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Meet Diane Waldron, Head of Marketing & Events, The HAC
I have worked here since July 2005.
My career in events began 20 years ago on a graduate training scheme with Thistle Hotels, who later took me on as assistant conference and banqueting manager at the then Guoman Thistle hotel.
I went on to work for Searcy’s at the Barbican for four years and then moved to the Natural History Museum.
My biggest event was the premiere party for Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion in 2005. One thousand guests came to the Natural History Museum after the show, which was a hard act to follow. We put on lots of entertainment, colour and lighting to flow seamlessly from the vibrant act.
I’ll always remember when we unveiled the Prince Consort Rooms at the HAC. The Queen was to open them and the builders didn’t leave until the day before. We had 24 hours to clean up inches of dust. The furniture was also late so we had to source enough seats for 400 lunch guests. It was all hands on deck and turned out great. Her Majesty seemed to enjoy herself and stayed longer that planned – but not because of catering delays!
Not many people know that just before the Queen arrived there was a power cut in the area and the entire event was run on generators.
I learnt my most valuable lesson at Disneyland Florida. I was on the Disney Management course when I learnt the Disney Promise, which
is to under-promise and over-deliver, for example they tell you there will be a 30 minute wait for a ride when in fact it only takes 15 minutes, so you are impressed. This can be used in any situation.
When I need inspiration I eat out to experience new food trends, and listen to suppliers. It is easy to pigeonhole suppliers based on their previous work, but they are on the forefront of new ideas and it is good to feed off of their creativity.
The next big thing we are thinking about are the 2012 Olympics. We would be the perfect place to host a committee or sponsor during the Games. We are secure, tucked away and have all the facilities for hosting press events and entertaining guests.
In 10 years time I still want to be in a challenging and enjoyable role. The more flexible your plans are the more opportunity is out there.
My Plan B was to be a vet. Instead, I took a year out and worked in the Dirty Duck in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is what got me thinking about hospitality.
The biggest challenge I have faced was trying to accommodate everyone while working at the Natural History Museum. The venue would close to the public at 6pm and guests would start arriving for events at 7pm. It was a quick turn around, and we had to try not to disturb the scientists.