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Harry Potter welcomes Britannia Muggles

Jul 14, 2018

It’s probably fair to say that expectations were low going into this year’s Britannia Conference. The Britannia leadership team’s decision to bring the event back to the UK for 2018 was certainly a decision of the head, not the heart, and having enjoyed spectacular locations such as Sorrento, Reykjavik and Budapest in the last few years, many Britannia members were not exactly thrilled at the prospect of the Hertfordshire countryside.  

So when they arrived at the Aubrey Park Hotel’s Oak Suite for the welcome dinner, they were somewhat surprised to be met by a human topiary figure who proceeded to give out cuddles and pull pints behind the bar. A rustic signpost at the entrance held a clue to the theme of the dinner, pointing to places such as Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic, and Britannia’s home town of Merstham, in gold gothic lettering.  

As the doors of the main room opened, the guests walked into the Forbidden Forest, with foliage everywhere they looked, and even a giant tree-person wondering amongst the tables for entertainment. A menu on each place setting featured a Harry Potter movie poster which had been altered to include the faces of six of the delegates, and there was a prize for the first person to guess all six correctly. Apparently this was harder than planned, as even some of the people featured didn’t recognise their own faces! After a delicious three course meal, the disco began and there was also a magic selfie mirror for those who wanted a little memento of the evening’s festivities.  

The next morning, the business sessions opened at 10am, allowing everyone plenty of time to have breakfast and find some caffeine. After a welcome by MD Mark Tresler, Charlotte Parslow took to the stage – not only Britannia’s conference organiser but also their social media manager. She explained why and how the group was investing in social media marketing, and what the strategy is for the coming months. She also introduced an innovative app that allowed delegates to vote in polls set by the speakers, and ask their own questions all day. This was well used, and kept everyone focussed and engaged.  

Next up was Matt Hawkins from TwentyCi who delivered a detailed briefing on UK housing market trends, followed by Andy Shotbolt who explained how the new Britannia Survey App works, and discussed the costs and benefits of using it. Sam Trousdale from Chillibyte then took to the stage to perform some amazing magic and explain the secrets of local SEO.  

After lunch with their families, the delegates returned to hear from the keynote speaker, Mark van Adrichem from Engage Management Services. Mark presented a detailed assessment of the UK’s self storage sector, and discussed a number of tips and tricks for filling up facilities and increasing revenue.  

After that, Andy Sadler from IFX provided a quick update and handed out three awards to the top performing branches, and then it was time for the Britannia Awards. The winners included: National Sales Award: Britannia Sandersteads; National Quality Award: Britannia Reeves; Churchill Cup: Britannia Bearsbys; Most Improved Shipper: Britannia Lanes of Devon; Top Shipper: Britannia Bradshaws of Manchester.

The last item on the agenda was to announce the destination for the 2019 conference, so everyone took to the voting app to take a guess, with a fantastic prize of free attendance on offer. Mark Tresler kept the tension high until the very last moment, when he played a fantastic video showing the beautiful sights of Copenhagen, and Jo Jopson from Britannia W. Harris was revealed to be the winner!  

Following the business sessions, lots of the delegates went to collect their children from the Kids’ Zone, where they had been busy all day learning graffiti, doing arts and crafts, playing computer games and taking part in a DJ workshop.  

The Gala Dinner saw everyone don their gladrags (with more than a few in full magical fancy dress), and head to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden. After a drinks reception in the entrance lobby and an introductory speech, the children opened the doors to the spectacular Great Hall set which was dressed for dinner, with four long tables in the colours of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. The delegates enjoyed two courses surrounded by original props and costumes from the films, interrupted only briefly when a group of Death Eaters stormed the hall, and then kindly posed for photos!  

After dinner, the group had exclusive access to the studio tour, enjoying all the normal sights and activities but with no crowds and no queues. Dessert was served next to the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9¾, after which they explored everything from Privet Drive and the Creatures Workshop to Diagon Alley. Even those who weren’t fans of the movies were impressed with this fascinating venue.    
All in all, it was a conference full of surprises, and it certainly challenged most people’s expectations about what a UK conference would be like. Of course, Britannia is only able to produce such spectacular and memorable events thanks to the generosity of its sponsors – Basil Fry, International FX, Reason GlobalHaywoods, BAR ServicesTwentyCiChillibyte and Active Supply & Design. Their support is greatly appreciated by the whole Britannia family.

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