Tips & Guides

Tips and guides for event organisers. Our experienced team share their tips for organising a successful event.

Top 6 challenges faced by event planners

By Cheryl Hill, events manager, Forever Manchester

Events management is an art. To run a good event you need to think of many elements, and sometimes one or more of those elements can leave you up a creek without a paddle, potentially jeopardising your event. Here are some common challenges of being an event manager and how to avoid them, or at least reduce the risk of occurrence.

Budget

If there is something I’ve learnt to do in my time as an events manager, it’s how to stretch a budget and get more bang for my buck; whether it’s sourcing a drinks sponsor to cover a cost by providing the product or finding a sponsor to pay for your event. Working for a charity, the profit is the money that goes to support the cause we work towards, so I can’t just break even or make a loss. It affects people’s lives.

Try and think of everything, not just the venue cost but also the cost of getting there, bits and pieces you might need, and expenses. There will sometimes be costs you can’t foresee, so you are better overestimating. Give yourself a buffer.

Venue

A constant battle is getting venues to do what you ask of them. You need to be prepared to double, triple and even quadruple check the confirmation document you’ve been sent and then reiterate it all on the day of the event.

You are one of many clients, you probably aren’t at the top of their priorities as the staff working on events at most venues also have additional roles, so nit-pick and question everything you’re unsure about. I once went for a menu taste, picked it all out and then on the day they served all the wrong food. I didn’t check and assumed the venue knew. I won’t make that mistake again.

Catering

The issue with sorting out dietary requirements is that people don’t really understand what a dietary requirement always is. In a nutshell (pun not intended), it is a restriction to what someone is able to eat, either through lifestyle choices or through physical intolerance. It is not picking out things you don’t like because mushrooms aren’t for you. I loathe sending out menus prior to events. I’ve had it all, from “I can’t have anything that comes from an animal with feathers” and “Oh I’m lactose intolerant… except for hard cheeses”.

My only advice is to make sure you ask attendees to your event about their dietary requirements ASAP and specify the above definition, otherwise you’ll be scrambling about contacting people individually and you’ll waste a lot of time.

Drop offs

The biggest fear for anyone working on an event is no one turning up. It isn’t so bad for events where attendees have to pay, as they want their money’s worth. It is the free events that cause me palpitations. The key is in the selling, and investing a little to make it work and reminding your attendees that it is actually happening. For example, the free monthly networking event I used to run had a welcome drink for the first 50 people and we put on local musicians.

Being unique

That brings me to my next challenge, and that’s being unique; creating something that stands out from the thousands of events that are happening. Regularly I have to choose between three different events on one night. How can you create that pull that brings people to you over someone else? Always try and find out what else is going on, and think about the audience you’re trying to appeal to.

Everyone who thinks being an event manager is easy

I understand that coming up with creative ideas is fun part of being an event manager, but it is one small aspect of the role. You need to have a lot more about you to make it work and have the ability to spin a significant number of plates at any one time. I actually agree that most people can cobble an event together, but will that event be well attended, create a profit and be an enjoyable event for both the guests and the people running it, most likely not. It is a nuanced business that takes tact, common sense and getting off your butt and getting stuff done.

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5 simple concepts for the perfect meeting environment

Light and colour

We have been banging on about the importance of natural daylight for years but almost as important is the colours of light you can use to establish the ideal tone for your agenda:

Blue will establish an air of confidence, reliability, competence and productivity

Red symbolises power whilst evoking friendly and lively emotions at the same time

Yellow signifies optimism and energy, stimulating happiness and positive communication

Green is a restful colour, relieving stress and sparking creativity

White encourages an open mind, allowing ideas and fresh approaches to be explored

Aromas and scents

Using scented candles can create particular responses – lavender is comforting and soothing, citrus scents are uplifting and alleviate stress, vanilla and cinnamon are invigorating and aid creativity, whilst lilac encourages decision making. Blends of different essences are powerful mood enhancers and can be used to good effect in a meeting room.

Sounds and music

Far from distracting (provided that the volume is thoughtfully set), background music can help to set the atmosphere of a room. Changing up the soundtrack or volume setting for breaks or to change the energy level is also a great way to stimulate your audience.

Harmony and balance

Eastern ideas that have developed over more than 3 millennia may seem odd-ball to western thinking but there are some important lessons to be learned from disciplines such as Feng Shui and the balance of Yin and Yang.

Clear clutter and organise – When you clear clutter you bring in vital energy that will help you with mental clarity, focus, and inspiration. Feeling organised has a profound impact on emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Use appropriate imagery – Choose artwork for presentations and images to pin up that stimulate and inspire. Surround yourselves with items that stimulate creativity. Include plants, flowers and articles that speak to you of prosperity, abundance and success.

Bring balance by including both Yin and Yang elements – compliment bright natural light with soft colours, hard and angular surfaces and furniture with flowing shapes and soft furnishing.

Play and creativity

It is widely understood that our minds seek constant stimulation. We find it very hard to concentrate for any length of time, especially when being spoken at. Experiential learning is ingrained from our earliest development. Often characterised as play, some of the most powerful personal and group development is achieved when people have fun.

Mix traditional presentations with group work, play acting, role playing, games and team building activities. Get your audience out of their chairs, go outside, be invigorated and exercised. Keep the blood flowing and laughter coming. If it’s a classroom situation allow participants to keep their hands occupied, give them pipe cleaners to fiddle with for instance.

Right now at Sundial we are having fun experimenting with these ideas. We are establishing a meeting laboratory and encouraging our guests to try out ideas so that we can learn how best to upgrade and develop the meeting environments we provide. Please contact us with your thoughts and ideas and to find out more about trying out our meeting spaces and settings.

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard is the Deputy Editor at Conference News. Formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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Choosing food and drink for your office Christmas party

The festive season is all about indulgence especially when it comes to food and drink. So choosing how to cater for your office party is very important.

From small to large groups you’re often faced with varying tastes, likes and dislikes and choosing a style of food to suit everyone can often be a bit of a headache.

Here we look at a few things to consider when choosing the food for your office Christmas party.

Food

What you’re going to serve guests to eat and drink is the central part of any party, and needs to be carefully co-ordinated with your theme, if you have one. Don’t feel like you have to stick to Christmas food either, explore all your options available to you. Depending on your choice of venue, you can either rely on in-house catering (if it has a good reputation) or, venue permitting, you could hire an external caterer. Things to consider for food are:

  • How do you want the food to be served? Do you want a formal, sit-down meal, or do you want a buffet-style event?
  • Make sure you consult with the chefs to choose a style of food that incorporates your theme
  • Organise a vegetarian option, and ensure that individuals with other special dietary requirements are catered for.
  • Always insist on a menu tasting

Drinks

When it comes to drinks, budget is a massive factor. Are you going to prepay up to a certain amount, or are you just going to pay for everything that gets consumed on the night? Obviously, depending on how much your guests drink, the latter can result in spiraling costs and a whole lot of sore heads the next day, so maybe consider either narrowing down the options or having drinks vouchers for attendees to spend as they want.

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Christmas Parties

Planning The Christmas Party: 18 Steps to Organising the Perfect Party

First, if the idea of planning an event all seems too much use a professional venue booker / event management company. They will do the vast majority of the leg work for you + you don’t have to pay them. They are paid by the venue, who in turn don’t pass this cost on to you, the venue relies on the agent’s bulk purchasing power to obtain more business, much like a travel agent.

The job of planning the company Christmas party can often seem something of an unwelcome and scary prospect. You are not alone if that’s how you are feeling about it, as the time constraints and pressure of wanting to organise something that all your colleagues will enjoy can make it a stressful ordeal.

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venue search london

How technology has revitalised our industry

When I first started in the industry, organising events was a labour-intensive affair. As an events manager for a major London institution I remember only too clearly registrations coming in by fax, long nights manually checking registration lists and printing and stuffing badges. Latter when I became a venue finding agent our primary tool for finding venues in unfamiliar cities was huge paper based directories or even that long gone dinosaur the yellow pages.

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venue fnd london

How to find the Ideal Destination for your event

Every experienced planner knows that choosing the right venue and location can make or break the success of an event. Site selection is often the most challenging part of the event planning process, since even a small oversight can cause major setbacks for attendees, that’s what we are here for, at the end of the day nothing beats experience. The below is intended as a brief guide as to how the process works.

Researching meeting destinations and negotiating with venues can be time-consuming, and in many cases, it is difficult to know if you are really getting a good deal. Here are the top five ways to select the ideal destination and venue for your next event, without breaking the bank.

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green conference 4

How to Organise a Green Conference

Greening an event can have two positive impacts. It increases the sustainability of your organisation, but it also makes the participants aware of the importance of sustainable actions. Use both pre-event communications and post-event evaluation and follow-up to tell participants that this is a green event and provide them with further information (this check list) if they are interested.

Before you start…

1. Is your event definitely needed?

Consider whether video (tele) conferencing, local workshops or a digitally broadcast lecture would work instead. If you decide that getting together in one place is essential, design a programme that makes the most of this! No snoozing in the back row… Use training workshops to share knowledge and skills, allow time and space for related meetings to be held, and give out any local resources to save posting them later.

Planning your event…

2. Transport

The distance and the available modes of transport are major determinants of how facilitators and participants travel and therefore their carbon footprint. A very few venues have specific carbon calculators to measure this ie Cavendish venues

Minimise travel during the planning stage, using alternative methods of communication;

Choose location of event to minimise travel and facilitate public transport use;

Provide comprehensive travel information, to include pedestrian/cycle routes from bus andtrain stations – work with the venue staff to find out about local transport options (encourage them to make the same information available to future clients);

Organise group discounts well in advance to encourage train and bus use; encourage local branches to make group bookings for their members;

Consider providing a coach service, if there is no good public transport available;

Reduce the delegate fee for people travelling by public transport (or bike!)

Try to organise conference sessions, socials and accommodation within walking distance of each other Provide facilities for remote participation in the event (e.g. video link-up could allow contributions from overseas colleagues);

Use tools, such as an online carbon calculator (see “L’EcoComparateur” provided by the French train company SNCF);

Collect information from participants on how they travelled to the event. This will raise awareness and help you to plan future meetings.

3. Catering

Food and tableware are the two relevant items to look at. The carbon footprint of food and tableware is determined by its production, storage, transport and disposal.

Liaise with the staff at the venue to request locally produced, seasonal food;

Ask suppliers to minimise packaging, and take back the rest on delivery;

Choose reusable tableware instead of disposable items;

Offer jugs of tap water rather than bottled spring water;

If juice or alcoholic drinks are included, try to source them as locally as possible too;

Provide mainly vegetarian food (which is usually acceptable to all) with a vegan option – this will help to reduce the carbon footprint

Avoid highly processed food (which also has a higher carbon footprint);

Liaise with venue staff about recycling of food waste and other disposable items;

Inform the attendees of the sustainable procurement and provision of the food – if possible, label the dishes.

4. Venue

•We at the venue booker maintain a list of green & sustainable venues throughout the UK, ask for details.

•Ask for a copy of the venue sustainability policy before booking – look out for sections on energy, transport, food and waste.

Choose a venue with lots of natural light and air;

Consider a venue where energy (heating, cooling and electricity) is provided partly or fully by renewable energy sources (at least asking about this will flag the issue for the venue managers);

Consider a venue set in a natural environment, e.g. with a garden or a nearby park;

Choose a location which provides cycle racks and changing facilities;

Inform the manager of the venue about your commitment to sustainability and about options to make the venue more sustainable.

5. Equipment & Stationery

 Send pre-event information by email rather than hard copy;

• Avoid overprinting and duplicating documents provided during the event:

 Use blackboards, whiteboards, projectors and posters rather than handouts;

 Make presentations available by email or download rather than printing out;

 Keep hand-outs short and relevant, print double-sided;

• Use recycled paper (including for any folders – if these are needed);

• Provide pencils or pens made out of recycled material.

• Re-use name tags

6. Involving delegates

•Keep delegates informed of your commitment to sustainability and your efforts at greening;

Ask for their feedback: you could offer a prize or donation to charity for those who arrived by the greenest means, or put   forward the most imaginative ideas for improving future events;

Review the event programme: is there scope to include content on environmental aspects of the subject matter?

Arrange an information stall – perhaps with a personal carbon foot printing service?

Offer a bookswap or other opportunities to freecycle at the event;

Put emphasis on reducing electricity usage, by turning off lights & projectors when not needed, etc. – include reminders in housekeeping notices;

Provide sustainability guidelines to all event organisers.

If you are outsourcing the management of the event to a third party, simply hand them this list and get them to use it.

We are passionate about organising sustainable meetings, talk to us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Organise an Event

How to organise an event

Organising an event can seem like an incredibly overwhelming task, however with good organisation and forward thinking, your event is sure to run smoothly. If you follow the few steps below you will be well on the way to a successful event!

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