Could there really be a more visible measure of your ability than organising a business event? On the face of it there are dozens of things that could go wrong, but with a little careful planning your event will run smoothly and your delegates will be mightily impressed.
First off, you need to know exactly what’s required from the event and who’s going to be attending. Try to set a meeting with the meeting leader (or at least with their PA) to run through the basic requirements. This will give you a good overview of what’s required. Is it a simple routine Board meeting or an away day event? Is it a client presentation or maybe a product launch? Perhaps its a sales meeting or a major company conference?
From this you can start to think about the type of venue required, as well as catering, presentation equipment, size of space required and so forth. Furthermore, if you’ve been handed a conference lasting days and involving hundreds, it might be a good idea to go straight to the nearest conference organiser or venue and get their specialist help. However you tackle the planning of your meeting or conference, ask yourself these fundamental questions:
How many people will be attending?
Is the meeting a Board meeting for 5 people, or a larger corporate affair? And will everyone be there in person or do you need to think about audio or video conferencing?
In-house venue or external venue?
This is important. Does your meeting leader want to meet on company premises or elsewhere? If in-house do you have the resources to cope? If external is there a preferred location?
Where are delegates coming from?
This may help you decide on a location. Is there somewhere that’s accessible to all – maybe a major city with good travel links or somewhere close to an airport? Meeting on “neutral ground” may well serve the meeting well as a democratic option!
Will accommodation be required?
If delegates are coming a long way, or if the event runs for a number of days you’re going to need accommodation. This is crucial to your choice of venue and to your budgets – so quantify this carefully at the start.
What equipment will be needed?
Maybe it’ll just be simple power supply and Wi-Fi access for laptops; but if it’s a presentation you might well need digital projectors, screens, laptop interfaces, sound and even video conferencing. Sort this out early and have a definitive list, as it’s important to cover all the bases. If you’re planning an in-house event talk to your IT team early – and if you’re looking outside use your list to help select your supplier.
What about catering?
Teas and coffees should be straightforward. For food, remember to check for special dietary requirements (especially where international participants are involved as certain foods may cause offence).
What’s your budget?
Having scoped out the various key requirements you can ask the meeting leader to set a budget. This at least puts you in the right ballpark when planning the event.
Okay, so what next?
You now have your plan, so which venue should you choose? Broadly, you have a choice of hotels, conference facilities and business centres – or staying in-house. In-house will be fine for routine meetings, but if it’s an event that’s maybe confidential or where distractions aren’t welcome – or because they’re too large for your own facilities to cope with – look outside.
As a rule of thumb, choose a hotel or conference centre for events which involve more than 80 people, including those involving accommodation and banqueting. By doing so you’ll have everything you need in one place. For events up to 80 people however, think about using a quality business centre. These are prime located and are business premises designed with business people in mind. Standards of visitor hosting are very high in quality business centres, and offer certain advantages over hotels. Firstly, your delegates won’t have to battle through hordes of tourists to reach reception and sign in.
Then there are the facilities themselves. Meeting rooms tend to be purpose built and offer sophisticated high tech AV, Wi-Fi and IT facilities as standard. You’ll also have secretarial back up if you need it and the some centres have Wi-Fi equipped break out areas you can use. Services such as catering are also available and you can generally choose from a range of room sizes and layouts to best suit your event. And because these business centres service meetings daily, it means you enjoy a great service at a very competitive price.
Of course not all business centres are the same, so use your checklist to make sure they offer exactly what you want. Visit beforehand if you can – and ask if they’ll provide an event coordinator free of charge. Finally, watch out for the extras when budgeting. Some centres have the “hotel mini-bar” syndrome, charging exorbitant prices for small extras, such as additional furniture.
By following these simple steps you can plan an event that offers excellent value for money and will pass by smoothly on the day.
Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen amateur photographer. His portfolio, called Capquest Photography is available to view online.