Sylvie Biancheri came to Monaco following her heart. Leaving Paris, she did not yet know that two decades later she would be a pillar part of one of the most iconic locations of Monaco, the Grimaldi Forum.
General Manager of the Grimaldi Forum, Sylvie Biancheri grew up and completed her studies in Paris, France.
France’s capital, Paris is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture, where prior to joining the Grimaldi Forum, Sylvie worked at the Crédit Lyonnais bank utilising her financial background.
What brought you here to the Principality of Monaco?
“Love,” – blushes Sylvie. – “Living and working in Paris, I fell in love with a Monégasque man. Franck, who was also working at Crédit Lyonnais got an offer from the Monégasque Government to go back to the Principality. He was happy to take this opportunity and serve his country. Following the voice in her heart, Sylvie decided to give up on her Parisian life to follow him. However, having a career already in Paris, she was determined to find a job in Monaco.”
Why the Grimaldi Forum?
“Back then, I specialised in export financing. To find such a job was literally impossible because it did not really exist with local banks in Monaco. So, I decided to change completely and it was a decision I don’t regret.”
In 1998, Sylvie started to work with the Grimaldi Forum which became a turning point in her life.
A few years ago the Grimaldi Forum had a famous campaign that said: “you need a venue, we offer you a country.” Why do you think Monaco is so attractive for hosting events?
“It is because the Principality works like a resort. I think this is the most important reason as it is a big asset for Monaco. I think our ability to gather all the forces from all the institutions together to make any event a success is unparalleled, and it is only possible in a country like Monaco.
The Principality being a small territory, everyone knows each other here. The quality of this network facilitates considerably the setting up and coordination of a project. This makes events organizers’life easier than in a big country where you don’t necessarily know whom to contact and how long it will take to solve a problem. This is a strong force of attractiveness.”
What do you refer to when you say all the institutions?
“When you work with the Grimaldi Forum for a congress or a convention for instance, you can capitalise on our strong relationship with all the parties involved, including the Tourism Board of Monaco, the hotels, the Monégasque Authorities, etc.
Secondly exchanges between events organizers and the different economic players of the Principality can easily be facilitated, for instance to create links with industries connected with the event”
Do you think Monaco has a good infrastructure?
“Absolutely. The benefit of being in Monaco is that everything is within walking distance which is very efficient to save time! Once you are in Monaco, everything is easily approachable by bus, e-bike, or walk.”
People have this misconception that Monaco is only for the rich. Do you think the Grimaldi Forum has competitive offers in the South of France region in terms of pricing?
“Yes! We’re not expensive, it’s a false idea. We are really in the market price even for hotels. And when we really want to get an event, because we consider it’s worth it, something which can be good for the Principality, then we make altogether the right efforts to get it.”
Getting on board the team of the Grimaldi Forum can make a bold difference, especially nowadays when the budget is an issue for many organisers. And it is not just about the convention center, but thanks to the combined efforts of the tourism board of Monaco and the hotels with preferential rates!
In addition, the Grimaldi Forum takes advantage of a budget from the government to maintain the building and the quality of its equipments. Thanks to this we are proud to have state-of-art technology which is valuable for any organiser.
What is the rate of returning clients?
“Our satisfaction rate is very high. Having returning clients is probably one of the most important indicators for us. We aim to keep our clients. In the first year, clients generally test Monaco, but they usually come back as they are satisfied and feel supported.”
Currently, the Grimaldi Forum is going through developments. As part of the Mareterra land extension, the Grimaldi Forum will be extended too with an additional, 6,000 square meter exterior and a further 2,000 square meters of outdoor spaces by the beginning of 2025.
Outdoor spaces are very important elements in the region of the Mediterranean because when clients choose Monaco, they also choose to enjoy the sun, the atmosphere and the view.
Do you think the land extension Mareterra will help the Grimaldi Forum?
“The extension of the Grimaldi Forum was absolutely necessary to assure the development of business tourism in Monaco. Without this extension, we would have had an issue in the medium term. Thanks to that, we are quite confident and we can effectively plan the future very safely.”
Fully complying with the needs of its clients, the new area will be totally flexible. It can serve as just an exhibition space, or it can also be transformed into other smaller spaces with mobile partitions, such as meeting rooms.
Why was this new development important for the Grimaldi Forum?
“We were looking for additional space and flexibility. Flexibility is necessary to be able to adapt the configuration of our spaces to our clients’ expectations. For example, we noticed a high demand in sectors such as IT, where they anticipate having a lot of meeting rooms. Having the capability to realise this rapidly without any additional cost gives us competitive leverage.”
The Grimaldi Forum is already using an impressive Virtual Reality (VR) walkthrough technology where future clients can have a virtual guided tour of the new establishment. Interestingly, the first clients have already signed their contracts for this extension.
Using VR technology is very clever and innovative.
“Yes, because it is hard to imagine a space based on a floor plan. However, when you can see it around you it helps to get a glimpse of the opportunities. It is the best way to visualise how the different spaces can be connected with the existing building. When you have a vision of all the spaces in 3D, then you understand completely where you are, how it will look like.”
Although humble, Sylvie admitted that for her the opening of the new extension will be a career milestone moment. Luckily, she is blessed with an extremely loyal staff, as 55% of the employees are more than 10 years with the Grimaldi Forum.
“I’m very proud of my staff because we would not be here today without the people being involved, motivated and willing to make success every single day. I’m pretty sure my staff is one of the best ones among all the convention centers because the clients give me feedback when they come to Monaco. They experience the difference because everybody tries to make their best to effectively assist the clients and I think this is one of the keys to our success.”
You’ve been with the Grimaldi Forum since 1998, meaning you even contributed to the project before the inauguration of the building in 2000.
Did you ever consider changing jobs?
“No, because I consider myself very fortunate.
First of all, I got this trust and opportunity from the Monégasque Government to build up together the Grimaldi Forum as it is today. I had a lot of chance.
Secondly, my work is filled with creativity, imagination and excitement. Just think about it, every day is a new event, a different setup and different people and they have very enthusiastic energy that motivates everyone. Every day you can build new projects! Very few people have such a chance to have so much variety and positive energy in their daily job”
Beside professional events, another mission of the Grimaldi Forum given by the Monégasque authorities is to provide with high-quality cultural programs for a wide range of audiences. It is an ambitious goal and this is why our programming goes from musicals, classical and variety concerts, ballet, opera, one-man shows, to high level cultural exhibitions.
The Grimaldi Forum hosts approximately 100 events a year. As a person who sees so many events every month, how do you switch off? How do you relax? Do you still have the energy to go to see other events?
“Professionally speaking, it is always interesting to see what can be done elsewhere. So, we have to travel, we have to see what is going on in other countries.
You cannot just declare auto satisfaction, saying, hey, we are wonderful, it is necessary to question yourself and to pay attention to what others can offer. So yes, I like going to events at the Forum, but also elsewhere in Monaco and abroad as much as I can.”
What is the biggest misconception in Monaco?
“People have in mind that nothing happens in Monaco, that it’s quiet and boring, which is completely false.
Monaco has a very lively cultural program all around the year.”
If you look through the past 25 years, what has been the most memorable event for you?
“It is really difficult to choose. I mean, we had fantastic concerts like Elton John or the Black Eyed Peas just to mention a few. But what makes me really happy is to see how events are able to grow up and develop year after year.
We have beautiful stories with some clients who started more than 20 years ago, it means that we have achieved something great with them. For me, every moment of success is part of this memorable journey.”
Do you miss Paris sometimes?
“I don’t miss it because I go to Paris very often as I have a part of my family living there. The link is still there.”
You are a proud mother as well. Are you happy that your children grew up in Monaco or do you think Paris offers a better environment for education?
“I must say that having children and being able to educate them here in Monaco compared to Paris is a big relief. What I mean is that it is much easier in Monaco, especially when you are a working parent like me.”
How would you position Monaco in terms of culture?
“Culture is one of the most important elements of any community therefore, for us to maintain the high quality of the cultural program is key.
I am a firm believer that the more exhibitions we do for instance, I would say the stronger we are in this small cultural, international community of museums and institutions. Today our summer exhibitions are renowned internationally and more than respected, they’re expected!”
When you talk about organising and producing cultural events what is the biggest challenge you face?
“The idea is really to maintain a high quality, but maintaining this quality with the same or almost the same budget is very challenging and probably the tricky point.
We have to find another way to produce shows and need to find more partners, need to think differently. It’s a constant concern to be able to optimise what the government expects from us and how we can afford to realise it.”
What is your advice for event organisers who are considering a first event at the Grimaldi Forum?
“It is easier to organise an event in Monaco than anywhere else and this is exactly what we offer to our clients.
As I mentioned earlier, we can definitely arrange for a client all the meetings and facilitate the connection with people he wants to meet. I think that it’s quite unusual to find a place where it is achievable.
Our force is to work together. Regarding the Grimaldi Forum, the quality of our services has to be outlined and our staff has an exceptional expertise, representing 47 different jobs and professional skills.”
To conclude, could you tell us about your cultural program?
“The cultural season continues with brilliant success! It is about laughter with Baptiste Lecaplain and Roman Frayssinet, about great musicals with the famous West Side Story and Madagascar.
Concerts are also on the program with our Thursday Live Sessions that provides true interaction between the artists and the audience.
Among the other events open to the public, we will host The Top Marques Fair, The Monte-Carlo Television Festival and artmonte-carlo Fair.
THE highlight of the summer will undoubtedly be our great summer exhibition “Monet in Full Light“. Organized on the occasion of the 140thanniversary of Monet’s first visit to Monte-Carlo and the Riviera, this exhibition will offer a new look at the Master’s work with nearly 100 masterpieces coming from all over the world on a 2,500m2 amazing scenography!”