We’re celebrating our thirtieth year at etc.venues which makes it the perfect occasion to talk to some of the extraordinary people who’ve helped shape our business; people like Fiona Macpherson, Vice President of Sales and Business Development.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was brought up in ‘sunny Sunderland’, North East England. I’m one of four children and I’ve always had a passion for dancing and running. In fact, when I was at school, I used to run for Durham County (North of England) and I once competed against British Olympic athlete, Jessica Ennis, who only just pipped me to the finishing line!
I went to university in Leeds where I studied French, Italian and Public Relations. As part of my degree I lived in Brussels, Belgium for a year and met quite a few Americans which sparked an interest in the US. So, for my 22nd birthday, I visited Miami and I adored it!
After leaving uni, I secured an internship as a PA for an executive search recruitment agency in New York. That is when I truly fell in love with New York City - I loved the energy and, most of all, I loved the people. Unfortunately, the crash happened and that meant I had to return to the UK where I landed a role as a Meetings and Events manager in an Edinburgh hotel. I liked Scotland but it wasn’t New York which is where my heart was.
How long have you worked at etc.venues?
Just over nine years. I started just a couple of days after my birthday. The company was recommended to me by a friend who used to work with etc.venues as a client. My first interview was with Guy Booth. He kept firing loads of questions at me and by the end of it I was convinced that he didn’t like me! So, I was surprised to be invited back in for a second interview. Now I know Guy and etc.venues, I think his style of interviewing was to test how quickly and creatively I could think on my feet which are important attributes when you’re working in the events industry.
What appealed to you about the company?
Well, up until then, I’d only worked in traditional hotels which are rarely set up for business conferences, they are generally designed to cater for leisure guests. If a client wanted a projector, it would be physically wheeled in and I couldn’t look at another white boxed table cloth! Whereas etc.venues is so modern. Everything is built-in and thought through.
Being in sales development, I have to believe in what I’m selling, so working here was and is a dream. What I love most is opening new venues. St Paul’s was my first, then 155 Bishopsgate, followed by County Hall and, more recently, I was part of the opening team at 360 Madison Avenue, New York.
How have New Yorkers reacted to our offering?
New York planners love our Day Delegate Package and how much is included. They also love the amount of daylight in our venues. So many of them are used to dimly lit hotel ballrooms which, typically, tend to be underground. They’re not used to vibrant, built-for-purpose meeting and event space like ours – so I get really excited when I see them get excited! They’re also surprised at how responsive we are. Everything is ‘yes’… we are so flexible compared to the hotels they’ve been used to which are so constrained.
That’s something we’re asked a lot, especially at trade shows. For the time being, we see ourselves establishing our brand footprint in New York. We’ve successfully launched our meeting and event venues at 360 Madison Avenue and 601 Lexington Avenue and we’re now close to securing a third… watch this space!
What do you think of New Yorkers?
A recent experience of mine sums them up perfectly and will give you an insight as to why I love being here. I’m not a huge fan of networking. I find the whole process a bit awkward and uncomfortable (I know if you know me this sounds crazy) but when I attend NYC networking events, it’s so different! New Yorkers love to chat and make conversation. I’ve been received with open arms… maybe it’s my British accent? Whatever it is, it makes it so much more fun!
What’s your proudest moment so far?
Hands down opening 360 Madison Avenue….the second time round! I was proud first time but I think so much has happened since January 2020 that I feel like 2022 is our real opening year here. Even though I didn’t physically build or design the space, I feel like it’s my baby and I am so happy and proud to show off the space. I feel proud of my team who have worked tirelessly to promote the venue, my colleagues who did actually design the space and make our jobs that bit easier and the operations team who make the clients’ experience at 360 Madison Avenue and 601 Lexington Avenue one they won’t forget.
If you’ve been inspired by this article, you can read more about our people and how they’ve helped shape our brand over the past 30 years here.