Conference and Banqueting Assistant/Manager

The Job and What's Involved

A conference and banqueting assistant/manager organises and runs:

Private functions: such as weddings, parties, dinners and dances.

Business functions: such as presentations, exhibitions, training events, conferences, sales promotions and product launches.

Their tasks are likely to include:

  • Planning marketing strategies for a conference facility.
  • Planning each event to meet customer requirements.
  • Selecting venues, quoting prices and taking bookings.
  • Organising room layouts, equipment, menus and timetables.
  • Making sure that events run smoothly, dealing with any problems or last minute changes.
  • Liaising with other staff, such as catering and guest services.
  • Managing budgets and sales targets.
  • Recruiting permanent and temporary staff.

Assistants and managers may need to plan a number of different functions at the same time.

Assistants often help to welcome guests and delegates, set up and take down tables and equipment, or serve food and drink on the day. They may also set up or operate different types of equipment used for conferences, such as audio-visual systems.

Conference and banqueting staff usually work 40 hours a week. Much of their working time is likely to be based on a rota, covering evenings and weekends. Early starts and late finishes may be necessary on the day of an event.

Conference and banqueting staff usually work in a suite attached to a hotel, resort, restaurant or stately home, or in a purpose-built conference centre. Functions can be held in all sorts of venues, from golf courses and health spas to universities and on board ships.

They may occasionally have to travel to meetings with clients or suppliers, which could involve overnight stays.

The starting salary for a conference and banqueting assistant may be around £13,000 a year. Uniforms may be provided.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The conference and banqueting industry is a growing area. There are over 12,500 conference managers employed throughout the UK. They can be based in business centres, contract catering companies, leisure facilities, pubs and restaurants, as well as hotels. Specialised events management companies also exist.

There are more opportunities in city centre venues. Temporary and contract vacancies are common, particularly to cover major events.

Jobs are advertised in trade magazines, such as Caterer and Hotelkeeper and Conference & Incentive Travel, and Jobcentre Plus offices, and on specialist recruitment websites. Jobs may also be advertised in national and local newspapers, and there are a large number of recruitment agencies that deal with catering work.

Education and Training

A wide variety of hospitality qualifications are accepted, but these are often regarded as useful rather than essential. Employers almost always require previous experience in the hospitality industry.

It is possible to move into conference and banqueting after gaining experience in a junior role within a hotel or conference facility. This could include serving food and beverages, an administrative post, or a sales or marketing role.

Foundation degree, HNC/HND, degree and postgraduate qualifications in events and conference management, and similar subjects, are available at several universities across the UK. Many new entrants to conference and banqueting management have a relevant HNC/HND or degree.

Entry to a degree is usually with a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. Entry to Foundation degree and HNC/HND courses is usually with one A level/two or three H grades, or a BTEC national diploma/certificate in a relevant subject.

Apprenticeships in Hospitality may also be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job. It usually includes health and safety regulations, and first aid procedures. Entrants begin by working under the supervision of experienced colleagues on small events.

Entrants may work towards a variety of qualifications, including:

  • Institute of Hospitality Awarding Body Business Skills Certificate (Level 2) and Certificate/Diploma in Management (Levels 3 and 4) for Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism.
  • BTEC National Award in Hospitality at Level 3.
  • SQA HNC/HND in Conference and Event Management.
  • Marketing qualifications offered by various professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A conference and banqueting assistant/manager needs to be:

  • Good at solving problems.
  • A skilled communicator and negotiator.
  • A good salesperson.
  • Good at looking after fine details.
  • Able to delegate.
  • Good at managing and training people.
  • Able to cope under pressure.
  • Quick thinking.
  • Able to do several things at once.
  • Good at presentations.
  • Financially aware and computer literate.
  • Flexible and creative.

Your Long Term Prospects

Conference and banqueting managers may gain promotion to general posts in hotel and leisure management, or specialised posts such as food and beverages manager. It may be possible to move into freelance work.

It is also possible to move into areas such as events or facilities management, training and consultancy, marketing or public relations.

There may be opportunities to work overseas.

Get Further Information

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500
Website: www.cim.co.uk

Institute of Hospitality, Trinity Court,
34 West Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1SH
Tel: 020 8661 4900
Website: www.instituteofhospitality.org

People 1st, Second Floor,
Armstrong House, 38 Market Square, Uxbridge UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
Website: www.people1st.co.uk

Springboard UK Limited,
3 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LP
Tel: 020 395 9497
Website: www.springboarduk.org.uk

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