Organising any meeting or event takes a great deal of planning and attention to detail. If you find that your boss presents you with several ideas and expectations of what is needed for a very important event, the different themes and variety of venues and has no real clue as to what would be the perfect scenario, then you are going to need help.
So where do you start and what are the best ways of organising a meeting or a conference?
*Set the objectives – why are we organising this event, what is to be achieved from the day or evening, where shall we host this and when do we need to do the event and who will be coming? SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time orientated.
*Establish the budget and the feel of the event - is this to be themed? For instance, is it the intention to create an informal style of event or to be set in a more traditional style? If so, how are you going to ensure that the venue, speakers and ideas reflect the requirements? Who is your audience, what would they appreciate and what do they need for the day or evening? Marketing, PR and communications - what is in the budget to promote the event? What is the type of event, the target audience and how are you inviting them? Costings should be presented with the initial objectives and in plenty of time to allow for the planning.
*Seek professional help. Connect with the experts as this is always a great idea to engage with the teams at quality venues. This is because they understand their venues and services. They can guide you through the organisation of the event, support you with the delivery of a great service, can determine how your event may run from past experiences and create new ideas and improvements that you may not have been considered. What can you look into doing a little differently that will create those memorable moments?
*The event planning process falls into three categories – logistics, marketing and content. Every event will need a detailed project and financial plan, breaking down all these activities into timelines, resources and responsibilities. A contingency and risk management plan for all events needs to be implemented, and the higher the profile of the event and larger the scale of the event, the greater the contingency planning. Be prepared for hiccups and work on how to recover the day should something untoward happen. Never underestimate how long it takes to get certain elements of the planning completed.
*Venue searching is fun. However, it can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, as the dates may not be available for your favourite choice and then there are many issues to consider when selecting a venue. Do you require a purpose-built conference centre, contemporary in style, that will be able to meet all your needs, or would you require a more traditional feel, choosing charismatic venues such as old hotels, stately houses, warehouses or even aircraft hangers? There are many choices in the marketplace today and all will depend on the location, the style and content of the event you are organising. There are several venue sourcing agents in the United Kingdom that specialise in finding the perfect venue for your required location and they can often negotiate some great deals on your behalf, as there is a long-standing relationship in place.
*Location is key. Can your delegates and guests get there, and how will they get there? Is there free parking provided and can you get to the venue easily from the railway station or by using public transport? Are you near to a motorway? If delegates use their own mode of transport the directions and parking are vital. Overnight stays may be required and many venues have local preferred rates with hotels in the area. This will need to be pre-arranged for guests needing to stay overnight.
*Catering is so important as expectations are always very high regarding the food for evening entertainment or for the day conferences, as there are so many choices. The discerning palates, who will have experienced the creative tastes of fabulous meals prepared at many a gastro pub or restaurant, are always looking for perfection in the food taste and quality, and can be very critical of the slightest imperfection. Allergens need to be highlighted in advance and vegetarian offerings are far more varied with great recipes that are no longer bland or boring. The provenance of food is a sensitive consideration plus the majority of delegates in the meeting and conferencing world will anticipate a creative and ethically sourced menu. Investigate with the venue as to what is on offer and where it is coming from! Put the chef to the test. They are skilled passionate craftsmen and love to try-out the unusual; guests will always remember something that was surprising and a bit quirky. Challenge the standard menu. There may be costs involved; however, a great meal goes a long way to making someone’s perfect day. Insist on a trying your menu choice beforehand.
*Dare to be different - try something new! Weather permitting, what about outside catering? Consider unusual food displays, quirky and fun breaks to put a smile on delegates’ faces. As the nights draw-in and the days are getting colder, present the hearty favorites like fish and chips, beef cobbler or a lamb hotpot as alternatives to the working lunch. Not only will they be remembered, they will be very much appreciated.
On the day of your event, particularly if organised with a specialist team on site at the venue, the day should go smoothly and according to plan. They would have finalised all the details and run-through the day or the evening with you to make sure nothing has been missed. If requiring outside suppliers, flowers or audio visual equipment, always double-check the tech! Do you have the right size screen, do the microphones work, and can the presentations be seen? Establish if there is natural daylight and make sure the screen can be viewed from all angles! There are so many little things that could create a blot on the day, which should be covered and rehearsed before a big event, to establish that all is working and effective. Even with the most meticulous of planning, with the master event plan in place, running order and the teams perfectly briefed, the unexpected may occur and the venue teams will be always on hand to rectify these problems quickly so no one will notice!
*Follow- up. Always find out how the delegates day went and establish how it can be done better as there are always valuable learnings as the experience gained from the different events that you end up organising will always be valuable for the next one. So, by really thinking about your objectives, enabling structured planning, discerning exceptional food offerings and pursuing a timely follow-up should ensure a hugely successful meeting or conference and make the subsequent one even better.