Guest Blog: Balancing hosting community events with a commercial operation

Michelle Fernandez is the General Manager of The King’s Centre, Oxford.

The King’s Centre, Oxford, is the largest venue in the south Midlands with 30,000 square feet of event space. It hosts major events and corporate functions. However, it was founded with charitable aims and as a not-for-profit organisation shares its space with community groups.

How do you ensure your charitable goals are achieved alongside commercial realities?

Every major event space in the UK faces commercial pressures to hit occupancy targets.

It is no different at The King’s Centre, Oxford, a multi-function space with two large convention halls and 10 support rooms that are used daily. We host industry conferences and events, corporate away days, weddings, university examinations, concerts and company meetings. That said, we are a venue with a difference, as we also ring fence time and space for host community groups and charities. We must achieve our commercial targets, while remaining faithful to our charitable ethos.


It is a fine balancing act for team accommodating commercial events and community sessions like toddler groups and boxercise. Our building is owned by Oxfordshire Community Churches and all profits from the venue are used to maintain it and support charitable work, including running three support centres for the homeless.Combining two very different aims within one organisation can occasionally be a challenge.

Ultimately one feeds the other, but it requires a great culture to fully work in practice, along with five other facets: strategy, leadership, shared values, internal communication and organisation. A good sense of humour also helps!

The Board’s strategy is clear and empowers us to operate with confidence. Our leadership team communicates the strategy internally and we hold sessions to share ideas and reach a consensus on how to deliver the vision. It is an empowering process that makes everyone feel engaged and part of the company. Strong employee engagement has led to better results and if a potential booking conflict between commercial and community, it is always handled in good spirits.

Values tend to be an overused term in business and in some organisations, there is little employee buy-in. Our values include humility, honesty and service.

Our team share similar values and beliefs which underpins the work we do. Our client surveys have revealed high scores in customer service levels, which I believe is a direct result of recruiting good natured people and empowering them to feel part of what we are trying to achieve overall.

Having a happy and aligned team makes juggling the demands of commercial and community seamless. Organisation is the final piece of the jigsaw. Having the right systems and processes in place and great people to oversee them are crucial to the smooth running of our venue.

Every day is different in events and challenges should be overcome via team work, a shared sense of direction, calmness and a smile. We are blessed to be able to make a difference to our community at The King’s Centre, Oxford. It is what inspires us to make the venue home from home for our clients.


Adam is the co-founder and editor of Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.