Event of the Month – Leasing Christmas Charity Lunch

Christmas lunch
Why 116 Pall Mall became the chosen London venue for an occasion that has been going strong for 10 years...

The festive season at 116 Pall Mall would not be complete without The Annual Leasing Industry Christmas Charity Lunch under the auspices of the Asset Finance Professionals Association (the “AF-PA”). The event, which features an auction, raised over £31,500 last year for Macmillan Cancer Support. John Batty is a Director at IAA Advisory and coordinates the charity lunch to ensure that is continues to go from strength to strength, year after year.

Here, John explains the secret of its enduring success and why 116 Pall Mall has become the event’s spiritual home...

Who we are

“The AF-PA was formed to improve connections in the asset finance and leasing sector and use those connections in providing a focus for the industry's charitable activities. In fact, it has become a charity in its own right and organises networking opportunities, as well as charitable fund-raising events.

I’m a Director at IAA Advisory and our role is advising companies in that sector around strategy, acquisitions, marketing, reputational issues etc., so it is our main contacts which are served by the Christmas Charity Lunch event.

What is the Christmas Charity Lunch?

“The first charity lunch was held at 116 Pall Mall 10 years ago and everybody would like to keep coming back for another 10 years. The event has become part of the industry ‘social calendar’ and so successful that it’s always guaranteed to sell out.

Ultimately, our goal is to raise as much money as possible for our chosen charity for this event, Macmillan Cancer Support.

There’s a nice balance between formality - it’s a catered occasion with a Master of Ceremonies - and informality. Some of the people who take tables use it for customer entertaining, other take tables to entertain their own staff.

Also, because it’s a relatively small industry, even if you’re invited as a guest, the chances are you’ll know a lot of other people in the room. So, a lot of people view it as an opportunity to network or a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, which is an AF-PA theme.

We try to keep the tone as light as possible. Last year, we started with a drinks’ reception in the Waterloo room and that was followed a game of Heads and Tails. Everybody stands up, the MC asks questions and if you get one wrong, you sit down. The last person standing won a prize. The idea was to get the afternoon off to a lively and fun start. We also run raffle which is a great contributor to the overall fundraising.

Then we had lunch, followed by an auction of prizes, one of which was donated by the IoD – lunch at St. Barnabas House in Soho. The auctioneers are very skilled at upping the ante and last year was the most successful to date in terms of raising money for Macmillan.

We always have a guest speaker. In 2018, we booked a comedian who did a great Donald Trump impersonation and we got lots of good feedback from that.

Although we finish at 5pm, a lot of guests carry on in The Wine Bar downstairs simply because everyone is having such a good time.

Why we love 116 Pall Mall

The relationship with 116 is first class. We work with Magda (Szmejchel, Account Executive) who is so helpful and understanding. She’s been very flexible in helping us squeeze in extra tables and add people at the last-minute. I think Magda is typical of the attitude 116 brings to an event, where they want to do whatever is possible to make things as easy as possible for their clients and guests.

Of course, the building is fantastic. You’ve got the architecture, the history, the decor and that gets picked up on by the guests. Plus, the location is ideal. Don’t forget this is an afternoon event, so most people will be coming from work.

The other thing I would stress is reliability. You know what you’re going to get, which means good quality food, good quality wine, and excellent service. Last year, we had 236 people in the room on the day. That’s a decent number of people to keep happy.

If it ain’t broke

As we concluded the last event on December 14, 2018 I contacted Magda to book the Nash Room for December 13, 2019.

I asked for feedback from everyone who bought tickets, which accounts for around 200 of those people, and nobody came with any suggestions for what they would want done differently.

We also had a little bit of a debrief session to try and figure out what, if anything, we would do differently and whether we should look at the pricing structure. But it runs so well that we will only talking about minor tweaks.

We’ve got quite a traditional crowd and if you know the formula works then, as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Everyone who attends knows the drill and therefore they can tell their guests what to expect and say with confidence that it’s a really entertaining event.

How you measure the success of an event

There are two ways to answer that. First is the amount we raise for Macmillan because that is the rationale for holding the event.

The other thing is to ensure that everyone has a good time and is motivated to come back and do it all again the following year. So, on these two scores it’s always been successful.

We did debate how serious the guest speaker should be. I think the message we get back from the guests is that people want to enjoy themselves, so we will look to find somebody who makes everyone have a few laughs. The other side of it is that we want to motivate people to bid for the prizes at auction. If you create a downbeat mood, I don’t think it necessarily works for auction.

So, all round it just seems to hit the spot. Long may that continue!

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A Royal christmas at 116 Pall Mall

Enjoy a truly Royal Christmas in our stunning central London venue. 116 Pall Mall will be transformed into a Royal masterpiece to mirror our rich history, creating a grand setting for an unforgettable occasion.

Spectacular lighting, opulent decorations and flexible packages mean that planning your party will be a breeze, whether you’re celebrating with colleagues, friends or family.

For more information, call 020 7451 3107 or email info@116pallmall.com