What the Arctic Monkeys Can Teach You About Event Management

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/poll/2014/feb/20/alex-turner-brits-speech-what-did-you-think

Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire via The Guardian

One of the major talking points from the Brit Awards 2014 is the Arctic Monkeys acceptance speech for Best Album (their second award of the evening).  Alex Turner certainly divided opinion with his talk of sludge, swamps and rock ‘n’ roll.  People seemed to love or loathe it!  Watch the full clip at the end of this post or for comment see Alex Turner’s Brits speech – what did you think?).

At the end of his monologue Alex invites the Brits organisers to “invoice me for the microphone if you need to” and drops the mic to the ground.

As event organisers it struck me that this incident can remind us of few valuable lessons!  Here are the 5 things the Arctic Monkeys can teach us about event management:

1. Always have a plan B.  In this case it was a replacement mic!  Try to plan for the unexpected, including technical malfunction, whenever possible.

2. Be alert at all times during the live event and ready to react quickly.  In this case the sound technicians swiftly muted the microphone before it smashed to the floor.

3. People will always over or under run their allocated time.  However well you brief people, plan and rehearse timings, give cues, timing warnings, etc speakers and performers will inevitably always finish sooner or later than you have planned.  The key is dealing with it effectively to get the schedule back on track.

4. Never underestimate how unpredictable musicians/celebrities/creatives can be!  We have come across a fair few “divas” and egos in our time, particularly when working backstage at festivals and concerts.  People skills, diplomacy and patience are a must for Event Managers!

Another example of this from the Brits was Harry Styles from One Direction being at the toilet and arriving on stage half way through the rest of the group accepting an award!   

5. Controversy can be great for an event in terms of driving discussion, social media and press coverage.

Watch all of the action via this clip:

I truly think the Arctic Monkeys are lyrical geniuses and I am a big fan of their music; however if I am honest this act seemed completely unnecessary, forced and decidedly un-rock ‘n’ roll to me!  However it was certainly more entertaining and thought provoking than some of the other predictable acceptance speeches we heard on the evening!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!  In your eyes is Alex Turner a legend or a loser for his speech and subsequent actions dropping the mic?  What else can we as event managers learn from this incident?

Is This the Best Event Thank You Gift Ever?

Event thank you giftOver the years we have been lucky enough to receive lots of lovely and unexpected thank you gifts from happy clients.  These have ranged from thank you notes, flowers, wines, chocolates, teddy bears and other token gifts.  

I always think that it is really lovely when people do take the time to send a formal thank you post event; after all we are just doing our job and it is our job to ensure that every project is a success!  It is however wonderful to be appreciated.

In this age of digital and electronic communication though I wonder if traditional/formal gifts are becoming less common?  And if so will that make them even more treasured when received?

Flowers as a business thank you gift Over the years myself and the team have even received gifts from delegates and attendees attending our events, little trinkets, foreign delicacies and good luck charms from other countries have been a wonderful surprise – for example see the wonderful wooden carved and painted horse keyring pictured below received from an international delegate at one of our conferences.

Horse trinket thank you from international delegate

When clients ask our advice or ask us to arrange thank you gifts for speakers/special guests we always try to be inventive.  We find the best gifts are not necessarily the most expensive gifts but rather the items that offer a reminder of the event itself or location and I think my own favourite thank you gift really proves this!

Favourite Event Thank you Gift

My favourite business thank you gift however will possibly never be surpassed (picture right).  To explain; in May 2013 we ran a conference in Bad Pyrmont, Germany, which is near the town of Hameln (Hamelin), which is famous for the legend of the Pied Piper.  On the last day the organising committee that I had been working on behalf of handed me this book depicting the tale, complete with a hand written note on the back page.  The note reads:

Dear Becki
Thank you so much for shaping this SOL2013 story with us. You were key to making this happen and soooo contributed to the flow of this experience.
It’s a pleasure to watch with what passion you do your work, your skilled effictivity, the respectful way you work with your team, the lightness and freshness you bring to the event. You’ve got brilliant leadership skills and if we organised SOL conferences professionally, we’d partner up with you each year.
It was easy, quick (amazingly quick) and very pleasant to work with you.
Thank You!
Penny, Annie, Christoph, Anton, John

Event thank you gift personal messageAlthough the book itself probably only cost a few Euros the sentimental value of the gift is un-measurable!  This is the perfect token in my eyes – it entwines the memory of the event and unique culture and folklore of the location with such a personal and heartfelt note of thanks which they have taken time to compose.  I will treasure this forever and pass it down through my family for them to feel proud too!

chocolate thank you gift received for speaking at an event

What is the thank you gift that means the most to you?  

How do you like to thank speakers and special guests at your events?  

I would love to hear your comments below….

How To Maximise Tweets at your Next Conference, Seminar or Workshop

We are big believers in social media and it is an essential and integral part of almost every event we run nowadays.  Twitter is often the platform of choice and can really enhance the event experience before, during and after the event.  Even some small events we have run with only 70 attendees have trended on Twitter.  So how can you maximise tweets for your next conference, seminar or workshop?  Here are some of our top tips for before, during and after the event!

 

Dedicated Event Twitter Profile

Consider creating a dedicated event Twitter profile, particularly if the event isn’t just a one-off.  This is more likely to appeal specifically to the target audience and avoid annoying your regular loyal followers.  You can also then include more specific information in your Twitter bio such as event date, location, hashtag and website address.

If you do this ensure you start working at and building your community well in advance of the event date as a profile with no followers can be off-putting or even detrimental to the event brand.

Event Hashtag (#)

Check that your preferred event hashtag isn’t already in use by doing searches on Twitter in advance.  If it is in use you will have to choose a different variation.  Hashtags should be as short and memorable as possible to maximize usage.

When the hashtag is decided ensure you start using it and send regular tweets to start growing your community and reach.

Make sure all event stakeholders are aware of the event hashtag and commit to using it and sharing content, particularly clients, partners, sponsors, speakers, staff and exhibitors.

Include the chosen hashtag everywhere – on the registration site, your email footer, on all event literature, on Lanyrd, Conferize and other event listings.

Twitter Handles (@)

Ask your attendees to share their Twitter handle (@username) when they register for the event.  This allows you to start following them or perhaps give them a shout out to thank them for registering.

Likewise ensure you have a current list of speakers, sponsors, clients and partners Twitter handles too.  If a speaker uses an organisation and a personal Twitter account it is always best to check which should be publicized.

Registration Confirmation Email

Include the event hashtag and Twitter handle on the automatic confirmation email sent to all attendees when they register for the event.  Ask them to start following you and using the hashtag to tweet.

Twitter List

You may find it useful to create a Twitter List to listen, keep track and quickly check content from those attending a specific event.  You may want to make this public for others to see or keep the list private just for your reference.

Event Marketing

Ensure you follow the 80/20 rule – no more than 2 tweets in every 10 should be promotion of the event otherwise you risk alienating your followers (you have been warned!).  We favour sharing interesting and relevant content, asking questions and engaging.  For example we like to share research, blog posts, content posted by speakers, media articles, guidance, etc.

We would recommend a minimum of three tweets a day but this depends on the event, the audience and how much relevant content you have!  Sometimes every hour would be more appropriate and this should include evening and weekends too.  We find it is most efficient to pre-schedule tweets in big chunks and just check in regularly (or set up notifications) to respond back to any mentions, RTs, new followers, etc.

Don’t forget to ask your followers questions.  Maybe you want to know their opinion or ask them to comment and help shape the event in some way.

Your followers may also want to be updated about what is going on behind the scenes, announcements, how the event is progressing, what the team is working on, teasers about what one of the speakers is going to talk about, etc.

Attendee Information

Give attendees a reminder of who to follow and how to tweet in the delegate information (directions, programme and other important information) that is sent out pre event.  We generally send this one to two weeks in advance which is often when the number of people tweeting about the event really increases.

Twitter Guidelines

We sometimes create Twitter guidelines with facts, figures, stats and other interesting content to encourage easy scheduling and posting by key stakeholders.  Some content may be embargoed until the day of the event and if so the content, date and time should be specified.

List the Event Hashtag and Speaker Twitter Handles on Printed Materials

We like to include the event hashtag and the correct Twitter handles for each of the speakers on the event programme and speaker biographies.  Also ensure that the hashtag is on the cover page of the event folders or brochure and signage.  Make it as easy as possible for people to tweet by providing the information in relevant places for them, otherwise they may not bother.

Badges

If space allows add the hashtag to the badges for quick reference!

Pre-schedule Tweets

Event days are so busy it doesn’t always leave us much time for Tweeting.  Often we will pre-schedule some basic tweets for the day ahead e.g. “if tweeting about the xxx event please use the hashtag #xxx” or facts and figures from the Twitter guidelines and thank yous to sponsors, etc.

WiFi

Whether or not a venue has good, reliable, free and easily accessed WiFi network can make or break whether a venue is booked or not.  Unfortunately this lets down so many venues and obviously can have an effect on the volume of tweets.  You can bring in suppliers with technology to boost the WiFi capacity or provide a dedicated WiFi network if not is available or up to scratch.  As a back up also try to ensure a good 3G signal is available to all.

Chair/MC/Host Introduction

In the Chair briefing notes encourage him or her to mention the Twitter hashtag during the introduction and to keep phones switched on but turned to silent.  It is good to let attendees know that it is ok to use mobile devices in this way in case they are reticent (particularly true the older the audience is).

Presentation Slides

Encourage speakers to include their Twitter handle and the event hashtag on their presentation slides (e.g. as a header/footer/slide background) and add to the holding slide shown as the speaker takes the stage.

Elect Dedicated Event Tweeters

We like to elect dedicated event tweeters to share content and updates from the event and speakers.  It really works to have live tweeting summarizing the key points from each presentation, repeating questions asked by speakers, sharing stats, pictures, short video, etc.  This encourages RTs and engagement and also allows those that can’t attend the event in person to see what they are missing.

These event tweeters are also tasked with checking the feed and responding promptly to any questions asked about the event.  They can pass on any feedback to the event manager (e.g. the room is too warm).

Twitter Walls

Outside of the speakers presentations (e.g. at lunch and breaks) we like to show the event Twitter feed on the big screen.  This doesn’t cost any extra as it is equipment that is already in place and so you should make use of it.  Sometimes we will have permanent Twitter walls via plasma or digital screens around the room or in the networking areas.  This can often be a good ice breaker for attendees with the Twitter feed sparking conversations between delegates.

Event App

We find that even those that are not active on Twitter like to view the discussion and buzz around the event.  Some event apps (such as the event app from Advanced Event Solutions) allows the feed to be viewed easily which is a real hit with attendees.

Twitter Gimmicks

Use a tool/gimmick to encourage tweeting volume e.g. a robot that blows bubbles with every tweet sent using the event hashtag (we are considering buying one of these to use at our events and to hire out to others!).  We have also heard about a similar product that fills a balloon with more air with each tweet until it finally launches!

wpid-IMG_20131121_095157.jpgCompetitions

You may want to consider running a competition on Twitter e.g. encouraging pictures to be taken and shared, filling in the blanks in a sentence, coming up with an idea, etc.

This picture was taken at EIBTM where @MeetMrHolland provided a prop to encourage pictures to be taken and shared.

Ask for Feedback

Twitter can be a great way to gauge how well the event was received and the highs and lows.  It is easy for people to feed back via Twitter and can be really valuable, even if only in 140 characters!

Post Event

Don’t just suddenly stop tweeting after the event has finished!  Continue the buzz afterwards by sharing highlights, feedback, comments, etc.

We like to create a Storify for some of our events (see http://storify.com/eventsnorthern) and to share event pictures, survey results, videos, blog posts, etc after the event is over.

 

We hope that you found this post useful and that you will see the benefits if you implement these tips before your next event!  In the comments below we would love to hear your top tips for maximizing tweets at events – before, during and afterwards.  Also do you think we should buy the Twitter bubble blowing machine we mentioned?

 

Related Blog Posts:
Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day

 

Conference Day Essentials for Event Managers

We have lost count of the number of conferences and events we have organised over the years but there are certain essentials which we ensure are on hand at every single event we organise.

We started putting together our list, which soon rattled up to 20 conference day essentials which are outlined below!

Becki at sound desk European Healthy Stadia Conference - 21 March 2013 - 0271. Memory sticks

On conference days I generally have a lanyard with 2 memory sticks around my neck.  Saved on the pen drives are individual copies of every presentation received in advance (with PowerPoint presentations saved in 2010/2013 but also saved down to 97-2003 version too and offline versions of Prezi presentations and video files).  This not only makes the loading process streamlined on the morning of the conference but also enables me to save the final versions of the presentations at the end of the day (there will almost always be changes and tweaks or even brand new presentations uploaded during the course of the conference which I want to ensure I have the final copy of).  Memory sticks can occasionally corrupt or malfunction so we don’t leave anything to chance by only having one copy (if I am honest I will often have four or five copies in total on site!).

2. Mobile Phone

Speakers, clients, staff and other important guests all have my mobile number and are urged to contact me at any time of the day or night if they need to.  Once the event gets underway though I am in the main room, my phone is on silent and text messages become an essential form of communication between me and rest of the team, messaging that a speaker has arrived, checking that catering is in place and ready on time, letting staff know if we are running to time or slightly behind schedule, giving a tally of final numbers that have checked in and other vital information.

3. Event Managers Box

Our event managers box is a treasure trove of useful items which always seem to come in handy.  It includes items such as gaffa tape, scissors, bluetack, velcro, flipchart paper and markers, post it notes, string, stapler and staples, cable ties, elastic bands, string, pens, plain paper, spare badges, tape, safety pins, business cards and lots more.  We have these items in an easy transportable plastic crate and time and time again it is worth its weight in gold!

4. Spare Printed Event Programmes

However many times you circulate this in advance and hand out copies within the delegate folders you will always need multiple spare copies on hand at the lectern or top table, to pass to the audio visual technicians, Chair, speakers, staff and anyone else who loses their copy.  Even if you have an event app don’t scrimp on spare copies of these!

5. Hard Copies of Other Important Information

I also ensure that I have hard copies and spare copies of any important information I may need to access or share quickly.  Typically this is extra copies of the Chair Notes, Staff Briefing, dietary requirements and Twitter speaker details as a minimum.

6. Watch

I do my utmost to ensure that every event we run keeps to time as accurately as possible.  To do this I need a watch that can be read easily and accurately with a simple glance rather than getting my phone out each time.  Apparently wearing a watch is becoming a thing of the past but for event managers on conference days it is a very wise move!

7. Bottle of Water

Event days can be hard work and we often cover miles during the course of an event (wearing a pedometer is always enlightening!).  You can also spend a lot of time talking -welcoming people, giving briefings, directing people and so forth.  A bottle of water is wise to keep you hydrated as inevitably you are briefing a speaker or making some adjustments when the refreshment breaks are taking place and so miss out on a brew!

8. Back up of Important Information/Remote Access to the Office

When I am on site at an event I also make sure I have the essential documents and information for the event and other forthcoming events at my fingertips in digital format if I need them.  Time and time again you just need to check on something unanticipated or adapt the event PowerPoint holding slide or signage template and so having the files saved to a pen drive and/or being able to log in remotely to your office computer is a valuable time saver.

9. Pens and Paper

Have a good stock of pens and paper because you are the first person people will turn to when they need them!  I always seem to hand out pens “left, right and centre” on event days and inevitably you don’t get them back again!  You don’t want to be left short when you need to write down an important note to self for quick reference.

#-Healthy Stadia Conference 23910. Timing Cards

I have laminated 5 and 10 minute timings cards and a red skull and cross bones (to signify that time is up – get off the podium!).  I find this is a really simple but effective way to warn speakers when they are approaching the last 10 and 5 minutes of their presentation slot and when they need to wrap up as a matter of urgency.

11. Wireless Mobile Mouse and Laser Pointer

Even if a speaker is happy to stand at the lectern a wireless mobile mouse is an tool appreciated by almost all speakers to advance slides, particularly experienced and academic speakers.  The laser pointer can also be invaluable, particularly when explaining complex data.

12. Laptop, Speakers and Printer

We generally always aim to have a spare laptop available, as well as a printer and audio speakers “just in case.”  This is so useful if a member of staff needs to create a notice or print something quickly – otherwise you can wait for half an hour or more to trouble the venue to do it, particularly if they don’t have a dedicated conference office/business services.  Likewise if a speaker decides to play a video in their workshop without notifying you in advance it is great to be responsive and oblige them.

13. Tablet

Quickly I am wondering how I managed without my tablet in every area of my life!  I find it particularly valuable on event days though in terms of managing social media accounts and being responsive.

14. Radios and Headsets

On larger events radios and headsets/earpieces are worthwhile, particularly if phone reception is intermittent.  Communication is key and on large events they can save a lot of leg work and by communicating to the team collectively – much more efficiently than your mobile phone.

15. Arrow Signs

We plan and think about signage requirements on our site visits before the event but arrows always come in useful!  We have plenty of laminated arrows in our event managers box and they regularly get utilized!

16. Chargers

Your smartphone and tablet will gobble power on event days so don’t forget your chargers.  Being out of contact is not an option!  Likewise you can often come to the rescue of a speaker in distress if you have a compatible charger they can borrow for a quick power top up.

17. Twitter List of all the Speakers

Twitter is a great asset to many events and we want to encourage as much social media activity and buzz as possible.  Generally we will try to add Twitter handles to our speaker biogs and encourage the speakers to include this prominently on their presentation slides.  Make sure you have a quick reference list to hand though for tweets on site that can’t be pre-scheduled.

18. Items to Keep You Looking Presentable

Deodorant.  And hairbrush.  And lipgloss.  Basically bring along anything you need to keep you looking presentable, however early the start or however long the day!

19. Snacks

Sometimes there isn’t time for eating and other times you simply don’t want to be away from a minute of the event!  It is therefore wise to pack a cereal bar or snack to keep your sugar levels topped up.

20. Comfortable Shoes

I love my heels but I wouldn’t dream of wearing them on an event day.  I am there to do my job quickly and efficiently rather than to look pretty.  Practicalities win every time!

We would love to hear about your essentials or any items we have missed from our list in the comments below!

Event Trends 2014

#-Healthy Stadia Conference 039Last year we wrote a blog post on Conference Trends 2013.  Reading back over the post we think that we predicted the year ahead fairly accurately (even if we do say so ourselves!) and so here is our post looking forward to 2014….

Although some sectors seem almost immune to the economic downturn we have witnessed that it is really tough and complete “doom and gloom” in other areas.  We know our public sector and NHS clients are finding the spending cuts very deep which is heartbreaking and frustrating for them.  There is no doubt that the North of England has suffered significantly from the economic downturn and is taking much longer than the South to recover.  Nevertheless as we enter 2014 the mood overall seems to be lifting and the business outlook seems to be more buoyant.  Dare we hope that we are finally over the worst of it?

For Events Northern Ltd we have some really great projects confirmed and in the pipeline for the year ahead.  We are also really fired up by our recent/forthcoming pitches, presentations, meetings and proposals for some other really exciting events we REALLY hope we get the opportunity to work on!  Already we have had 3 clients clamouring over one event date too.  We hope that all these indicators are positive signs that things are definitely “on the up.”

Nevertheless as you would expect budgets are still tight and as event managers it is up to us to work wonders, save our clients money and ensure we stick to the available budget, however small (see our post Is Your Event Management Company Saving You Money?).  This should be normal practice in our opinion anyway but it is even more vital currently.

The first thing that many companies do in times of uncertainty is cut their marketing budget, which often also means curtailing their event plans.  However the smart companies realise that this is counter-productive and that to survive they must be brave and invest or keep spending in these key areas.

We are still seeing very short lead times for certain projects as clients battle with numerous pressures.  In terms of organising an event it is definitely true that the more time the better though to enable us to fully achieve the objectives.  On the flip side it is also heartening and wise to see other clients approaching us at least 9 or 12 months in advance to discuss event ideas and start the event planning and marketing process in plenty of time.

Demonstrating Return On Investment (ROI) in every event project is more vital than ever before.  Determine at the start of the project the aims and objectives of the event and specific tangible targets and ensure that these are delivered or ideally exceeded in full every time.

cross platform social media managementThese are truly exciting times for business and for the events industry in terms of social media.  Every Event Manager should have embraced social media wholeheartedly and have an excellent working knowledge for all platforms relevant to their event communities and target audiences.  Some are however still burying their heads in the sand and missing the huge opportunity social media presents in terms of engagement, marketing, enhancing the live event experience and ensuring the longevity of each project.

Online registration sites are finally developing and becoming more beautiful, social and sophisticated.  It is great to see providers such as Evolero emerging and this is a platform I am keen to try out on a relevant event project during 2014.

People are accessing data and websites on the move through their phones and tablets.  It is really important to check that all web content, including event registration sites, are optimised across multiple devices.

Although the UK business blogging community is very strong the events industry seem to be slow on the take up, as discussed in my blog post The Event Industry and Blogging: Are Event Managers Missing a Trick?  I am sure 2014 will see a strong rise in the number of UK Event Professionals blogging.  Furthermore I think that Event Managers should develop closer relationships with key players in the blogging community and engage with them better on relevant event projects.  This is certainly something I am keen to explore and find out more about.

Video marketing and vlogging are also areas which are growing in importance.  These are definitely exciting areas we want to incorporate more whenever the opportunity arises.

The modern delegate rightly demands more and expects a truly slick and professional event experience every time!  If you are running an event or conference internally with little previous event management experience we definitely recommend that you should talk to and enlist help from a professional event management company such as Events Northern Ltd otherwise you risk damaging your company brand and reputation (and also being overwhelmed and stressed by the enormity of the task of organising the event itself!).

The modern delegate expects to arrive at an event to be checked in by a slick registration check-in system such as the barcoded registration management system we have developed.  We can’t believe that we occasionally still attend events without any badges (not helpful for networking and mingling) or with scruffy, handwritten badges or labels.

Event App from Advanced Event Solutions LtdEvent Apps are also becoming better utilized to enable attendees to have information at their fingertips at all times and also from an environmental and sustainable perspective (as it can reduce the amount of printing required).  Through our sister company Advanced Event Solutions Ltd we have developed a fantastic event app which is fully brandable and customizable and includes all of the key information such as venue information, directions, event agenda, speaker biogs, sponsor and exhibitor information and event feedback.  Also the app is able to offer live voting and results without the need of keypads and can integrate with our barcoded registration management system if you so wish.

We are itching to run our first truly hybrid event!  A hybrid event combines a “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online component.  We are seeing more and more hybrid events taking place year on year and it opens up a huge wealth of possibilities if done well.  Some people are nervous that streaming live content will detract from the live event or stop people from paying to attend in person however there is plenty of evidence of the virtual audience really enhancing the overall event experience.  Participating online in this way also sometimes gives the confidence to make the decision to attend an event in person after first participating as an online delegate, which otherwise would not have happened.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our thoughts on the year ahead in terms of the events industry.  We would love to hear your own predictions and whether you agree with our suggestions? 

The Event Industry and Blogging: Are Event Managers Missing a Trick?

UKBlogAwardsLogoWe are really excited to be a collaborative partner in the National UK Blog Awards, which is the first cross industry blog awards to take place in the UK.  As a blogger myself and an avid reader of blogs on a largely daily basis we are really passionate about being involved in this exciting project.  I started blogging in June 2011 and I am enjoying continually learning and developing my skills and immersing myself in the blogging community.  I am finding it truly inspiring seeing so many fantastic blogs being entered into the Awards and wish I had more time to read them all!

One of the 14 categories for individual bloggers and businesses that blog to enter is the Events Category and I have been surprised to find entries in this category lagging behind the other sectors slightly.  I never seem to have any shortage of event blog posts to read, however I realise of course that many of my favourite event bloggers are not from the UK, notably:

As the UK has such a strong and vibrant community of event professionals I believed that everyone like me would be beavering away on their blog as often as they could, knowing how important it is to post regularly in terms of improving SEO, visibility and showcasing knowledge of their niche sector.  Now don’t get me wrong – many UK event professionals ARE doing this, and some of which have already entered the awards!  I did some research and it was great to see so many established blogs with regular postings and a back catalogue of archived blog posts on interesting topics (going back several years in some cases).  HOWEVER for every great up to date blog I discovered there were numerous others with blogs which hadn’t been updated since circa 2010/2011.  This made me wonder are these companies still in business?  I wondered if it was actually more detrimental having a neglected blog on their site rather than having no blog at all?

In this quick investigation into UK event management blogs I searched for both Freelance Event Managers and Event Management Companies as it is proven that blogging is a great leveller in terms of inbound marketing returns, particularly for small businesses.  I was also however surprised at some of the biggest companies in the event industry not having a blog at all.  And others still that called something a blog when really it was just a series of news posts and self promotion.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate how hard successful event planners work in the industry and the long hours that they keep because I do the same too!  I am certainly not saying that I am perfect in any way – you will see that I have sometimes had months when I have not posted to this blog due to work pressure, maternity leave, etc (although hopefully not recently as this is something I am improving on and committed to).  I feel however that missing a post or three is entirely different to going AWOL from your blog for 6 months plus, particularly without any explanation.  It is one thing being busy and not having enough hours in the day but not finding the time to write a post in the space of half a year or more sends out the wrong messages I would say!

It also made me laugh to discover so many sites which proclaimed “this is my new website and blog, which will be updated regularly without fail” never to have any further posts!

Generic blog logo

Universal blog icon

The UK has world class events, venues, suppliers, technology, eventprofs and event management companies but in terms of my quick blogging research it seems that the UK as a whole could be falling behind the rest of the world in the events blogosphere.  Most event managers that I know have lots to say and if the prospect appeals I would encourage you to definitely think about starting a blog and giving it a go!  Perhaps then you will be entering the awards in 2015!

One thing that I have found really inspiring is the number of students and graduates blogging.  As an employer if someone with a well written blog applied for a job in this competitive market this would potentially set them apart from the other candidates as it shows self-motivation, passion, thought and dedication – all key attributes required by an event organiser.  This heartwarming article from the Guardian Professional gives a real life example: Blogging During Unemployment Helped My Career.  Despite the difficult economic climate blogging helped this Graduate into work after 2 years of unemployment and illustrates potentially the springboard that blogging could be if you so wish, whatever your profession.

Do you think the UK lags behind the rest of the world in terms of event management blogs?  What are your favourite UK event industry blogs?  

Are you an event manager?  Do you or your company blog?  How often do you try to post and what is the longest period you have gone without posting?  What were the reasons for any breaks?  

Do you think it is best to have a neglected blog or no blog at all?  I would love to hear your thoughts on these issues below!

In a forthcoming blog post I am going to discuss the importance in engaging with bloggers as part of your event marketing strategy, before, during and after a live event.

Individuals and organisations can enter their blog for FREE in the UK Blog Awards up until midnight on 15th December 2013 via the UK Blog Awards online entry form.  There are 14 categories for individual bloggers and businesses that blog to enter – 12 industry categories (including the Events Category) and 2 sub categories including ‘Most Innovative’ and ‘Young Persons Blog Award.’  We will look forward to reading your entry!

Are Event Management Degrees Worthwhile?

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumIn October 2013 Conference and Incentive Travel Magazine published this article: The Big Debate – Are Event Management Degrees a Waste of Time?  The Event Wide Blog then responded with this piece: A Response from an Event Student and Joanna, another event management student, blogged about it here: To a Degree of Relevance.  Event Management qualifications certainly seem to be a controversial subject!  As a graduate with an event management degree myself (graduating over 10 years ago with a 2:1 BA Hons Events Management from Leeds Metropolitan University) I also wanted to write a blog post and to add my thoughts into the mix!

In the C&IT article Simon Maier from the TFI Group suggests that the degrees are too wide-ranging. He says “The content is too broad. It mostly covers management and logistics – very little about delivery, measurement, ROI and the full gamut of event technology. I suspect that not all the lecturers who design the courses are practising events professionals and tend to come from the academic, hotel or travel side.”

Obviously I only have first hand detailed experience of the content of my own course which I imagine has changed and developed a lot in the last 10 years and so it is impossible to speak authoritatively for all event management degrees across the UK.  I would suggest though that it was largely a business degree with elements of planning, finance, marketing, HR, etc, alongside the event planning specific content.  However with many of the modules we were of course expected to put the learning into an event context.

The events industry is varied and although certain principals and planning elements apply to any event genre the specifics of organising a conference are very different to managing an outdoor festival for example.  My degree opened my eyes to the many opportunities in the industry and like many I started the course thinking I wanted to get involved in music festivals and came out realising that actually conferences and corporate event projects are my forte and passion.

When I did my degree there were very few event management degree courses and Leeds was definitely the place to be!  We had less than 75 people in the year group and you could not progress unless you had completed a minimum of 48 weeks full time work placement in the industry.  This placement took place during your 2nd year and then you returned to university for years 3 and 4.  That first hand experience was essential and certainly made the rest of the university content more real, fusing together the academic with real life experience.  One thing that does worry me nowadays is the intake in each year group and therefore the amount of event management students studying each year.  In the current economic climate does the demand by students for work placements and jobs in the industry outstrip the actual requirement in the real world?

Another element that I really valued in my degree was the regular contributions from industry speakers.  This really brought to life the realities and scope of the world of events.
Glenn Bowdin was (and still is) the Head of UK Centre for Events Management, Leeds Metropolitan University.  He has written event management text books and is Chair of AEME (Association for Events Management Education).

I had some great lecturers and it was really apparent those that “knew their stuff” and had a lot of experience.  I particularly valued the knowledge of Nick Jordan and I was lucky enough to have Nick as my dissertation tutor (now a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University).  Perhaps it was Nick that sparked my love of organising conferences too!  Of course not all of the lecturers encountered had the same level of experience and one in particular seemed to crack under questioning from inquisitive students and seemed to have only have organised a handful of events (they are no longer at Leeds Met I hasten to add!).  I agree that it is absolutely vital that anyone who teaches the event managers of tomorrow must have credibility and many years of experience running events.  A background in event management (not hotels, travel and tourism or academia) cannot be faked and so you will soon be discovered and lose the respect of the students otherwise.  Also to be able to direct research or advise students around their dissertation topic you surely need to have that deeper understanding?

We did plan, develop and execute some real events as part of our course although sometimes we had to undertake the planning for imaginary event projects too which was perhaps frustrating.  Looking back though I imagine it was very important as it gave us the opportunity to think big as if we were planning a really innovative event project with a complicated brief and a specific budget and is similar to putting forward ideas to a client and developing new opportunities in the real world.

I agree wholeheartedly with Simon Maier that delivery, measurement, ROI and event technology are vital elements to be studied.  The events industry is moving at such a fast pace I would hope that event management degrees are keeping abreast and tweaking their course content every single academic year.  Social media and health and safety are other vital components I would suggest should be given priority and whereas 10 years ago we learnt about video-conferencing, students today should be learning about hybrid events.  I know we had the opportunity to learn video editing for one module and skills such as this are obviously more important than ever for a well rounded event manager.  I hope also that all students at all universities nowadays (whatever the course) also have access to training in entrepreneurship, business planning and guidance on how to set up your own company.

One thing I think it is important to remember though is that University is not school or college.  It is about independent learning – research, critical thinking, study, reflection combined with work experience.  University is not about hand holding and telling people what to think and do – the student must come to their own conclusions and it is true somewhat that they get out what they put in (as with life in general!).

More recently I have had some links with the BA (Hons) Event Management Course at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).  I have had the pleasure of meeting the Course Leader and Senior Lecturers, I have presented to students about my career and experience of the events industry, I have participated in an industry focus group around course content and development, I have interviewed students for an events role, I have attended events organised by the students and I have worked first hand with several students who volunteered and came forward to work on a challenging event taking place within very short timescales.  I have to say I have been nothing less than impressed – the students have been really proactive and keen, the lecturers have a true background in events, the student intake each year is small and as part of the course they have to put on real events.

VolunteerWhen I graduated my industry work placement as well as the other voluntary and paid work experience I had gained were essential in helping me find a job.  Then in 2004 I set up my own company: Events Northern Ltd. (note I wrote an earlier blog post here about Starting an Event Management Company).  I know of at least 2 other graduates from my year group that did the same.  Others went on to top high flying jobs with some of the biggest companies in the events industry.  Inevitably though there were also many that didn’t go into the events industry and found jobs in human resources, marketing, retail and so forth.  I think it is a strength that our course was broad enough to allow this if people decided the events industry wasn’t for them.  The business elements of an event management degree and indeed the skills developed in terms of event planning are easily transferable, whereas someone without that event management background would not necessarily have the skills an event organiser needs.

I would suggest from an employers perspective if someone has a degree in Event Management this shows me that they are very focused on their career path (like I was – I couldn’t imagine studying anything else).  I agree that event experience would have the greater weighting if I had to choose between event management experience or having an event management degree but if recruiting I would largely favour someone with an events management degree rather than someone who had studied another subject.

I really do not envy current event management (or any students) today.  Not only do they have to pay high tuition fees (up to £9k per year) they also face a really difficult job market at the end of it.  Luckily the top students seem to realise that this is a competitive market and are raising their game and thinking ahead.

I have been impressed by the event management students I have come into contact with in person and also via Twitter and #eventhour.  They have shown an inquisitive and intelligent perspective, are gaining valuable work experience whenever they can (both paid and unpaid) and it is great to see them networking with event professionals via the virtual world through Twitter chats and face to face opportunities as well as taking the time to blog.  For me as an employer this shows real commitment.

In conclusion I would wholeheartedly defend my event management degree.  The academic preparation and inspiration it provided, in conjunction with lots of work experience has prepared me for my career as a professional event and conference organiser.  I would love to hear more from Universities that offer event management degree courses and find out about their specific course content and how they respond to this debate.

Personality Traits of Event Managers

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumAt EIBTM last week I had the opportunity to mingle with many event organisers (#eventprofs as we are affectionately known on Twitter).  Whenever you attend event industry exhibitions such as EIBTM, Confex, the Conference and Hospitality Show, etc or go on a ‘fam trip’ or similar opportunity which gathers event planners together you know that you are guaranteed to meet like minded people.  It seems that to work in the events industry you need to have certain character traits and this almost guarantees that you will get along with each other!  It made me think about what the key personality requirements are and I came up with the following list.

1. Friendly, outgoing and able to talk to anyone (about almost anything)!
An event organiser has a very public facing job in terms of face to face contact with clients and attendees so unsurprisingly you need to have great people skills.  If you are the shy and retiring type this probably isn’t the career choice for you!

2. Happy and positive outlook
The best event managers and the most successful people I encounter in life in general all seem to have a positive and optimistic outlook on life.  At Events Northern Ltd service with a smile is vital.

3. Confident
I think a level of confidence is required to manage people and attendees effectively and deal with any challenges that come along calmly with a level head.  Refer back to point 1.

4. “Grafters”
Event Managers often work very long, unsociable hours.  It is often fairly physical work too and you need to ‘get stuck in!’

5. Organised
The most obvious personality trait that an event planner needs is to be very organised and methodical, with excellent attention to detail.

I would love to read your comments on other key personality traits that event organisers should possess!

You may also be interested to read our earlier blog post: Business Etiquette Tips for Event Managers

All the Right Noises: Enhancing Your Seminar through Sound

If you’re planning a seminar or business conference and are wondering how to give it that extra dimension it needs to really become something special, the answer is simple – introduce sound. Bringing extra auditory aspects into your conference not only allows it to operate on an additional plane, but also guarantees to maximise engagement when compared with a standard lecture-format presentation. Of course, anyone hoping to bring sound to their seminar will need to ensure that they can depend on quality audio. But once you’ve got that covered, there are a whole world of options available. You might be wondering how sound can work for your seminar – but don’t worry, we’ve got a few ideas.

Sound Bites
Sound bites can be a great way to substantiate points made throughout your presentation. If you can find any clips from audio interviews on the same topic, or any excerpts from speeches or monologues supporting the issue, these can be a quick win in terms of giving your conference that little something extra it needs.

If you’ve got room to be a little more offbeat, you could even try introducing some extracts from TV or movie dialogue – as long as it supports the ultimate message. Bear your audience in mind at all times and gear your auditory extras towards their assumed interests. Pop culture references are a failsafe with younger audiences, so this could be the way to take engagement to the next level.

Music
Continuing to bear in mind that any audio used in your presentation must be relevant to the overall theme of the conference, and indeed directly support your current point, music can be used to great effect if and where appropriate. You might want to try giving your presentation an ongoing soundtrack (as long as the music doesn’t detract from the presentation itself), or – if you’re looking for something a little quirkier, play a particular song in your presentation that helps to illustrate a point. Again, audience awareness is vital – hot contemporary tracks can really shake up a seminar with the right audience sitting there.

Video
All presentations can, realistically, benefit from the use of video. Even besides the fact that this dynamic medium brings a ton of extra life to your message – and therefore energises the presentation as a whole – video is such a complex and versatile medium that is able to serve any number of purposes.

You could use video interviews on the topic, relevant news items, commercial ads (where appropriate), TV or film clips, educational videos – the internet is your oyster. If you really want your presentation to be cutting-edge and on-topic, you could even spice up your seminar with some internet memes. There are an immense number of memes out there, just waiting to give your presentation some mainstream appeal – and they guarantee some laughs.

If you want a presentation that really packs a punch, audio is the way to go. Give your audience something special – something above and beyond what they expect – and engagement is all but guaranteed.

Thanks to Kate Haywood (@writtenbykate) for this guest blog post.

Why I Love Organising Conferences

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumRecently I was talking to a fellow event manager who is tasked with organising various conferences and they were saying that they would much prefer to be organising a dinner or team building exercise, or indeed any other type of event rather than conferences. This is the complete opposite to myself – I love organising conferences in particular over any other type of event project.

They asked me why this is the case and suggested to me that perhaps it is because of the structure?  I disagreed and suggested that I am passionate about conferences for some of the following reasons.

Conferences Shouldn’t Be Boring
I firmly believe that conferences shouldn’t be boring.  A conference is a fantastic opportunity to bring together thought leaders and top speakers as well as people with a shared interest. If the content is boring and un-stimulating you will quickly lose the attention of your attendees.  A lot of planning, thought, briefing and support should go into the content.

A Conference Has Everything
A great conference can have everything; learning, interaction and participation, networking, catering and perhaps also additional elements such as exhibitors, dinners and supporting events.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Traditional
Who said that a conference has to involve long lectures in theatre style layout?  Perhaps cabaret or classroom layout would be better?  Or take the tables away completely and have clusters of seats to really surprise people!  Likewise presentations can be revitalised – speakers don’t have to use presentation slides such as PowerPoint at all – they could just directly speak to the audience. Or could they just use a picture presentation or Prezi instead.  Maybe you can have short TED style presentations?  Or even use PechaKucha?  Or would video or a panel discussion or questions from the audience be better use of the time?

I Like Surprising People
People often come along to a conference unsure what to expect and perhaps with pre-conceived ideas that it will be boring.  It is very rewarding to hear back from these people that although they were reluctant before they arrived they have actually got a lot out of it.

#-After the Event 033Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Audience
The ideas and connections that can be made by bringing together those with a shared job role or area of interest is nothing short of exciting. Make sure the programme gives the opportunity for conversations and brainstorming to happen if you can.

Where Relevant Incorporate Elements to Enhance the Conference
You can enhance the conference in many ways. This may include the use of social media, sound, light, technology, facilitators, voting, event apps, etc.  Always consider what is right for the event and what it will add.

Conferences are Good Value
Gathering together your staff or a network of relevant people to educate and inform is often the most cost effective way of disseminating information to large numbers.  It is also a great change from the norm and can be a great motivator and team building opportunity.

These are just some of the reasons why I really enjoy organising conferences. Events Northern Ltd are always happy to produce no obligation quotations if you would like to explore the potential or running a conference or any event project.