Event Management

by Rus Slater

Some practicalities to be researched

Here we list some aspects that may need some careful research and consideration when you are starting the planning process.

Theme

The theme of some events will be a foregone conclusion, while others may be more open to choice. Some events do not need a theme at all, whereas others may benefit from one.

Examples
  • A barn dance has a pretty obvious theme that will tend to steer decisions on entertainment, décor, catering and facilities.
  • A charity ball may have no particular theme, so a theme can be chosen; that choice will then lead towards some styles and away from others.
  • An offsite team event may quite possibly have no theme at all, but if you choose a theme, be sure that it fits with your goal.

Themes may be dictated by trends and fashions or by the organisation’s history; they may be suggested by the time of year at which the event is to be held or by the circumstances of the venue or the nature of the sponsor.

Venue

A venue needs to be chosen to suit the target audience or the nature of the event. Whatever the case, you will need to factor the venue into your planning.

  • Is the venue appropriate to your event?
  • Is it convenient to your audience?
  • Can you really afford it?
  • Does it have all the factors you need, such as car parking or transport links, overnight accommodation, conference rooms or outdoor pursuits like a ropes course?
  • Is the venue location ‘appropriate’ to your environmental policy?

Date

There may be a fixed and non-negotiable date for the event. If so, the primary point is to make decisions at an appropriate time, since the delivery date cannot move. If you can be flexible about dates, then you need to consider a range of factors:

  • Will your event clash with any other competing events, such as national sporting events – the World Cup, a Six Nations match, the Grand National or Wimbledon? You also need to avoid clashes with events specific to the target audience: for example, the financial end-of-year, in the case of the finance function, or major trade shows. (See also Risk assessment and management.)
  • If attendees are paying for tickets, will your event coincide with other financial drains on their pockets, such as Christmas?
  • Does the venue price change, depending on the day of the week or the season?
  • Is the day of the week relevant to our target audience? (Getting City people to a country venue for a weeknight event may be a problem; getting staff to an 0800 Monday morning start may prove difficult if you pick a venue too far away from their homes.) Asking paid staff to give up a Saturday for a teambuilding day may not be popular (not just with parents with kids – single people have lives too!).
  • Is the time of the day relevant? Events held out of work hours are not always popular with staff. Anything that will result in people missing the last train home will create problems for some.
  • What effect could the weather have at that particular date? What are the weather patterns at that time of year? Think about things as diverse as all-weather car parking, and where people can get undercover if it rains at an outside event.

Catering

Many events will either have no catering requirements or they will be wholly or partly outsourced. For example, if you are managing a trade show stand, you may not need to worry at all since there may be plenty of eateries on site. If you are setting up an outward-bound event, on the other hand, you will need to do it all yourself. If you are organising a conference at a country house hotel, the hotel will take care of all the operational aspects; you only really need to decide on the menu and timing.

Questions that must be answered

  • Are you meeting legal requirements for the serving of food?
  • What food are you going to serve?
  • At what time(s) will food be served? (At a ball, you may serve dinner and breakfast.)
  • Have you considered special dietary requirements (religious, vegetarian/vegan and so on)?
  • Nut allergies...
  • How will it be cooked, by whom and with what? (For example, a barn is unlikely to have cooking facilities.)
  • How will it be stored? (Some food will need to be kept hot and other dishes must remain cold – is there adequate space and facility for each?)
  • How will it be presented? (Serving platters, trays and so on...)
  • How will it be served – for example, self serve from trestle tables or delivered to tables?
  • What will it be eaten off? (Paper plates, napkins, crockery?)
  • How will it be eaten? (With fingers, cocktail sticks, chopsticks, cutlery?)
  • Will the cost be included in the ticket price or will you need to have a payment facility? (Will you check tickets? Do you need Credit Card facilities or a change float?)
  • How will it be cleared away? How will food waste and non-food waste be disposed of afterwards? (Will it be from tables and the event area, and by whom, when and into what?)

Sutling

The somewhat archaic term ‘sutling’ is used in similar circumstances to ‘victualling’; so if victualling is the provision of food, sutling is the provision of drinks.

You need to consider licensing:

  • Who is going to hold the licence?
  • Have they the time to attend the authorities, if necessary, to apply for the licence?
  • What hours are you going to want the licence for?
  • What alcohol will you be selling?
  • Will you be giving alcohol as prizes?
  • How will you ‘police’ minors if appropriate?
  • Will you have alcohol on a sale-or-return basis?
  • If you are making a punch, how will you control/prevent ‘spiking’?
  • Do you need to advise visitors about responsible drinking?
  • If drinks are included (in the price) with meals, how do you ‘police’ the quantity served?
  • What will you serve it in? Glasses look better, but require washing up and can potentially present a safety issue, whereas paper/plastic cups may not be in keeping with the image and create clear-up issues
  • Are you creating possible issues of discrimination against people whose religion outlaws alcohol?

Facilities

The word ‘facilities’ covers a wide range of things that will vary according to the type of event and the specifics of the venue. The list below aims to cover every possible area.

  • Power – are there enough power outlets for your needs; are they appropriately situated; what is providing the power; who is paying for it, and who is managing it?
  • Signage – is there adequate signage on-site for such things as toilets, lost children, different activities, emergency exits and the way out?
  • Are there enough toilets for the number of people expected; are there facilities for the males and females, and for the disabled?
  • Is there an adequate supply of water for the toilets, and is drinking water needed on site?
  • Is the floor covering suitable? For example, if you are holding a dance in a marquee, is there a suitable dance floor?
  • Cover from the weather: if it is an open air event, is there enough cover for at least the important items, such as PA system and prizes?
  • Do you have adequate stocks of appropriate furniture for the event?
  • Audiovisual equipment– if the CEO wants to do a presentation at your strategy day, you will need to ensure that a projector and screen are available; if video is to be used, is there a wide (enough) screen capacity?
Tip

Consider this: are the chairs suitable for the usage planned? Many hotels will provide dining chairs that are very uncomfortable after about two hours!

Travel and transport

Pretty much every event you can organise is going to require people to undertake some form of travel.

  • Have you selected an accessible venue for the target attendees
  • By private transport?
  • By public transport?
  • Have you checked that the frequency and timings of public transport are suitable for those with special needs?
  • Have you provided adequate information about the location of the venue – including address, postcode, map, web link, directions, taxi company numbers – to all the target attendees and suppliers?
  • Are you certain that there is adequate road space for access and egress? (This may seem unnecessary, but consider an event situated down a single-track country lane: nothing will be able to get in while folk are getting out, especially if some of them turn up in stretch limousines or a bus!)
  • Have you considered the neighbours near the venue?
  • Many hotels have a range of entrances – which one are you going to man?
  • Is the venue location ‘appropriate’ to your environmental policy?

Car parking

At most venues, car parking is going to be required unless your event is in the centre of a major city. Despite the carbon footprint issue, we still prefer to use our own transport, except in city centres. Even in these situations, vehicle parking of some description will be needed for suppliers or VIPS.

  • Have you got enough parking for the number of cars expected?
  • Is there appropriate hard standing? (Owners of classic and prestige cars seldom want to park them on rutted, unmetalled surfaces.)
  • Is access and egress appropriate? (An entrance was made into a paddock for an event, but when the VIP’s Jaguar limousine tried to leave with the VIP on board, it tore its exhaust off, thanks to the low-slung nature of the car and the lip over the drainage ditch between paddock and road!)
  • Do you need car parking marshals? If so, how long will they need to be there? Shifts? Will they need radios to communicate? HiViz vests?
  • Will you charge for parking?
  • How do you ensure the car park is only used for event visitors?
  • Is there signage to, around and out of the car park?
  • Is there signage for the people leaving their cars and going to the event?
  • Do you need insurance for the car park? (A paddock was being used as a car park for an event and the horses started biting the bonnets of cars; six were damaged! The paddock was on free loan from a local landowner; the horses belonged to a tenant; the costs were a nightmare.)
  • If the car park is unmetalled, is there a need for wet weather recovery?

Entertainment

Many events won’t need entertainment at all, but if yours does there are lots of things to think about:

  • You need to consider the tone and value of the entertainment, ensuring that it is appropriate to your objective and target audience; table magicians/cartoonists work well at a dinner dance or ball, but are seldom popular at a barn dance, where it is less formal and generally darker. Do you need a professional band, which costs a considerable amount, or will a local amateur band be adequate and grateful for the gig?
  • Do you go for a live band or a DJ? Will they expect to be fed and watered?
  • One band or more than one? Who gets the power/responsibility to choose?
  • Fireworks? If so, think about safety, fenced off areas and professional people to do it.
  • Is a casino appropriate? If so, do you run it with live chips or give a single prize for the most successful player of the night?
  • ‘Lucky Ticket’ Raffle, Tombola, paid ticket raffle – which will you have? How will you price and sell the tickets? Who will do the draw and is there a PA system? Are prizes allocated 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or do you allow the winner to choose his/her prize from all those remaining? How many prizes have you got? (This will determine how long it takes to do the raffle.)
  • Auction? Of items or promises? Silent or live? Who will be the auctioneer? Who will record the buyers and collect the payments? When must lots be collected? What happens to unsold lots? Do you set reserves?
  • Do you need a licence for any of the entertainments you are hoping to include?

Security

Security is going to cover a number of areas and a time range from inception to completion. You will need to consider physical security and data security and financial security.

Do you need physical security on site

  • Before and during the event to secure your property and that of suppliers?
  • To secure prizes won by people not present at the event?
  • During the event to safeguard people, property and money?
  • During the event to ensure no ‘gatecrashers’?
  • After the event, until the site is cleared?

Are you collecting data that needs to be secured, such as bank data for ticket purchases, or names and addresses?

Are you happy that all donation/sponsorship/commission/fee moneys can and will be collected in a timely and competent fashion and in such a way that is transparently appropriate? Will it be secure until it is banked?

If you are planning a strategy development day, you need to think about the possibility of other delegates at the same large venue coming from competitors. Having your developing strategy blue-tacked to the wall on flipchart sheets can be very dangerous if the press, your competitors or even customers are able to see it!

Publicity

We are only concerned here with publicity for the event rather than general PR. General PR can come as a side effect, but you specifically want to look at publicising the event.

  • Who is going to take overall responsibility for publicity? (One person or a subcommittee? What level of autonomy will they have?)
  • Who is the audience? In-house people only or others? What channels of communication are already available to you, such as intranet, noticeboards, staff social club, weekly management meetings and so on?
  • How do you define publicity in this instance and what is its aim? Is it purely to raise awareness or are you trying to do the rest of the AIDA? (AIDA = Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action)
  • Will you actually have a publicity budget? If so, how much and for what? Are you paying for advertising or just to produce materials?
  • What media are available and appropriate for your event and your audience? (What is the cost/benefit comparison between free and paid-for media?)
  • Do you need to raise awareness long before the event (for stallholder bookings or advance ticket sales) or just near the date (for ‘tickets at the door’)?
  • Can you design publicity material yourselves? Can you produce the finished material yourselves?