘other side’ will look like rather than taking stock of what today looks like. Consider this, when things are back to some form of ‘normal’, do we want to be surrounded by exhausted and drained peers, or do we want to be motivated by a revived and re-energised industry.  What I’m saying is that being busy for the sake of being busy is not the answer.


As Head of Commercial Sales it’s really important to me that my team remain relaxed, engaged and happy. And with that comes the acceptance that some days it’s ok not to be ok.  This is possibly the only time in our career that we will experience anything like this and how great would it be to look back and say that you used the time wisely. 

Our industry is built on people, relationships and hospitable experiences.  And so to give yourself the best chance of shining brightly as we ease out of the pandemic my advice would be to look after yourself and look after each other; burn bright, don’t burn out.

Personally I have to adopt more fluidity and accept that I can’t plan as I normally would.  That said, we’ve chosen to use the time to really look at our offering and our packages to make sure that we’re really giving our customers what they need when the time is right to begin hosting face-to-face events again.


WOctagon Credit Reportage Gallerye’ve revised our terms of business to give our clients the ultimate flexibility with cancellations or postponements, and we’ve considered revised venue capacities to accommodate the distancing measures.  We recognize that our guests will need more space than before to ensure compliance with social distancing and therefore we’ll be giving up to 40% extra space free of charge to support these requirements.

Our catering team has been busy writing new menus that can be served ‘bento-box’ style to mitigate multi-touch point buffets and our Head of Operations has been working closely with the technology department to maximize on the AV integration to support hybrid events.

And lastly, but most importantly, we’ve taken this time to really connect with our customers and understand how the pandemic has affected them.  It’s all very well looking after ourselves, but at the very heart of what we strive to achieve is customer service excellence and we can only deliver that if we understand the challenges that our customers are facing. 

 Whether I’m working on a strategy to navigate my team through this bumpy landscape or whether I’m consulting with my service providers on our revised operations in light of COVID-19, every decision comes back to the key focus: people. As you’re busy focusing on the future of tomorrow and how the industry will return after this interruption, be mindful not to overlook the joy of today and ensure you make some time for yourselves and each other.

We’re quick to charge up our smart phones and laptops to keep on working but don’t forget to charge up your batteries!

I’m desperately missing being on site and showing off our incredible spaces such as the  Octagon; the original library of the University, or the People’s Palace; the second largest stage in London,  but understand that to observe our social responsibility the best approach is the ‘slow and steady’ one for now.  We will meet again and when we do, it’s going to be better than ever.

  Sarah Barratt - Head of Commercial Sales Sarah Barratt


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