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?

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!

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

Business Etiquette Tips for Event Managers

The Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for Event Management at the University of Central Lancashire recently asked for my top ten hints and tips on professional business etiquette for budding Event Managers.  I started thinking about my personal experience and the standards that are important to me and this provided inspiration for this blog post.

As an Event Manager it is vital to act professionally and ethically and to present a positive business image at all times.  We work in a people-orientated industry.  People buy from people and they want to work with those that they respect and have faith in.  You are an ambassador for the company you work for and your conduct adds to your “brand.”  Of course this post isn’t exclusive to the event industry – it will be useful to a broad spectrum of professions.

To be distinguished as a professional event manager and outclass the competition these are my personal top tips.

Timekeeping

Good timekeeping is essential.  Always be on time for meetings.  It is unprofessional to be late and you do not want to keep people waiting.  Should circumstances be beyond your control do of course have the courtesy to phone ahead and apologise.

Always arrive early on live event days – it is completely unacceptable to be even a minute late on the day of the event.  Leave plenty of extra time in case of unexpected eventualities.

Presentation

Good presentation and personal grooming is important.  Your dress must be practical and comfortable as well as smart.

Make sure that you give a proper handshake.

Stay calm and unruffled under pressure – keep your head.

Time Management

Good time management is an essential skill for every Event Manager.

It goes without saying that you must meet all deadlines – events will not wait!  Work backwards from the event date and effectively map the key milestones and deadlines leading up to the date and stick to them.

The nature of running an event does mean that a lot can happen just before the event day – last minutes bookings, substitutions, last minute requests from speakers, etc.  Be prepared for this.  Expect to work late as necessary to get things done thoroughly.

Attitude

Treat others with the respect you expect to be treated with yourself.

Have a positive, professional outlook.

Event Managers should be friendly and approachable and most importantly SMILE!  This is a people business and you should be warm and welcoming.

Correspondence

Develop a professional way of answering the phone.

Know how to write professional letters, faxes and emails.

Respond to emails and voice messages promptly.  However busy I am it is important to me to respond as quickly as possible to emails and any calls I have missed.  I definitely aim to respond within 24 hours but generally reply much more speedily.

Manners

Always ensure introductions are made between speakers, performers, clients and staff.  Be sure to use correct titles where appropriate (Dr, Professor, Sir) and full names.  Try to give job titles, organisations and a hook to enable a conversation to begin naturally.  This might be a shared interest, fact or point of view or some background information which will put them at ease with each other.

Don’t forget your manners.  Common courtesy seems to be a dying art but costs nothing.

Always thank speakers, sponsors, staff and clients – anyone that has contributed to making the project a success or paid for your services.

Business Etiquette

Get everything in writing.  This is particularly important when it comes to contracts, roles and responsibilities, deadlines, health and safety information, venue operations sheets and basically anything important!

Ask for constructive feedback.  Everyone likes positive feedback and affirmation but negative feedback can be extremely valuable if you listen, understand and improve as a result of it.

The customer is always right.  Unfortunately this may not always be true however if you receive a complaint of any description you must deal with it graciously.  Don’t interrupt (even with a solution) before they tell their story.  Then handle the complaint in a calm, rational way.

Act discreetly and confidentially.  Behind the scenes at an event you may find out some top secret information – perhaps that world class “superstar” is actually extremely dislikeable or perhaps you witness someone doing something they shouldn’t.  This is however your secret – it is not your place to sell the story to the media or gossip on social media channels! (or at least not if you want to continue to work in the events industry)

Approach

Find solutions for your clients, even if one isn’t obvious straight away.  Your clients pay you to make things work and “where there is a will there is a way!”

Offer your professional advice to ensure a successful event will be executed.  Clients often presume how things will be done but frankly this isn’t always the best way to do things.  It is your job to explain your vision and why your way is better, quicker, more efficient and will get results.  You have learnt from experience so let your clients benefit from your learning and expertise too – that is what they are paying you for after all.

Professionalism

Don’t complain.  You may have back ache/leg ache/head ache/be worn out from getting up at 4 am to be on site however your client does not need to know that!

Don’t bad mouth competitors.  Although the behaviour and way of working of your competitors can repeatedly baffle you it is not professional or acceptable to point this out publically.  If you cannot say something nice it is best just to say nothing at all in my opinion.

Be careful how you present yourself/your organisation on social media channels – never swear, bad mouth, don’t blatantly self-promote, consider that current or future clients/employers/employees could be reading your updates.  If necessary separate your business and personal profiles.

Separate business and pleasure.  As a perk of the job you will no doubt receive invitations to many glittering social occasions with free alcohol flowing.  Have a good time (naturally) but do draw a respectful line if you wish to receive other invitations in the future!

Business Ethos

Always give your best.  If you are a half-hearted event manager you will never succeed.

Learn from every project, client and event.  Strive to do things better.

Be understanding.  Speakers and clients are busy people and they cannot always meet the deadlines we impose, however much notice we give them.  Be prepared, adapt and be understanding even if it does cause you last minute work and stress.  And then smile, be understanding and don’t complain!

Applying standards of etiquette and protocol should become hallmarks of you and your company and an integral part of your brand.  As a professional Event Manager these are some of my ways of working.  What are your personal hints and tips for business etiquette?