The Happiest Media Center in the World - How did we make it happen?

This is our success story:

Finlandia Hall is a conference and event venue in the heart of Finland’s capital Helsinki. In July 2018 we found ourselves in a spotlight because of the Trump-Putin summit. Finlandia Hall was chosen to serve international media representatives during the summit. Ambitious goal was set: to build Probably the Happiest Media Center in the World. This goal was communicated to 1500 reporters during accreditation. The response was overwhelmingly positive. With fully equipped workspaces, traditional Finnish food, sauna and screens for FIFA World Cup Final, the Media Center offered everything the reporters could ask for – and more.
 
Ready in just five days
– Finlandia Hall produces big events and international conferences all the time. What made the Trump-Putin case special was the exceptionally tight schedule: booking was confirmed only five days before the summit. Timing in July added to the suspense: 80 percent of our staff was on holiday, like most Finns are in July. They were quickly summoned back to work. Our staff takes pride in handling such a great challenge, states Finlandia Hall’s CEO Johanna Tolonen.
 
The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs hosted the international Media Center. This was seen as a great opportunity for positive country branding: how the Finnish society functions smoothly and is easily able to set up a meeting of this magnitude at short notice.
 
Due to the tight schedule, the Ministry needed a venue they knew and trusted. Time and place of the Trump-Putin summit was decided only two weeks in advance. Finlandia Hall had already been verified for security and protocol matters as it will be the official venue for all meetings during Finland’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in autumn 2019.
 
– Finlandia Hall’s staff has vast experience in organizing all kinds of events. Everything was ready in time because we are not afraid to make decisions. All the energy was focused on doing, not inteding. The Ministry appreciated our suggestions and gave us permission to decide on practical matters. The collaboration was easy and straightforward, recalls Event Coordinator Kirsi Mertala.
 
Network of trusted partners
Preliminary preparations were started immediately after the first inquiry came from the Ministry. After the booking was officially confirmed, all Finlandia Hall’s resources were taken into use. Together with our cooperation partners 24 000 m2 were built into fully equipped spaces for working, eating and relaxing. 
 
Finlandia Hall has a large network of trusted cooperation partners who provide additional services for the events. For instance part of the event technology services such as screens were provided by Bright Group. Our partners also delivered flower arrangements for decoration and marquees outside for stand-up positions for reporters.
 
In the spotlight
The volume of international media attention made the event exceptional for us. The Media Center hosted 1500 representatives of the international media for two and half days in 15.–17.7.2018. Some of the journalists are big stars in their own countries and in social media. A bold goal was communicated to this critical crowd: we are going to offer you Probably the Happiest Media Center in the World.
 
This turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The reporters enjoyed their stay so much that they praised Finland, Helsinki and Finlandia Hall in their social media accounts. The articles and stories published about Finland were mostly positive or neutral. They also gave positive feedback directly to our staff for their friendliness and service minded attitude. Some even said they had never been taken such a good care of.
 
All services available
The visual identity designed for #HELSINKI2018 summit was applied in all decorations. The biggest task was turning Finlandia Hall’s Veranda into workspaces with Wi-Fi and electricity supplied to all desks. Separate workspaces were created for interviews and editing. From the screens you could follow the meeting of US and Russian presidents.
 
A cosy Helsinki Lounge was built for relaxing. It was furnished with Finnish design such as Marimekko and Artek. In the lounge all football fans could watch the FIFA World Cup Final on Sunday night. A shipping container converted into a sauna was also available outside. Bathing in a sauna is a beloved tradition in Finnish culture. A cold sauna was also displayed for curiosity.
 
July 2018 was exceptionally warm and sunny in Helsinki. Eating outside was encouraged with a beautiful terrace. A newly renovated Rooftop Terrace overlooking Töölönlahti Bay was also opened for guests. A detail that delighted many was a stand outside where you could get fresh strawberries and peas for a snack.
 
Finnish delicacies and novelties
A scoop can come at any moment. That is why all meals were served at the Finlandia Restaurant. This helped reporters to focus on their work. They did not have to leave the Media Center to eat. Menus were planned by the staff of Finlandia Restaurant according to the wishes of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
 
– In Finlandia Restaurant we prefer to use organic and locally produced food. Our chefs are highly skilled artisans who love to cook everything from scratch. All menus are individually designed according to the wishes of our customers. Food can be used to emphasize the message of the event. It can also express the values of the customer, notes Finlandia Restaurant’s Executive Chef Timo Lepistö.
 
At lunch and dinner the guests could taste traditional Finnish foods and novelties, like trout from Åland, mashed potato prepared from Lapland potatoes, rolled oat flatbread, Karelian pastries, pulled oats and cricket bread. For dessert there was bilberry cake, Finnish lingonberry rye pie and sea buckthorn cheese cake. Special dietary requirements were taken comprehensively into account, for example with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.
 
Warm meals were served in a buffet. Each setting lasted 3–4 hours to give reporters freedom to work. Since the Media Center was open also at night, a non-stop coffee buffet with sandwiches and pastry was available at all times.
 
Sustainability in planning events
Sustainability was one of the values set for the Trump-Putin Media Center. Instead of offering plastic water bottles we served reusable bottles so people could fill them with world’s best tap water.
 
To avoid food waste the amounts needed were carefully evaluated in advance. After the Media Center closed, some fruit and salads were left over. To minimize the amount of food waste we donated the extra fruit to Helsinki Zoo. The rest was donated to Loop, the first waste food restaurant in Helsinki, to be served.
 
Taking care of all the important little details made the Media Center such a big success.