We chat with Ryan Heal

This month’s cover story we speak to the founder of Best of British Events, Ryan Heal, flying the flag for the return of live events.

Ryan has played a significant role within the Sussex Business Community for the past 20 years.• Appointed Patron of Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice 2009 – 2012

  • Managing Director of Juice FM 2008 – 2012 & Chairman from 2016 – 2018
  • Winner of “Outstanding Brightonian of the Year” at the 2011 Sussex Business Awards
  • Winner of “Greatest contribution to Sussex Charity” at the 2016 Sussex Business Awards
  • Winner of “Greatest contribution to Sussex” at the 2018 Argus Achievement Awards
  • Honoured in the inaugural 2018 “Brighton Power 100” list. www.brightonpower100.co.uk
  • Honoured in the “Celebrating Sussex” Top 100 People in the County 2019 & 20
  • Appointed Honorary Patron of Rockinghorse Children’s Charity in June 2021 following nearly a decade of service as Chief Executive.

The list of awards and honours is a tribute to his success and the amazing work he has done within the Sussex business community. In this interview and podcast episode, we find out about his journey, mindset, all that is Best of British Events, what the future holds for Ryan Heal, and how he is flying the flag for the return of live events.

The Best of British Members Club – BBMC – started in January 2021 with the first event in May and has been a great success. You have capped the club at 50 members, what will this look like next year? Can more people get involved?

Due to the restrictions, the first couple of BBMC (Best of British Members Club) meetings were very much Members only due to the guidelines at the time. Thankfully, our Members can now bring guests to our meetings which is great.

As far as Membership is concerned, we are at full capacity until 2022. Despite the demand for Memberships, I had to stay true to the original vision for the BBMC which was that we will never be more than 50 Members… Whatever the demand next year and beyond. For me, this provides genuine exclusivity for our members, who are all business owners/ directors, who can now experience the best hospitality at the best venues hearing from the best speakers in a safe space environment.

Post-pandemic we have seen a mixture of online events, Hybrid Events and smaller live events, what do you see is the future for business networking?

I’m biased because of my desire to have face-to-face contact with my network but I’m firmly in the live event camp. That’s not to say that remote / hybrid working won’t continue, I am sure it will. I see huge value in a group Zoom call from multiple locations versus getting everyone together into a London meeting room. However, as far as genuinely beneficial business networking goes, there is simply NO substitute for face to face. For me, trying to build rapport; strike up a conversation; gauge the room; sense the vibe is only possible face-to-face and physically impossible from a virtual screen at home. We’re social animals and we need to get back out there… Albeit responsibly for the time being.

The idea for the Best of British Members Club was born out of your larger scale Best of British Events that you launched in 2009, where did the idea for Best of British Events first come from?

Going back to the 1960’s Sussex had a great reputation for putting on first class fundraising events with top quality entertainment and star names. Institutions such as The Variety Club held huge events in the city for many years. My Grandfather was Chairman of an entity called “Sussex Sportsman’s Charities” for many years and I often wondered what it could be like to try and resurrect a similar model. I strongly felt that the Sussex market was ready for something different. The “something different” was the quality of speaker at events (and I must say in the late 90’s and early 2000’s the overall quality of events was very poor.) So, the concept of “Best of British” Events was born with a triumvirate of goals in mind.

  1. It had to be “the best” when it came to our guest speakers and venues.
  2. It had to make a difference locally by supporting local causes.
  3. Our events would be fully inclusive and without discrimination of any kind against sexuality, race, creed…unlike some other local events at the time that were still “men only” (in 2008!!!!)

Our very first event in June 2009, saw British Boxing Legend Sir Henry Cooper & 1966 World Cup Winner Gordon Banks appear together on stage and the “Best of British” fundraising lunches were up and running. In the intervening 12-13 years we’ve raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities including: Chestnut Tree House; Rockinghorse and Teenage Cancer Trust among others. Our guests have been entertained by the Kings & Queens of British Sport as well as stars of stage & screen. This year we still have the likes of Dame Judi Dench and Olympic Heroine Tessa Sanderson CBE coming to Sussex to entertain our guests.

During the last 18 months and the pandemic many events went online, was this never an option for Best of British Events?

I think the phrase would be over my dead body! Anyone that has ever been to one of our events knows that to even attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a “Best of British” event over Zoom (or similar) would be a complete waste of time. From a professional standpoint operating in the events industry, I think it was a scandal how some events companies charged silly money for “tickets” to virtual events / awards shows during the pandemic. Postpone and deliver a proper event for your guests!

As we come out of the pandemic how are the larger events panning out? Will they be returning in the same vein as pre-pandemic?

Thankfully yes. I appreciate that C-19 is still with us, but we are learning to live with it now. What has changed is the incredibly guidance and controls that the venues have in place for our guests including automatic temperature control checks upon entry. It’s been a long 18 months but the appetite for corporate events is certainly returning. Our events for the Autumn are pretty much sold out, although we do have a few tables remaining for our Gatwick lunch. Other than that, we have 4 sold out events between now and November – all in Sussex and ranging from 150 – 500 guests. We must remember that thousands of businesses have not been able to entertain their clients for such a long time. A Best of British event is the perfect vehicle to get your business back on board when it comes client hospitality.

You have Best of British Events Brighton, Eastbourne, London and Gatwick What does the future hold for Best of British Events large scale events? Any new events in the pipeline?

Yes, we do. We are holding our first “Best of British” Raceday later this month at Goodwood and in June 2022 we’ll be hosting our first ever “Best of British” Golf Day so watch this space!

You’ve always had a number of projects on the go simultaneously so what else is Ryan Heal up to these days and how do you manage to your time between the various entities?

In addition to the Best of British Events & the BBMC Members Club, I’ve started doing some private consultancy for various organisations looking to increase their brand profile and ultimately drive forward profitability. Thankfully, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to work with some great businesses as we enter a post-lockdown landscape and a widely predicted start of a 10-year economic boom period. My consultancy is called BN1 Consulting so together with the events and Members Club, I find myself wearing hats that are all intrinsically linked. I refer to it as a “Russian Doll” business model whereby the first entity is always the largest, in this sense that’s Best of British Events with events for up to 500 guests; then we have a microcosm of that which is the BBMC – Best of British Members Club – restricted to just 50 members and then a further microcosm of that is BN1 Consulting where I work with an exclusive group of carefully selected handpicked clients. Breaking down the business into 3 clear and distinct vertical markets allows me to manage my time between them much more effectively and efficiently.

What does the future hold for Ryan Heal?

Firstly, I try not to look too far ahead. If the last 18 months has taught us anything it’s too expect the unexpected! I’m genuinely excited about this new chapter in my career and it’s great to see the appetite for live events surging back (safely). We’re all very excited about our sold-out event with Dame Judi Dench in November and we look forward to launching our first ever Best of British Golf Day at Goodwood in 2022.

Ultimately, there has never been a worthy substitute for good old fashioned hard work, especially now, and I’ll continue to give my all in everything I put my name to.

As for the future? I cannot wait to see the next 5 years unfold. Let the roaring 20’s finally begin and hope to see you at a Best of British event soon!

For more information on any Best of British events visit www.bestofbritish.org.uk and contact us.

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