The Big Interview: Shaun Hinds
Manchester Central’s CEO Shaun Hinds speaks to CN about his vision for the venue 12 months into his role and how he is going about building a legacy
How did you come into the events industry?
One of my first roles working in aviation was connected quite closely to the events industry. Although over 30 years ago and only a small part of what I was doing, something stuck with me and I’ve been an enthusiast of the industry ever since.
What appeals to me is the consistent evolution of the sector. By definition, each event, conference or exhibition must be better than the last one. On each occasion it’s the industry, festival or attraction showcasing the best it’s ever been, looking forward and stimulating new ideas and learning, creating relationships, starting debates and looking ahead optimistically.
In all my prior roles I’ve been involved in the events sector in some way, either as a delegate, exhibitor or contributor. I have a genuine passion for events and it’s a privilege to be working in it. Although, as a few people have claimed, if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.
Best advice you received early in your career?
It’s the simple things which pay dividends. Probably the most useful has been to never take things for granted. To progress, to develop or to get better, you have to work at it. Regardless of what you do or how well you think you do it, things are always moving. Just because you know an industry today, does not mean you’ll know it tomorrow. Change is fast and constant and you must be agile and open-minded to keep ahead.
Can you summarise your first 12 months in the role; what have been the highlights and where have the biggest challenges lain?
I think it’s a scientific fact that time moves faster the older you get. Certainly, this year has flown by. Joining the business in 2017 was well-timed as we celebrated our 10th anniversary. The activity leading up to our #MC10 party gave me a real insight into how the business has changed in the last decade. In addition, it was a party conference year when our venue effectively turns into the seat of government for five days.
What stood out for me was the business as usual approach that my team adopted even in the highest profile of events. The phrase, ‘It’s just what we do’ was the mantra and I was incredibly proud of how the city, the venue and my team delivered that globally-covered event. Even if we did have a little unwanted excitement on the final day!
During the year we’ve also undertaken a strategic review of the business to help us with our long-term planning. We are a unique venue in many ways and we serve a purpose more than just as a convention centre. As well as being a landmark in Manchester, we represent the city on the world stage and it’s been great to get involved in some of those international discussions about the events we can bring to Manchester and the North West. From our review, we’ve identified a range of different growth options which I’ll be focusing on in the next 12 months.
What can the meetings industry do better?
As I mentioned before, the industry is built on doing better. This year’s event must be better than last years, and so on. There are some things that will continue to improve whether it’s sustainability or digital experience, I expect these to be the things we just get on with.
One thing that gets me animated is promoting the many virtues of a career in the events industry and encouraging young people to look at the sector as a positive career choice rather than something you do while you find something else.
There are no barriers to progression in our industry if you have the right attitude. There are some seismic shifts occurring in traditional employment sectors and I’m optimistic that events and hospitality will shine through as progressive and rewarding career choices.
Another area I’m keen on is the legacy of business events; the impact that events can have on a city. While we naturally focus on the three or four days during an event, the long-term economic, cultural and business effects can be game changers for cities and I’m pleased to be in the middle of our efforts in Manchester to realise the full potential that business events can bring.
Your top 3 key tips for succeeding in this industry?
1. Assume nothing because it’s always changing
2. The events industry is showbusiness
3. Collaboration is everything
… and three pitfalls to avoid?
Thinking you know it all, inability to adapt to change and, if you don’t love events and have a passion for them, don’t even bother to try and fake it.
What are your personal ambitions?
To leave my mark on this business, in the same way that this venue and city has left its mark on me.
Which big conference piece of business have you been proudest to bring to Manchester and which one would you like to bring in?
We have a great roster of events but we have room for more political events and I want to be involved in creating Manchester ****** Week. Watch this space.
How do you relax?
Getting angry with people on Twitter doesn’t really qualify despite how often it seems to happen. I also know the temptation is to say spending time with family, etc, but with two young children, relaxing is not the word. I tend to be most relaxed when I’m just busy doing stuff. Sounds counter intuitive, but that’s what works for me. I’m probably most stressed when I’m doing nothing, as I feel I should be doing something.
Word of advice to a young event professional starting out in the conference business today?
This is actually the best industry in the world; you probably won’t realise it for a while, but every day you’ll learn something and everyday will be different and before long you’ll realise how lucky you are to be involved in it.