Type of venue
Manchester Central mostly holds conferences and exhibitions on a variety of scales, much similar to the NEC. The venue also accommodates for gala dinners, sporting events and concerts.
Manchester Central has recently undergone a new redevelopment, changing its name from Manchester GMEX to Manchester Central Convention Complex. The building’s origins date back to the late 1800’s when the venue served as a main train station. The venue is central to Manchester city centre with accommodation positioned next door and within walking distance to restaurants and shops. They boast a professional and luxurious 804 seat auditorium.
Facts and figures
· The venue has recently undergone a £30 million new redevelopment
· Iconic building of Manchester
· Built in the 1880’s but opened in 1986
· AEO Excellence Awards winner
· England’s North West Tourism Award winner
· Main train station is Manchester Piccadilly, although it is a car ride or metro link away.
· Metro station is five minutes’ walk away.
· Free metro shuttle bus from the train station to the city centre.
· Coach drop off point and taxi rank is situated right outside of the venue.
· Direct access to the M60
· 24 hour underground car parking
· Park and ride facilities, with free available car parking
· Manchester Airport is 25 minutes’ drive away
Venue visit experience
The pre arrival
The drive to the venue was easily accessible by being close to main motorway networks. All signs to the venue were clear with information for 24 hour car parking clearly marked as you drove up to the venue, which also indicated the number of spaces available.
From the questions we answered on the ‘venue visit experience’ spread sheet, Manchester Central as a whole is a small but a personable venue compared to those on a much larger scale. Due to the redevelopment the venue is much more modern and inviting when you walk through the doors. Advertisements of the venue were seen on a taxi driving past which indicated the venue is seen as an icon of Manchester and its history. Advertisements of upcoming shows and exhibitions were not evident the venue. However driving up to the venue there was a large digital screen with video advertisements.
There are signs to the venue located right outside so once you walk up to the venue you are first greeted with a map, as well as the historic architecture of the building that the exhibitors we spoke to found personable and fascinating.
With regards to reaching the entrance, there were plenty of staff on hand to help and registration facilities available. However no media or information was sent via email before the exhibition and we couldn’t see an information point either, but you would just ask a member of staff or at the desk.
The venue only has one main exhibition hall when you walk through the doors, so everything is small and convenient, with toilets being easy to locate as well as the free cloakroom. The only digital signage was above the exhibition hall which looked clear and effective. There are available leaflets and clear maps on your way into the exhibition with staff on hand if needed. The walkways were clear but obviously its half the size of an NEC exhibition hall.
Once you enter the exhibition hall, the architecture is breath taking and the venue is almost seen as ‘cosy’ as it’s smaller than most halls and easy to walk round. Signs to the food court aren’t very clear but as you are walking around the venue they are easily located quickly. The food was your standard cold sandwiches, tea and coffee.
We spoke to a few of the exhibitors about what they thought of the NEC. Unfortunately it was mostly negative and surprisingly some had not even heard of the venue:
• “NEC has no character, it needs that WOW factor.”
• “The NEC is too big and you feel lost.”
• “NEC is unattractive; there is nothing else to do.”
• “A problem with driving to the NEC is you park up and then realise the hall you need to be at is at the other side of the site.”
On leaving the exhibition there was a bucket by the entrance to recycle your badges, as you find most take them home and end up throwing them away. There were designated coach stops and tram stops for the venue to avoid all travelling by car.
Because it is a small venue, exits were easy to find. On leaving no gift bags or media were given, this may have been due to the type of exhibition. Outside of the venue there are three hotels at least, opposite the venue and a short distance walk from a casino as well as restaurants, shops and bars.