Oyster card is ten years old

The Oyster card has now been enabling London rail and bus journeys for ten years, reports globalrailnews.com.

For Londoners – as well as for regular visitors in the capital for leisure or work-related occasions at event spaces – an Oyster card has become an essential part of their wallet. The contactless payment method is much cheaper than buying traditional tickets.

It was not always going to be called Oyster – during the planning stages there was a suggestion that it could be called Pulse or Gem. Around 85 per cent of rail and bus travel in the capital is now paid for using an Oyster card.

Shahi Verma, director of customer experience at Transport for London (TfL), said: “We know that our customers love the convenience of Oyster, and we are immensely proud to celebrate its decade serving London.”

While about 60 million cards have been issued, nearly 25 million of these have not been used for more than one year, meaning that over £45 million in deposits is currently misplaced.   

Oyster celebrated its tenth birthday on Monday (July 1st), but mayorwatch.co.uk pointed out that it is not clear how much longer the cards will be in operation, since there are plans to rely on ‘Wave and Pay’ contactless bank cards.  

Some banks are already issuing these cards, but there is concern that – if TfL shifts away from Oyster – people who do not have one of these cards will end up paying higher rates.

O2 confirms launch date of free Wi-Fi service on London Underground

O2 has confirmed that its customers will be able to access free Wi-Fi services whilst travelling through the London Underground from 22 July.

The mobile operator had told thenextweb.com back in April that a free service would be available by June, utilising the network installed by Virgin Media in preparation for the London Olympics last year.

However, the plans showed few signs of coming into fruition as last month came and went.

Finally a spokesperson from the company has told v3.co.uk that its engineers are putting the final touches on a free Underground network.

The representative claimed the connection would go through a series of tests between now and its official launch on 22 July to ensure the service is fully operational.

This will run through popular stations such as Piccadilly Circus and Kings Cross St Pt Pancras, providing a speedy connection to O2 customers such as regular commuters and those travelling to conference centres around the capital.

Any O2 customer who is also signed up to its Wi-Fi service will receive the connection automatically, with no account set-up required. 

The operator joins EE and Vodafone in rolling out the Underground connection to its customers, but those on Three are still without this service.

LinkedIn CEO reveals time-saving meeting gem

Eliminating presentations is one of the ways LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner makes sure his meetings are all worthwhile, according to his latest linkedin.com blog post.

Heading up a popular professional network makes Weiner a man in great demand, however his latest blog reveals how he eliminates ‘busyness’ caused through attendance in inane meetings. Number one is making meetings valuable.

According to Weiner, the team at LinkedIn have a new meeting philosophy: no presentations. All content is sent to delegates 24 hours in advance so they can read it beforehand when travelling to the meeting venues, commuting home or from their desks. Delegates are given a further five minutes in the meeting to refresh their memories and then a discussion will begin, no one person presents.

He says the practice might seem awkward at first, but it has proved welcome at LinkedIn, with positive participant reaction. Instead of sitting bored, “the meeting can now be exclusively focused on generating a valuable discourse”, he said. 

To create some time in his own busy day, Weiner told fastcompany.com that he has started to schedule in 30 to 90-minute blocks of free time, having discovered that it is during these ‘buffers’ that he gets most of his job done. He says that the time is crucial, as one of the responsibilities of leadership is ‘to create the time-space to strategise’.

“If you don’t take the time to think proactively, you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it,” he said. “The resulting situation will inevitably require far more time (and meetings) than thinking strategically would have to begin with.”

Council details "five Cs" of business meetings

Meetings are not just information exchanges – they are also “relationship-building” sessions, according to one organisation, which has detailed a number of ways business leaders could make their meetings more effective.

Writing for businessinsider.com, the Young Entrepreneur Council suggests that establishing relationships in a business meeting could make all the difference for a firm.

As a result, the Council has revealed the “five Cs” of an effective meeting to theyec.org. Creating a ‘compelling’ meeting could be useful, argues the Council.

“Tell a story to help illustrate your point. Everyone responds to a story and research has shown that stories increase message retention,” advises the Council.

Furthermore, meetings should be focused and clear. ‘Clarity’ helps meetings become effective as leaders merely summarise the high points of their point of discussion instead of sharing everything they know.

‘Consistency’ means being consistent with each participant in the conference space. The Council suggests connecting with their interests including past decisions or common interests.

In addition, ‘conversation’ should be allowed to flow within a meeting, which leads to “greater buy-in”, and the ‘close’ should wrap up a meeting.

“End the meeting effectively by including a direct request. Never let an opportunity pass to ask for support – for dollars or for introductions,” add the Council.

European meetings market tipped to welcome six per cent growth in spend

Corporate venues in the UK have plenty of reasons to look to the future with confidence, as new research predicts a six per cent rise in meetings spend across Europe by the end of 2013.

A mid-year report on the market from event management firm Grass Roots claims that growth in this area will be linked to geography and market positions, with venues in Berlin, Paris and London all tipped to perform strongly this year.

Grass Roots based its study on the average day delegate rate (DDR) of each city, including price-per-person plus VAT and refreshments.

Meetpie.com says London strengthened its DDR to reach just under £70, while an average spend of £35 in the North West showed the North-South divide remains a key factor in the British market.

Looking to the months ahead, Grass Roots said European venues will see an increase in their lead times, while a greater demand for their services will result in less availability for key dates. 

Report author and director of Grass Roots, Alan Newton told eventmagazine.co.uk: “There is room to be optimistic, but as ever performance is variable according to geography and the point in the market at which you are seeking to operate.

“At a unit level, reliability, flexibility and technical innovation are where the focus needs to be.” 

Pippa Middleton wedding could be imminent

A wedding could be on the cards for Pippa Middleton, although she is reported to be waiting until sister Kate has given birth, dailymail.co.uk reports.

Middleton, who rose to prominence during the Royal Wedding in 2011, could soon be tying the knot herself after reports circulated that she thinks boyfriend Nico Jackson is “the one”.

Some even speculated that a wedding could be more imminent than many think, with the couple keen to tie the knot sooner rather than later. One thing Middleton has said she will be waiting for, however, is the birth of her niece or nephew – the Royal Baby.

With Kate (now the Duchess of Cambridge) expecting to go into labour any day now, Pippa has held off on her nuptials at least until the new arrival comes.

This would afford her more time to think of her wedding reception venue, with Middleton unable to follow her sister’s lead and have the ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral.

A source close to Jackson told cosmopolitan.co.uk: “An engagement is definitely on the cards.

“The last time Nico spoke about Pippa to his friends back home in Folkstone, he was totally buzzing about her. He has never been happier and this is what he wants.”

UK meetings industry contributes £58.4 billion to economy, according to report

The meetings industry is Britain’s 17th biggest contributor to its gross domestic product (GDP) with a worth of around £58.4 billion, according to new research.

After months of waiting, the UK Economic Impact Study (UKEIS), commissioned by the MPI Foundation, has finally revealed the significant impact that UK-based meetings have on the economy.

According to conference-news.co.uk, the industry generates three times more for UK GDP than agriculture and also contributes £21.1 billion in taxes.   

Undertaken by the International Centre for Research in Events, the report also named the meetings industry Britain’s 16th largest employer with more than 515,000 members of staff employed directly – double that of the burgeoning telecoms industry.

UKEIS research showed that over 1.3 million meetings were held in the UK in 2011, with guests spending just under £40 billion to be in attendance.

The demand for spaces to hold these meetings has seemingly never been higher, and it’s a good job the UK currently houses 10,000 event venues to service clients. When spread out, this is the equivalent of 6,000 football pitches and could seat 13.5 per cent of the British population at any given time.

Commenting on what this highly positive study could mean for the industry, MPI president and chief executive officer Paul Van Deventer told meetpie.com: “At MPI, we believe this research provides an invaluable tool for professionals in our industry to use to enhance the perception of the meetings industry in the UK.”

Majority of UK event venues expecting increase in business over 2013

UK event venues are cautiously optimistic about finishing 2013 on a high note, with a slight majority (53 per cent) expecting business this year to be better than in 2012.

The UK Events Market Trends Survey (UKEMTS) from trade body Eventia finds that ten per cent more venues are confident about increasing their bookings than the number at this time last year.

Almost one in four venues had accounted for this and were planning capital investment projects in excess of £100,000 this year.

Meetpie.com says 35 per cent backed their business levels to remain on a par, while just 12 per cent were bracing themselves for a decline in bookings. As well as uncovering business confidence, the research also provided an interesting set of figures for venues to look back on.    

The UKEMTS estimated that 85.5 million delegates flocked to 1.3 million British events in 2012, with the average attendance at 64 people.

Each venue hosted an average of 373 events last year, a slight increase on the figure from 2011, while the average event duration was 1.6 days.

The research acts as a crucial barometer of what’s happening in the business events sector and provides venues and planners with an informed view of the trends and changes currently unfolding within their area of work.

Eventia chairman Simon Hughes told conference-news.co.uk these findings, taken together with the data from the UKEIS (the UK Economic Impact Study), will provide the industry with some powerful promotional and advocacy tools.   

Tracking attendees and watching the clock can improve business meetings, advises experts

In order to make business meetings a more effective practice, two experts have brainstormed a number of ideas that could increase productivity and transform meetings in the process.

Productivity expert Tony Wong and entrepreneur Ilya Pozin, cited by linked.com, believe that keeping an eye on the clock can help meetings stay on the schedule and thus direction.

“Stay on schedule by always beginning at the stated time, regardless of whether everyone has arrived, and end the meeting on time, even if you haven’t completed your agenda,” they explain.

Furthermore, it is worth leaders tracking the number of attendees of a meeting. Wong and Pozin explain that meetings should be like VIP events – limit invitations only to those who are vital to the conversation.

It is also worth leaders defining the type of meeting they are holding. Is it just a five minute catch-up with the team or is it a company-wide event that requires a conference space?

“People easily confuse business meetings with group work sessions and brainstorming sessions. These two types of work settings require far more time than a standard meeting – often two hours,” they added, cited by nrecruitmentblog.wordpress.com.

In addition, long introduction and repetitive ramblings are bad habits. Leaders need to ensure that unproductive habits are left at the door and that all attendees are prepared with the “appropriate materials and a list of talking points”.

Boris Johnson sets out plans to transform London into 'economic powerhouse'

The Mayor of London has revealed how he plans on turning the capital into the greatest economic powerhouse of the 21st century, reports freshbusinessthinking.com.

This week saw Boris Johnson set out a detailed vision for boosting growth around the capital, with improved transport connections playing a huge part in his plans. 

Speaking at City Hall on Monday (17 July), the Mayor said that enhancing London’s connectivity will increase its contribution to the UK economy. Mr Johnson believes the best way to improve transport would be to build a new hub airport to compliment the new seaport that’s due to open in the Thames estuary.

Going on the findings of a peer-reviewed investigation carried out by Transport for London, he said aviation capacity could be increased through one of three options.

He suggested that one be picked out of enlarging Stansted airport, building a new airport in the inner Thames Estuary or constructing a new airport in the outer Thames Estuary.

Mr Johnson believes this would add £742 billion to the value of goods and services produced in the UK, possibly including those from event venues and accommodation providers, given their contribution to business tourism.

According to centreforaviation.com, he added: “A new airport would be accompanied by world-class public transport connectivity, it would have the resilience to withstand the worst the UK’s weather has to offer and it would have the capacity to save you from being stranded in a never ending spiral of aircraft over the suburbs.”

Mr Johnson also stated his intention to build new road and rail connections to boost the economy of east London, Kent and Essex and create a new town in west London, housing up to 250,000 people.